And the band began to play - History
Thursday, 14th Jan 2021 17:17 by Clive Whittingham
Ahead of Saturday's home game with Wycombe, we look back to the extraordinary first competitive meeting between the sides at Loftus Road - the absolute definition of a game that 'had everything'.
QPR 4 Wycombe 3, Saturday December 29, 2001, Second Division
Queens Park Rangers, still in administration, were in the early stages of piecing their club back together in the 2001/02 season following a shambolic relegation from the First Division at the end of 2000/01. Ian Holloway had started the summer pre-season with six senior professionals on his books, and two of those – Clarke Carlisle and Richard Langley – would certainly have been sold had they not already been ruled out for much of the following season with ACL injuries.
Summer optimism was buoyed by a surprise 3-1 home win against Chelsea in a high profile friendly, where Hampton and Richmond Borough’s Leroy Griffiths made Marcel Desailly look like Gus Caesar, but in truth many of the summer matches, including a nonsense 6-3 with Celtic, had been mass try-outs for free agents. Between them Holloway, Kenny Jackett and scout Mel Johnson had cobbled together a reasonably exciting squad, bringing Watford stalwarts Chris Day and Steve Palmer in as a superb captain, along with weird and wonderful additions ranging from Terrell Forbes to Aziz Ben Askar, Alex Bonnot to Doudou. Rude awakenings lay in store, not least an injury time 1-0 loss in our first ever competitive meeting with Wycombe at their place on August Bank Holiday Monday. But something was at least stirring in a club and team that just the year before had looked utterly bereft.
Wycombe, meanwhile, were a club that seemed to be thriving. Under the management of Wimbledon’s FA Cup final hero Lawrie Sanchez they’d piled through to the semi-finals of the competition as a Second Division side the year before, losing 2-1 to two late Liverpool goals at Villa Park having put out Premier League Leicester at Filbert Street in the previous round. Theirs was a formidable team, anchored by long termers Steve Brown, Keith Ryan and Andy Rammell, with young Roger Johnson and Darren Currie coming up through the ranks. They arrived at Loftus Road two days before the end of the year on of six wins in eight matches. QPR, meanwhile, boosted by the return of Gallen, had snapped a poor autumn run of form and gone six unbeaten through the Christmas period.
Now, sometimes you’ll hear a game lazily described as having “a bit of everything”. All such games must be judged against this one before that cliché can ever be used. Two in form teams and notoriously incompetent referee Phil Prosser contrived, with the help of an American high school marching band, to concoct a New Year thriller that included seven goals, two red cards, two penalties, a near miraculous comeback by nine men, and everything else in between. It was frantic, ferocious, steaming hot, farcical nonsense that nobody there that day will ever forget.
It began, like so many QPR games that season, with a close range finish from Scottish forward Andy Thomson after a fumble on the goal line by visiting keeper Martin Taylor. So far, so predictable, goal 18 of 21 for Thomson in 2001/02. And having suffered Prosser’s comedy stylings previously, you couldn’t really say it was much of a surprise when Rammell hit the deck under a cross that had long since passed him by, and with minimal contact from Terrell Forbes, and was awarded a penalty – Steve Brown happy to send Fraser Digby the wrong way.
Then things got fun. On the stroke of half time, seizing on a probing pass by young left back Danny Murphy, Kevin Gallen decided to try his luck with the Prosser wheel of doom and hit the deck. If he’s reading this, maybe he’d like to fess up, or say I’m wrong, but I’d have been fuming if that had been given against us. And Wycombe were indeed jolly cross about it, Jermaine McSporran first on the scene first with a spray and shove for Gallen, then with an aggressive push and shove with the referee in the middle of it, resulting in a red card. Quite why Danny Senda was then also sent off remains a mystery to this day, but that was Wycombe down to nine men, and of course from there QPR missed the penalty anyway because that’s what QPR do – Thomson putting the kick at a nice height for Taylor to dive left and save.
Still, nine men for the whole second half, we enjoyed the half time marching band, infrom the States for the mayor's New Year parade and covering every blade of grass on the pitch, safe in the knowledge that this should be an absolute cakewalk from here. Maybe we can actually sit back, relax and enjoy a QPR game for once. Well, actually, initially at least, yes. You’re always going to get space in wide areas in those circumstances as teams hunker down and try to crowd the penalty box and as Doudou and Forbes doubled up down the right to exploit that Gallen was able to nip in at the near post and flick home a second. That was swiftly followed by a third, Keith Ryan unfortunate that his desperate attempt at a backtracking clearance from Thomson’s low cross flew up in the air absolutely plum for old man Karl Connolly to walk onto and find top bins with a cultured left footed volley. About his level those.
Prosser angered the visitors once more when he deemed a foul just after the hour to be on the cusp of the penalty box, rather than in it, but Danny Bulman made that argument academic with a low drive through the wall and into the net. Nerves quickly quelled by Doudou cutely setting up Gavin Peacock for a lofted finish from the corner of the six yard box and 4-2.
Down to nine men and with the referee now pretty much open to suggestions on how he could extracate himself from the crater he’d dug, Rammell decided to chuck himself over the back of Aziz Ben Askar as the French/Moroccan centre half cleared a ball, and that was a penalty as well apparently, which Rammell converted himself. Ten minutes to go, 4-3, 11v9, an absolute cliffhanger in store with Loftus Road now gripped with a silent tension and fear that their team might be about to do the unthinkable and blow 3-1 and 4-2 leads at home to a side that had played two men light for the entire second half.
Rangers, typically, went into a full panic. Caught between maintaining possession to kill the game, or chasing more goals to make it safe, they did neither. Handing the ball back to Wanderers time and again, allowing them to hit Rammell long and work a terrifying finale from there. As stoppage time approached – and God only knows what Prosser had in mind for that – the tension threatened to become unbearable until, from the Lower Loft, the American marching band, watching the chaos unfold with the rest of us, decided to strike up again and try lift the place. The change in the atmosphere was instant, a cheer went up so loud anybody who’d dared leave early must have thought we’d scored a fifth. It went back to being one of those nights under the lights at Loftus Road, and Rangers were able to crawl over the line by the odd goal in seven.
QPR faded a little through the spring, but won four and drew one of the last six having brought Jerome Thomas in on loan from Arsenal, and would make the play-off final the year after. Wycombe also had a middling end to the season and finished eleventh, seven points and four places behind Rangers. They finished eighteenth the year we made it to Cardiff, and after a poor start to the 2003/04 campaign sacked Sanchez and replaced him with Tony Adams - a decision which quickly led to relegation. Sanchez went on to transform the Northern Ireland national team before an ill-fated spell at Premier League Fulham.
QPR: Digby; Forbes, Ben Askar, Palmer, Murphy; Doudou, Rose, Peacock, Connolly (Bignot 89, -); Gallen, Thomson
Subs not used: Evans, Bonnot, Griffiths, Pacquette
Goals: Thomson 26, Gallen 54, Connolly 61, Peacock 76
Wycombe: Taylor; Cousins, Senda, Vinnicombe, Rogers; Brown (Lee 72), Ryan, Bulman (Currie 88), Simpson; Rammell (Roberts 82), McSporran
Subs not used: Johnson, Carroll
Goals: Brown pen 31, Bulman 64, Rammell pen 80
Red Cards: Senda 45, McSporran 45
Wycombe 1 QPR 1, Saturday December 19, 2020, Championship
QPR surrendered a slender single goal advantage late in the game when these sides met at Adams Park just prior to Christmas. Rangers were lucky not to concede in the opening minute from a long throw but steadily worked their way back into the game from there and took a lead just before the half hour when Ilias Chair’s hard work at the byline forced an own goal at the near post from Jason McCarthy. That looked like it might be enough through a desperately poor second half, but with three minutes left for play Wycombe sub Amit Mehmeti was allowed to run too far into the QPR half and get a shot away which Seny Dieng probably should have saved. The result extended Rangers’ winless run to seven and increased pressure on manager Mark Warburton.
Wycombe: Allsop 6; Grimmer 6, Knight 6, McCarthy 5, Jacobson 6; Freeman 6 (Mehmeti 76, 7); McCleary 6 (Onyedimna 66, 6), Wheeler 7, Horgan 6; Kashket 5 (Ikpeazu 76, 6), Akinfenwa 6
Goals: Mehmeti 87 (assisted Jacobson)
Bookings: Knight 51 (dissent), Allsop 86 (dissent)
QPR: Dieng 6; Kane 5, Dickie 7, Barbet 6, Hämäläinen 6; Cameron 6, Ball 6; Osayi-Samuel 5, Carroll 6 (Willock 77, 5), Chair 6 (Bonne 81, 4); Dykes 5
Subs not used: Adomah, Masterson, Bettache, Thomas, Kelly, Kelman, De Silva
Goals: McCarthy 28 (own goal, assisted Chair)
Bookings: Hämäläinen 90+2 (foul)
Head To Head >>> QPR Wins 2 >>> Draws 3 >>> Wycombe Wins 2
2020/21 Wycombe 1 QPR 1 (McCarthy own goal)
Gareth Ainsworth >>> Wycombe 2010-present >>> QPR 2003-2010
Gareth Ainsworth had been something of a harbinger of doom for Queens Park Rangers before he signed for them. The former Preston, Lincoln and Port Vale winger had been part of the Wimbledon team that beat the hapless Hoops of 2000/01 5-0 at Selhurst Park, and was then a non-playing member of the Cardiff City squad which narrowly beat Rangers after extra time in the Second Division play-off final at the Millennium Stadium in 2002/03. Once Ian Holloway had moved that summer to bring him to Rangers for a second crack at promotion from that level, he quickly established himself as a local cult hero. He scored twice on his debut as Rangers vanquished Blackpool 5-0 in searing temperatures at Loftus Road on the opening day of the 2003/04 season, and quickly followed that up with a spectacular brace at Rushden and Diamonds on August Bank Holiday Monday.
With Ainsworth added to the right side and Brentford’s Martin Rowlands the left of what was already a very decent team at that level, there was to be no denying Holloway’s men an automatic promotion, second behind Plymouth thanks to a wobble late in the season, but ahead of cocksure Bristol City and their infamous Promotion Calculator thanks to wins in the final two matches of the season. Ainsworth finished with seven goals that year, and flew in at the far post to head in QPR’s first goal back in the Championship in a 1-1 draw with Rotherham on the opening day of 2004/05 as well.
His wholehearted, physical and direct style of play along with a taste for spectacular goals and the rock and roll celebrations that went with them, made him a crowd favourite as QPR began another of their long declines through the latter days of Ian Holloway, Gary Waddock’s brief reign, and then John Gregory’s time at the club. His valiant attempt to run off what turned out to be a spiral fracture of his shin in a crucial Easter Monday 3-2 win at home to relegation rivals Luton towards the end of the 2006/07 season lives long in the memory.
Ainsworth would spend seven years at Loftus Road, seeing off 11 permanent or caretaker managers and twice having a go at the role himself. He saw the club transformed from a bankrupt basket case into a proud promoted team, back into a financial shambles, and then into the club with the richest owners in the world. He scored in John Gregory’s final game, a 5-1 defeat at West Brom, and was still a regular in the side despite an ever growing number of expensive new arrivals through the second half of that season, inspiring an unlikely comeback from 2-0 down in the last minute to secure a 2-2 home draw with Preston with a spectacular goal and assist for Dexter Blackstock both in injury time.
Although Iain Dowie won eight of his first 15 games in charge at the start of the 2008/09 season, disagreements over team selection with owner Flavio Briatore saw him sacked and Ainsworth given a first caretaker spell in charge. One of Dowie’s wins had been a 1-0 upset against Premier League Aston Villa at Villa Park in the League Cup and Ainsworth was in charge for the fourth round game against Man Utd at Old Trafford, losing narrowly 1-0 to a late penalty despite Radek Cerny’s heroics in goal. Ainsworth coached with Paolo Sousa, and then replaced him as caretaker for a second spell later that season when Briatore struck again. He didn’t play at all in 2008/09 but was afforded a couple of send off performances for the club under Jim Magilton in 2009/10, coming off the bench in a 5-0 League Cup win at Exeter, and then fittingly for the final time against his first club Preston in a 4-0 victory at Loftus Road.
He joined Wycombe initially on loan, then permanently in January, and was sent off on his second debut, a 1-0 home win against Millwall. He signed initially for Waddock, with whom he’d worked at QPR, and although the pair were relegated from League One in 2010, they were promoted straight back in 2011 with Ainsworth scoring 11 times, captaining them on the final day of the season, and winning a place in the divisional team of the year. They were, however, relegated again in 2011/12 and when Waddock started the subsequent season back in League Two poorly he was sacked and replaced by Ainsworth permanently.
What has followed has been something of a managerial dynasty. Ainsworth is now in his ninth season in charge at Adams Park, and has led them into the Championship for the first time in the club’s history via the play-off final victory against Oxford at Wembley last season. It hasn’t all been plain sailing – in 2013/14 they were within goal difference of going out of the league altogether, requiring a win on the final day of the season at Torquay to avoid relegation to the Conference. They lost on penalties to Southend in the play-off final the year after that despite leading in stoppage time, and he has since overseen a promotion from League Two in 17/18 in third, and then last year’s unique and unexpected triumph in a league where they operated with one of the lowest budgets.
Ainsworth has forged a reputation of putting together competitive teams on a shoe-string, regularly eking the best out of aging older pros and free transfers, playing the transfer market with extreme cunning and skill, and utilising the loan market well – QPR starlet Ebere Eze caught the eye here earlier in his career. Wycombe are currently attempting to stay in the Championship with the lowest budget seen at this level in the modern era but they couldn’t have anybody better in charge to try and do it, and nor would he have it any other way. The question, increasingly, is whether there’s another spell at Loftus Road still to come.
Others >>> Josh Parker, Wycombe 2019-present, (loan) 2010, QPR 2009-2011 >>> David Wheeler, Wycombe 2019-present, QPR 2017-2019 >>> Giles Phillips, Wycombe 2020-present, (loan) 2019-2020, QPR 2017-2020 >>> Paul Smyth, QPR 2017-present, Wycombe (loan) 2019-2020 >>> Ebere Eze, QPR 2016-2020, Wycombe (loan) 2017-2018 >>> Josh Scowen, QPR 2017-2020, Wycombe 2011-2015 >>> Matt Ingram QPR 2016-2019, Wycombe 2010-2016 >>> Michael Harriman, Wycombe 2015-2019, (loan) 2013, QPR 2011-2016 >>> Marcus Bean, Wycombe 2015-2019, QPR 2002-2006 >>> Hogan Ephraim, Wycombe 2014-2015, QPR 2007-2014 >>> Bruno Andrade, QPR 2010-2015, Wycombe (loan) 2012-2013 >>> Angelo Balanta, QPR 2007-2014, Wycombe (loan) 2008-2009 >>> Dennis Oli, Wycombe 2012-2013, QPR 2000-2004 >>> Gary Waddock, Wycombe (manager) 2009-2012, QPR (manager) 2006, 1991-1992, 1979-1987 >>> Nikki Bull, Wycombe 2010-2012, QPR 1998-2002 >>> Scott Donnelly, Wycombe 2010-2012, QPR 2004-2007 >>> Martin Rowlands, QPR 2003-2012, Wycombe (loan) 2011 >>> Tommy Doherty, QPR 2005-2008, Wycombe (loans) 2006-2008 >>> John Gregory, QPR (manager) 2006-2007, 1981-1985, Wycombe (manager) 1996-1998 >>> David Kerslake, Wycombe 1997-1998, QPR 1984-1989 >>> Ray Wilkins, Wycombe 1996, QPR (manager) 1994-1996, 1989-1994 >>> Barry Silkman, Wycombe 1986-1987, QPR 1980-1981 >>> Mike Keen, Wycombe (manager) 1980-1984, QPR 1959-1969
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Letters from Wiltshire #34 by wessex_exile
I won’t dwell on Robbie’s latest message to the supporters – we’ve all read it, and we’ve all probably drawn our own conclusions about what it doesn’t say as much as what it does. To me, bottom line, I suspect the clock is now ticking for Steve Ball (at least), turn around this terrible form pretty damn quick, or start clearing out your locker. Regardless of personal opinions on any of the individuals concerned, I would like to think none of us actually wants to see people made redundant in the current climate. But, these are difficult times that require tough decisions. If Steve Ball is up to the job and can turn this around, I’ll be more than happy to support him. If he’s not, he has to go before irreparable harm is done…and we all know what that will look like, we’ve been there before…
Letters from Wiltshire #33 by wessex_exile
Today we face a trip to Crawley, not usually a venue that bears fruit for the U’s it has to be said. In nine visits we’ve only won once in the league, and once in the League Cup. Of course, we’ll all remember that League Cup victory, indeed many of us were probably there to see us progress through to 5th round and the dream fixture against Manchester United at Old Trafford. All of our goal-scorers that night, Luke’s Norris and Gambin, and Cohen Bramall (okay, technically an O.G.), are no longer with us, so let’s hope at the very least that recent departee and subsequent returnee Frank Nouble can bag another like his late equaliser against Mansfield. Steve Ball commented during the week about how tight the league is at the moment, and he’s right that a couple of back to back victories would see us move significantly up the table away from danger – but we’ve got to win them first Steve – something we’ve failed to do since our 1-0 victory at Scunthorpe on December 8th.
Letters from Wiltshire #32 by wessex_exile
Fifty years ago yesterday, Colchester United of the 4th Division pulled off the greatest cup giant-killing ever, beating 1st Division Leeds United 3-2 at Layer Road. Watched by 16,000, and the Match of the Day cameras, Dick Graham’s U’s, a rag-tag band of mostly aging journeymen, defied the odds to defeat arguably the greatest club side in Europe at the time. “The greatest cup giant-killing ever” is a bold claim, and over the years various football magazines and websites have run their own polls of which was the greatest. Whilst that day at Layer Rd always features, as the years have gone by other feats fresher in the memory have been put forward as a candidate – we probably all remember Ronnie Radford’s screamer against Newcastle, Sutton’s exploits, or even Bradford City quite recently at Stamford Bridge – but these pale into insignificance when you pause to reflect on the Don Revie side that we beat that day. Sprake, Cooper, Charlton, Hunter, Lorimer, Giles etc – all full internationals, all household names – the only one missing was Billy Bremner, and that was because he was injured. By comparison, all we had to offer was Ray Crawford – at his peak arguably on a par with some in the Leeds side, but that peak had been ten years earlier playing for Ipswich and England. Eleven heroes didn’t just try and hold out against Leeds United, they took the game to their illustrious opponents with such tenacity, grit and no small amount of flair, and before we knew it, the U’s were 3-0 in the lead. As legs tired, Leeds got back into the game with goals from Hunter and Giles, but we held firm – typified at the death by Graham Smith pulling off an impossible save to ensure the U’s achieved the greatest cup giant-killing ever!
Letters from Wiltshire #31 by wessex_exile
And so the dust settles on another transfer window closing, and despite (my) expectations that the possibility of incoming business was going to be remote, we have instead seen a veritable flurry of activity, with no less than three coming in. Big Frank Nouble, making a very welcome return on loan from Plymouth Argyle, of course needs no introduction. Neither really does feisty Brendan Sarpong-Wiredu, here on loan last season, and this time signed full-time from Charlton Athletic for an undisclosed fee. Actually paying hard cash for someone did come as a surprise, presumably offset by the sale of Cohen Bramall to Lincoln for a similarly undisclosed fee. However, the fact that the Addicks have insisted on not only a sell-on clause, but a rarely used buy-back clause too, suggests (a) Wiredu’s signing fee probably wasn’t too high, and (b) Charlton are protecting those finances with these clauses. The last one, which would have been a complete surprise for me were it not for a contact leaking me the news earlier yesterday, is left-back Josh Doherty on loan from Crawley. Josh was only announced once outgoing left-back Bramall was confirmed, and presumably his loan is directly related to part-time fashion model, TV and radio celeb and former left-back Mark Wright signing for Crawley on a non-contract game-by-game basis in December. We have also released seven from the academy, Ollie Kensdale, Miquel Scarlett, Sammie McLeod, Michael Fernandes, Ollie Sims, Danny Collinge and Matt Weaire, and I’m sure we all wish them the best for the future.
Letters from Wiltshire #30 by wessex_exile
Friday night football – can’t beat it. Gives you that feelgood factor all weekend, sitting back to enjoy a stress-free Saturday afternoon watching others fail in your wake. Of course, you have to win first, which we’ve been struggling to do for a while now, so be prepared for the possibility of a miserable weekend just in case. We share this evening with Reading v AFC Bournemouth, albeit they kick-off an hour later than we do. In the real world, leaders of the UK’s five largest business groups have written to Boris demanding action on the substantial difficulties they are facing over Brexit bureaucracy, whilst French border authorities are reporting that two-thirds of lorries arriving from the UK are empty (i.e. no exports leaving the UK). Still, at least the NHS can enjoy their extra £350m per week…
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