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LFW Awaydays – Leicester, Walkers Stadium
LFW Awaydays – Leicester, Walkers Stadium
Tuesday, 21st Sep 2010 23:18 by Awaydays

A second away game of the week brought QPR another three points, another clean sheet and another two goal salvo from the revelation that is Jamie Mackie against Leicester City on Saturday.

On the Pitch

A very different experience to Ipswich on Tuesday where QPR systematically dismantled and humiliated their opponents. Here it was backs to the wall for the most part, although the initial signs were good with four decent attacks launched in the first ten minutes culminating in Jamie Mackie’s best goal for the club so far from Adel Taarabt’s cross. Leicester enjoyed a lot of possession thereafter but only got in behind the R’s twice before half time – on the first occasion Paddy Kenny showed plenty of experience to save at Fryatt’s feet without conceding a penalty, and then stayed tall long enough to save with his feet from Waghorn who burst through from a suspiciously offside position.

Without Faurlin our ball retention was unusually poor and that brought more pressure in the second half. Again Kenny made two fine saves – to deny Gallagher and King who both tried their luck from the edge of the penalty area. Leicester were a much more physical and direct threat when Steve Howard came on and Rangers had to survive two penalty appeals for perceived offences against him – the latter seemed to be something of nothing, the former brought the entire crowd to its feet screaming as Howard spat blood from a mouth wound. Neither were given.

For their part QPR had a goal disallowed and Kyle Walker flagged offside when through on goal and clearly on. The Londoner’s sealed the points against the run of play five minutes before the end when Mackie seized on Leigertwood’s through ball and made Morrison look rather stupid before slotting home past Carl Ikeme.

This was a resolute and stubborn QPR performance without the ball, with Connolly and Derry really exceptional at the heart of a great defensive effort. With the ball QPR were very wasteful and while it is good that we have spirit and strength to hold on and win in such circumstances we must find a way to maintain possession when we are denied the services of Faurlin and Taarabt. At Derby one was off form and the other man marked and we were poor and lucky to escape, here one was injured and the other regularly crowded out but we won anyway against the run of play.

Leicester were a good deal more adventurous than Sousa’s teams have been in the past and were better than their league position suggested they would be. But they didn’t score, and that has been the Portuguese’s problem since he arrived on these shores.

Scores >>> QPR performance 6/10 >>> Opposition performance 7/10 >>> Referee performance 4/10

In the Stand

Well, I’m not sure it’s worth having this debate again so soon after Derby but if clubs are going to build boring, identical grounds how can I say anything different? To many people a football club is an identity. I would say everybody that knows me apart from probably my mum and my girlfriend immediately thinks of QPR when they think of me. And when people think of QPR they think of Stan Bowles and Les Ferdinand and blue and white hoops and Loftus Road. The ground is part of that identity – the identity of the club and the fans that follow it.

Why therefore did all these clubs rush to build a ground that is identical to other clubs? It’s not like it’s even a good design. Let me, in no particular order, run through the problems I have with the Walkers Stadium and, as a result, Pride Park, the Riverside Stadium, St Mary’s, The Ricoh Arena and every other virtually identical non-entity they’ve whipped up in this country in the past 20 years.

To get to the front row of seats in the away end at the Walkers from the touchline you would have had to cross a strip of grass, a tarmac track, an advertising hoarding, some more tarmac, another bigger advertising hoarding and a concrete walkway. That’s the best part of 15 yards from where the football is taking place to the person closest to it. At Loftus Road I could probably reach the penalty spot with a piece of chewing gum from my seat.

On Saturday the crowd was around 22,000, which means there was more than 8,000 empty seats in the place. So before we’ve even begun we have a vast gap between the pitch and the stands, and huge swathes of empty seats around the place. A good atmosphere this does not make. Despite being relatively new the away end offered toilet facilities worse than a ground ten times its age – blocked, crowded, filthy, dark, dank and damp. And it shook. You can actually feel the concrete shaking around under your feet whenever fans get up en masse to celebrate a goal or to sing. What I know about structural engineering can be written on the back of a postage stamp with a thick pen but surely solid steel and concrete isn’t meant to shake around like that? It was unnerving.

After the game we hung around to let the crowd clear, then walked round to the other side of the ground to collect Owain’s winnings from a first goal scorer bet, then walked back round from whence we came. That meant it was half five before we walked away from the ground and not a single motorist had been allowed to leave the car park – all still sitting there queuing, with a steward holding them up until every last supporter had cleared the area. The only thing that surprises and irritates me more than club’s building identical one tiered, one dimensional bowl type stadiums is that it is still deemed acceptable practice in this country to build an arena for 30,000 people and provide parking for less than 1,000 of them. How do people think people get around?

I could go on and on and on and on because it’s my pet subject and if QPR are ever to move grounds I pray they come up with something a bit more imaginative than this but let’s cut to the chase for now. QPR travelled in big numbers, more than 2000, but the chant of “where were you when you were shit” from the home fans was a little unfair considering we’ve always brought big numbers to this ground and filled the away end a few years ago when Nygaard scored from the thick end of 60 yards out and we were staring relegation in the face. The ‘Paddy Kenny’s having a party’ song raised a smile, and the chorus of ‘walking in a Mackie wonderland’ after the second goal was prolonged and deafening.

The atmosphere was improved by having the biggest collection of chavs I’ve seen in one place together for quite some time directly next to the away end for us to take the mick out of. They’d assured us last season that we’d never play them again so it was strange seeing them again so soon. The heart attack waiting to happen on drums was more subdued than normal – rousing himself briefly to respond to taunts about the score but not doing a lot of drumming.

A ground where stewards and police have been a right royal pain in the arse over the years – thankfully we saw little of either on Saturday.

Scores >>> QPR support 8/10 >>> Home support 6/10 >>> Overall atmosphere 6/10 >>> Stadium 5/10 >>> Police and stewards 7/10

On the Road

Corby is a strange place in a great many ways. There are more Scottish people in Corby than there are in Scotland and on Saturday morning I was woken from a groggy, flu laced sleep at 8am by a Protestant boys march down my street. It was built as a new town for people to work at the steel works which then closed leaving people rather short of things to do other than sit on the kerb drinking Iron Bru and wishing they had enough money to go into KFC. Anyway every day just after 7am the pubs open and that entertains the locals until about midnight when they come out onto the street to fight or, in the case of my neighbour, stumble home and fall asleep in their front gardens when searching for the door key becomes too taxing.

Just to liven the place up a bit the borough council decided to hire Fat Tony from the Simpsons to demolish the old steelworks and although he fulfilled his part of the bargain – the council paid him to demolish the steel works and the steel works were duly demolished – there is rather more to pulling down an old steel works than simply swinging a wrecking ball at the thing. The rather haphazard demolition sent a toxic cloud of what’s technically known as “nasty shit” into the air that hung around the town just long enough to deform any unsuspecting unborn babies that happened to be knocking around at the time. The council were found to be guilty of crass stupidity and ordered to pay the kids with dodgy hands, feet, skin, and general health some money. They appealed and were told to stop being so crass and insensitive and get the bloody money paid.

In an effort to change its reputation as a town of unemployed poisoned Scottish people, and perhaps partly through guilt, the council is now pouring piles and piles of cash into Corby. It has a swanky new swimming pool, a big cube like building which I think is something to do with art, H&M, a new sixth form college on the way and the best small railway station in the country. In fairly typical British style Corby station was actually finished before East Midlands Trains had any trains to run to it, so the long suffering people of Corby got their railway station for the first time in 20 years or so but were initially only allowed to stand outside and wait for the rail replacement bus service to arrive.

Anyway it has an hourly train service to London now and the houses are dirt cheap so here I am and on Saturday I had a steady walk in the sunshine and paid my £6 return (that’s right) to Leicester. The train left on time and was in Kettering within eight minutes where I had to change. Rather annoyingly though the Corby train is scheduled to arrive one minute after the northbound express service which means anybody changing to go north has to wait 59 minutes for the next one. Not a problem on Saturday when the sun was shining and I had a paper to read, but that’s going to be very irritating in the winter.

It does mean that on the way back the connection is only five minutes though and although it only cost me £6 the ticket allowed me to get any train so after the Arsenal game I made my way back and from the pub in Leicester it took me less than an hour to walk in through my front door. A wonderfully cheap and simple trip after the A14 nightmare on Tuesday night.

Scores >>> Journey 8/10 >>> Cost 9/10

In the Pub

I’m starting to wonder exactly what people go to the pub for any more. It can’t be for the beer, because you can buy beer at a fraction of the cost from the supermarkets. It can’t be to watch sport because none of them can afford Sky any more – The Green in Shepherds Bush the latest to ditch it, thereby halving their Saturday trade overnight. It can’t be for the food because in 90 per cent of places it’s vile. And it can’t be for the atmosphere because for the most part they’re empty (for the first three reasons) and because they tend to blast horrific music at you while televisions that once showed live sport now display the accompanying videos.

Leicester, like Ipswich, is now a very large place where it is virtually impossible to find a pub that does both food and live football and isn’t the Walkabout. We started off in the Swan and Rushes near the rugby ground – a proper, old style pub with more hand pumps than you could ever possibly sample in one afternoon. It advertised food but then inside said that the menu was off until further notice. It had a Sky dish on the side but the television remained off. Then we tried the Polar Bear – a Scream pub, which as a mark of quality goes is a bit like a junior doctor boasting a reference from Harold Shipman. Scream pubs are student pubs which does usually mean cheap food and live sport because students can’t afford to eat or have Sky at home. This place had cheap, and pretty rancid, food. It also had warm beer, despite it coming straight from a fridge. But no Sky. So the ten of us just sort of stood round in there, on our own for the entire afternoon, while they pumped trance and R&B nonsense at us at a stupid volume and showed music videos.

Am I the only one who wants a pub that can cook a burger properly and serve it to me within 20 minutes of me ordering it while I watch the live football with commentary? Sky talk about “3D pubs” where fans gather and watch Rooney’s gut wobble in super high definition. I’m increasingly struggling to find a pub that even has a portable black and white set showing matches. Pubs will say, quite justifiably, that Sky charge a prohibitive amount for their channels and they just can’t afford them any more. But if the beer is too expensive and the food tastes like it’s been extracted during an autopsy on a dead dog what else is there to go to the pub for? We were in the Polar Bear for two hours on Saturday and saw four other people – two of them worked there.

Afterwards we gave up on life and went to the Walkabout to watch the Arsenal game. Young North (pictured, taking it steady earlier in the day, shortly after realising he’d left his match ticket on the kitchen table) had a microwaved pie with some frozen chips and we sat and enjoyed the game until ten minutes from time when the ESPN HD froze suddenly. They turned the box off and on again but the picture was incomprehensible after that so we left with two minutes to go and as you probably know by now Sunderland scored with the last kick of the game. If you’re betting in play this season and you hear the Northern R’s have left a game early, lump on a next goal bet immediately.

Scores >>> Pub 4/10 >>> Atmosphere 2/10 >>> Food 5/10 >>> Cost 7/10

Final Score 84/130


Photo: Action Images

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