LFW Awaydays – Selhurst Park, Crystal Palace
Thursday, 14th Oct 2010 01:13 by Awaydays
On the pitch QPR kept up their impressive start to the season with a late winner from Heidar Helguson, off the field the goal sparked wild celebrations among the beer fuelled visiting fans.
On the pitch
A Sheffield Wednesday fan once posted a match report he’d written of his day out at Loftus Road on the LFW message board. Rangers had come from two down to win the game three two in the last minute, stopping a streaker in his tracks thereby producing several bizarre photographs of Kaspars Gorkss scoring a goal in front of a large bald man cupping his testicles with one hand while celebrating wildly with the other. It’s important, by the way, not to get those hands muddled up if you ever decide to try that at home. Despite this high drama the report contained more references to the alcohol consumption during the reporter’s day, and even more detail still about his subsequent trips to the toilet. I was encouraged to follow suit on the message board and while it may appear differently initially here, I promise I’m not going down that line.
I needed a piss quite badly at half time in this game. The first half had been all cut and no thrust – both teams hit the post, both keepers had a couple of fine saves to their name – and the toilets and refreshment kiosks were calling. The problem I had was I felt Palace would probably score at some point, simply because we hadn’t conceded for so long (five games) and they hadn’t scored for a while (three matches) and normally runs like that seem to collide and end. When Palace do score at Selhurst Park some music is played, then the public address system clicks into life and announces the goalscorer’s Christian name and encourages the drones in the home end to repeatedly shout out his surname, then fucking ‘Glad All Over’ starts up and they all have a jolly nice sing song to that for a bit as well. If Palace ever win 5-0 on this ground they’ll still be playing the match during the second reading of the classified football results.
So I decided I would hold my load, as it were, until this happened and then as soon as the ball hit the back of the net I’d race up the steps to the toilet and subsequently avoid the prolonged and unwanted blast of everything that was bad about the 1980s being etched onto my skull.
And that I did, although it took another 42 minutes of football for that moment to come during which time QPR scored one opportunistic goal when Jamie Mackie pinched Edgar David’s rank back pass and rounded Speroni before setting up Taarabt and then spurned several opportunities to put the game to bed before succumbing to a late sucker punch from young Keiran Cadogan. Palace were good value for that equaliser in fairness - missing seven regular first teamers through injury and suspension but boasting an enthusiastic band of academy players who offered a lively and pacey threat to QPR that increased steadily as the second half went on culminating in the goal.
Regular readers, hello to both, will remember that I walked out at Derby at 2-0 and missed us pulling it back to 2-2 in injury time and I say once again – if you’re betting in play and you hear I’ve left the stand, get a next goal scorer bet on. Such was the length of time I’d made my body wait for release the trip to the bogs lasted even longer than Palace’s ridiculous goal celebration and I was only just back in the stand in time to see Heidar Helguson win the game with a powerful header from Tommy Smith’s fine cross. Palace protested, and in amongst hugging grown men I‘d never met before the thought did occur to me quite strongly that he may have fisted the ball in Devon White style, but the goal stood and the points belonged to Rangers.
It was an honest rather than entertaining game in truth. Plenty of endeavour and much to admire but little technical proficiency or slick passing. The QPR fans cheered five consecutive passes in the first half and waited patiently for a chance to do so again. A wait that goes on to this day. But the character and gutts to come back and score such a fine late winner after such a sickening blow just seconds before bodes very well for the rest of the season and kept our six point lead intact going into the international break.
Scores >>> QPR performance 7/10 >>> Opposition performance 7/10 >>> Referee performance 6/10
In the stand
Having spent most of the season so far slating the brand spanking new, and deathly dull, new stadiums I suppose I now have to sit and type about what a wonderful example of traditional football ground architecture Selhurst Park is. Let’s be perfectly honest here, it’s a right shithole, but I do honestly believe I’d rather come here every week than call somewhere like the Walkers Stadium home. Wake up in the Walkers Stadium and there’s only the crisp advertisements that distinguish it from Southampton, Middlesbrough, Derby or any one of ten or more stadiums a bunch of middle of the road clubs got out of a flat pack box ten years ago. Wake up in Selhurst Park and you know straight away where you are – there’ll be a bloke standing in front of you blocking your view to the right, a large supporting pillar obscuring the goal to your left, a complex chunk of metalwork hanging precariously over your head and the gratuitous curved roof sheltering 200 or so topless chavs from the rain while they hug each other and dance up and down. It’s a unique place, rising out of the south London suburban streets like a beached whale, and that’s what all football grounds should be described as.
The more I look at Selhurst Park the more I think it must have been designed one piece at a time by a complete mentalist. I imagine officials from the club travelling to the home of Dr Emmett Brown from the Back to the Future movies every ten years or so and ordering him to remove whatever ridiculous headgear they found him in and report immediately to Croydon where a new stand needed to be designed. What other possible explanation can they be for the roof of the main home end – the Holmesdale Stand to the left of the away end? Palace populate this part of the ground with their “Ultras” which, in a week when the Serbian version forced the postponement of a European Championship qualifier in Italy with what Neil Ruddock might have described as a “dust up”, is frankly laughable and embarrassing. “Welcome to the Beautiful South” written on an old bed sheet in marker pen and 200 partially clothed chavs waving plastic flags while jumping up and down and groping each other does not a group of Ultras make. Palace need to get Hellas Verona over here for a friendly game and take lessons in the art.
Anyway, high above their heads is this roof that is almost half the size of the stand by itself. It’s a huge crescent shape tipped on its side, painted black, and plonked on top with some windows added in here and there. Unless it’s Simon Jordan’s penthouse the purpose of it being that big and that shape has always been lost on me. At the other end there is a stand that used to be a raised terrace with a brick wall at the front, and is now a sunken seated area with a brick wall at the back. And then there is the Arthur Wait Stand.
The QPR fans were further along in there this season, apparently so as not to upset the children among the Ultras and cause the police to have to work for their overtime, but the facilities and drawbacks of the place remained the same. Perhaps a commenter would like to correct me if I’m wrong here but I’m not sure if the Arthur Wait stand has ever had a terraced area. My immediate thought is it hasn’t, although such is the shallow nature of the seating at the front it does have the appearance of a stand that was once terracing and has since had some seats bolted onto it as an afterthought. The effect of this is anybody taller than Jamie Mackie sitting in front of you obstructs your view of the pitch, which in turn makes everybody stand up whenever a goal, corner, throw in or substitution occurs which in turn obstructs your view again. Add in another of Professor Emmett’s roof designs, this time incorporating a television gantry made up of three quarters of a million pieces of scaffolding stolen in the dead of night from building sites across the capital over many years, and you’ve got a thoroughly bizarre, rather grotty, and overall unpleasant place to watch your football from.
That’ll be £30 please.
Scores >>> QPR support 8/10 >>> Home support 6/10 >>> Overall atmosphere 6/10 >>> Stadium 5/10 >>> Police and stewards 7/10
On the road
The idea for an ‘Awayday Review’ on LFW started when I took over the site six long, arduous, years ago and was in fact stolen from Stoke City’s printed fanzine The Oatcake. Initially the intention was to get a different QPR fan to review their trip away with the team each week, building up into a league table at the end of the season. While that remains the case (e-mails to the usual address please) it has rather just turned into another opportunity for me to rant on at length about nothing in particular – as if I needed another excuse to do that. I did stop doing them a while ago, but I received mail asking where the feature had gone from people who had enjoyed it. Only two people mind, but people and mail all the same.
I bring this up now because I am aware that the ‘on the road’ section has rather turned into a history of Corby just lately as that’s where I moved to in the summer and that is where my journeys around the country with our wonderful team are beginning at the present moment. That isn’t about to change this week either, I merely mention the history of this column to show that I have offered it out there, there have been no takers, people wanted me to keep writing it, and that gives me free license to write whatever nonsense I like about Corby or anywhere else. Perhaps.
One of the attractions of moving to Corby (not the longest list of pros I’ve ever had to put together in my life admittedly) was that as well as the dirt cheap housing it had a railway station in the middle of the town with a direct hourly train service to London. This wasn’t always the case. Corby had no train station at all from 1967 until 2009 except for a brief period in 1989 and 1990 when they opened it for a year, ran a little train five minutes down the track to Kettering a few times a day, attracted a remarkable 100,000 passengers in 12 months and then closed it again. Such is life and railways. Anyway the government made companies bidding for the Midland Mainline franchise in 2006 promise solemnly that they would rebuild the station at Corby and run some trains to it so the otherwise abandoned populace of exiled Scots could escape should the town’s supply or Iron Bru ever run dry.
East Midlands Trains duly did that, building a shiny new £3m building with associated bus stations and taxi ranks. It even has a quaint little coffee bar called ‘Loco Coco’ that fills the glass fronted booking hall with the smell of bacon sandwiches to tempt the commuters and those lucky enough to be escaping. It didn’t have any trains, but who needs trains at a train station when you can have a bacon sandwich? The station opened in February 2009 with the grand total of one direct service a day to London and many bus shuttles to Kettering that could quite happily have bumbled up and down the Rockingham Road without the need to construct a new station at the cost of £3m. Eventually trains did arrive, when East Midlands Trains bought some new ones, and 13 of them a day started to run direct to London. And this was very good and the people were very happy.
Except this is all rather a pain for East Midlands Trains. Without wishing to be accosted by the train spotter police and forced to wear glasses seized from a sex offender and carry around a jotter for any interesting rolling stock numbers I may see passing by I do know that there aren’t enough tracks south of Kettering and the junction north of the station is a bit awkward as well. This means timetabling in a train from Corby every hour to come onto the fast lines at slow speed, stop at Kettering, and then move across the lines to join the regular flow of traffic to and from London, Sheffield and Nottingham is what’s technically known in the in industry as a complete ball ache.
So it’s not unusual to arrive at the new £3m Corby station and find East Midlands Trains quietly reneging on the promise of a direct train service to London and either shoving all the passengers onto that wretched Rockingham Road bus service again, or running a couple of carriages they found lying around at the back of the workshop to Kettering and back forcing people to change there for trains to London. That’s exactly what happened to Lindsey and myself as we headed off for Selhurst Park and having paid £52 for the two of us to travel on the franchise promised direct hourly train service to London I wasn’t best pleased about it either.
Once in London we used the overground services from Waterloo to Clapham, then down to Selhurst despite a strange grunting man’s attempt to make all the QPR fans get off at Thornton Heath (he was technically right, but I make a point of constantly doing the opposite of what rude twats tell me to do). Then after the game we went from the ever confusing Norwood Junction up to St Pancras again via London Bridge which had remarkably made it through another afternoon of action at the New Den without being razed to the ground. Wonders never cease.
Scores >>> Journey 5/10 >>> Cost 4/10
In the pub
Now if you’re a regular reader of this particular piece of nonsense on LFW you may well recall that in April we decided to do our pre-match drinking in Clapham. The pubs around the ground are a little hit and miss – often packed, closed on police advice or only admitting home fans and generally most QPR fans seem to find themselves in Wetherspoons in Thornton Heath which is a bit like having nothing to do at the weekend and finding yourself at Michael Barrymore’s pool party.
London Bridge has been the location of choice in the past but a recent trend to have Millwall and Palace at home on the same day has put paid to that for fear of pre-match drinking being interrupted by some skin head right wing activist knocking my pint over and reinforcing a stereotype by hitting me over the head with a plank of wood with a nail through it while Danny Dyer watches from an adjacent table muttering “pwopah nawty” into his Bacardi Breezer. Anyway, after an evening of posturing behind lines of police and throwing darts at each other on the previous Tuesday I didn’t think the Millwall fans would take too kindly to us walking into The Old Kings Head at London Bridge and asking if they’d mind awfully putting the golf on for us before we popped down to see the Super Hoops at Crystal Palace.
Not that we would of course – I haven’t used the word ‘awfully’ in a non Bob Malcolm context for a number of years now and I didn’t even want to watch the golf, I wanted to watch Wigan v Wolves in the white hot cauldron of mediocrity that is the bottom end of the Premiership. Now in Clapham last year we ended up in The Falcon, which was a very nice pub but didn’t have a television with live sport. It did have a six foot four, middle aged man with grey hair down his back, a mini skirt stuck up his arse and wearing a boob tube carefully stitched in Thailand for a girl of no more than eight striding up and down purposefully taking the cheers from the aghast QPR fans. But no television.
This season we made a slight adjustment (right out of Clapham Junction station instead of left) and went in the Windsor Castle instead. Now the online write ups of this place talked of a huge bar/lounge area, stretching right back from the main road, offering Sky and food. However when we walked in initially, through the front door as you do, we were initially confronted by a room not much bigger than your average double bed. Three tables of gentlemen with weathered faces stared at us silently and while Owain held their gaze Lindsey and myself set about tapping the fake wooden panelling around the place looking for a secret door to the Narnia of live sport and beer that we’d been promised lurked beyond.
We were then advised by a kindly landlord that we needed to go back out onto the street and come in the back door. Nicely settled in a battle then began over the television which was showing the Ryder Cup on our arrival (which nobody was watching) but could be changed over to either Hearts v Rangers or Wolves v Wigan depending on how many customers wanted either. Luckily the Northern R’s had amassed a strong travelling party of six and were able to force through the English match – although as the landlord was the only one who knew how to change the channel and he was also the only one who knew how to cook the food we ordered we missed the first ten minutes, and the Karl Henry sending off, while he was in the kitchen. The food was beige in colour and taste but the pub owner was a thoroughly nice bloke who was very pleased to see us being an exiled Wolves fan dreading having to watch bald monkey wrestling masquerading as football which the Scottish Premier League clearly is.
Afterwards Lindsey, Owain, Colin and myself retired to Mabel’s Tavern in Kings Cross and stayed rather longer than we should have done for rather more beer than was probably necessary. Scenes are missing thereafter.
Scores >>> Pub 6/10 >>> Atmosphere 6/10 >>> Food 5/10 >>> Cost 6/10
Final Score 94/130
Photo: Action Images
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Letters from Wiltshire #45 by wessex_exile
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Letters from Wiltshire #44 by wessex_exile
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