Once a year, my well heeled, ex-employer asks me and a couple of similarly chuffed others to join him for a VIP day out at his beloved Queens Park Rangers. And he doesn’t just invite us to a low profile Rumbelows Cup-esque 2nd round replay against Mansfield. No he waits until the big boys are in town. So this year we get tickets, with all the trimmings, for none other than QPR vs Manchester United. Some might say that we’re a few fluffers shy of the perfect day. I wouldn’t. But some might.
It’s a lunch with boozy bubbles from noon, followed by a nostalgic speech from an ex-QPR legend who still has the same wispy, almost self-mocking haircut as when he was playing in the 70s. Move on man! It’s over!
Ten minutes before kick off we toast our exit before exiting the toasty innards of Loftus Road – alcohol-tickled to that pleasant point of self-proclaimed omniscience – and head pitch side to get some pre-match snaps of the players. The highly excitable amongst you will be highly excited to hear that some original amateur shots from the game will appear on soccersweep next week. Breathe. Breathe. You’re alright son. You’re just highly excitable.
And, even though QPR usually get cuffed by this lot, I know that my well-heeled friend will remain magnanimous throughout. Not because he doesn’t love his QPR. Not because he’s not hurting inside. But because he doesn’t want his inner mood to, in any way, detract from his guests’ inordinately strong feelings of happiness and exhilaration. What a superb chap.
The well heeled one doesn’t ask anything in return for this annual privilege – I keep expecting him to pull up unannounced in his car one day with a gun on the passenger seat saying ‘now you need to do something for me’ – But no. He but asketh that we join him once a year and get drunketh watching football. Gorgeous gorgeous Premier League bloody football.
Carlsberg don’t make friends. Or decent lager. But if they did, my well heeled ex-employer would be the friend and Carlsberg would be Stella.
So what can we expect from the game? Well, Manchester United cruised to a 2-0 win in the corresponding fixture last year. But, despite their league position, I think that QPR have much more substance now. They’ve been one of the Premier League’s biggest spenders over the last 12 months and have a great coach to turn things around.
Harry Redknapp hasn’t altered results as quickly as the fans or board would perhaps have liked but there is a sense that he has at least stopped the rot. I hope that Harry stays at QPR for a long time because I genuinely think that, with continued backing, he can transform QPR into anything they want to be.
Loic Remy is back from injury and will add further strength to a spine already bolstered by the arrival of Big Chrissy Samba as Harry might lovingly call him.
So QPR simply must push on but they are up against the league leaders Manchester United, who have their own important agenda. Manchester United need another 24 points to be all but certain of lifting their 20th title. That’s 8 wins. The more of these wins that they can get in the bag now, the more breathing space they have to rest players later. If Barcelona go out to Milan, Sir Fergie will never get a better chance to win another European Cup with Manchester United. So he will want all of his best players fresh and available for the uber-crunch ties that could await in The Champions League, should United get past Real. Marvellous isn’t it?
Julio Cesar, Onuoha, Samba, Hill, Traore, Derry, Mbia Jenas, Zamora, Taraabt, Townsend
De Gea, Da Silva, Evans, Vidic, Evra, Carrick, Cleverley, Young, Nani, Wellbeck, RvP
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