If you’ve read my about me page you’ll know I’m big time into my football. Proper football, the version played with your feet. I’ve been going with my dad for over 10 years now and hold a season ticket at one of the smaller London clubs. My team is called Queens Park Rangers, or QPR for short. They’re based in Sheppard’s Bush, a mere 10-15 minute train ride from central London.
Now you might think that writing about football is a typical lad thing to do, and in some respects you would be correct. But … being a dedicated fan will usually lead to trips abroad. Away games in European competitions are common place and fans regularly jet off for a couple of nights in another European city to see their team. So with that in mind I’m going to try vaguely link this article to being travel related. Loose link I’ll admit, but stick with me.
Unfortunately, until now, my team have never actually been that good. Languishing in the lower leagues of the English setup, the most glamorous place we visited in recent seasons was Bournemouth. But that all changed this past season … we were good. Very good in fact. So good that we won our league and gained promotion to the EPL (English Premier Legaue). Good times! This post focuses on a day when despite playing the English leagues, QPR went to Cardiff in Wales to play Cardiff City FC. Fierce rivals and fellow title contenders last season. At the time of the game, QPR were top of league, Cardiff second. BIG BIG GAME! Oh and did I mention it was St Georges day too. The day (and my nerves) went like this …
It’s an early start on this day. The game is being shown live on the TV so the kickoff has been moved from 3pm to 1.15pm. It’s all aboard the coaches heading to the game.
Into the service station to grab some food and get rid of the beer. It’s a bit cheeky having a drink on the coaches, the police don’t like it, but they’re aware that most unofficial coaches have booze on them. The usual protocol is to bin all the empty cans and bottles a few miles away from the stadium you’re travelling to. In this case we decided we’d have a big car park party whilst all the beers were finished. It was a glorious day and we managed to catch up with a few old friends during the party. At this point the nerves weren’t too bad. The songs and smiling faces had me in confident mood.
Back on the coach and we make our way towards the Severn bridge which links Wales with the Bristol area of England. As we cross the bridge the nerves start to rise.
Kick off time. Its roasting inside the stadium. I can’t hear my friends for the amount of noise that the other QPR fans are making. Around me balloons and other inflatable objects such as crocodiles, blow up dolls, sheep and even a paddling pool, fly past our heads. I’m so nervous I can feel my heart pounding in my chest.
I don’t remember too much of the game. For long spells it was a even contest and nothing memorable happened. Here’s what I do remember from the 90 minutes though …
• 6 mins – Jan Bothroyd of Cardiff skips inside from the touchline and onto his left foot and unleashes an absolute screamer that arrows into the top corner of the QPR goal. It’s an amazing strike but we fall silent. Its an awful start and the Cardiff fans let us know about it. Its a horrible horrible feeling when that happens. Things stop as you see the ball ripple the net … then the noise of the other supporters hits you. Haunting! 1-0 to Cardiff.
• 11mins – QPR have a corner kick. The initial effort is cleared, but the clearance makes its way back to our captain and talisman. From nowhere an absolute wonder goal. Take a bow Adel Taraabt, cue wild celebrations in our end. 1-1.
• 35mins – Again our defence allow Bothroyd to cut in on his favoured left foot. He doesnt shoot this time but cross the ball into our penalty area where everyone misses it except Cardiff captain Craig Bellamy who takes one touch and then smashes the ball into the net on the half volley. 2-1 Cardiff and the Cardiff fans taunt us once more. I must admit my heart sank at this point.
• Half time – I catch up with an old friend from school. I convey my thoughs and worries about the 1st half and insist that we could be losing by a far great margin. I wait for him to return with some encouragement but instead he just agrees. We are doomed! I can only foresee a 4-1 lose on the cards.
• 71mins – GOAL! From absolute nothing. For the past 20 mins it’s been a nothing game and out of the blue its 2-2. Again it’s our captain who does the business. This time the goal is at the opposite end of the ground to us so it takes a second to actually figure out we’ve scored. But we’re level. My friends dive all over each other I can’t bring myself to celebrate in the same way. Relief is my overriding feeling at this point. I’d be quite happy for it to be full time now and have us walk away with a draw. But alas there is still 20 mins to go.
• 80mins – Cardiff are in on goal, one on one, their striker vs our goalkeeper … I wait for the ball to hit the back of our net … but it doesn’t. Our keeper pulls off a magnificent save. Once again relief flows through me. 10 mins left, I’m a nervous reck!
• 91mins – We’re into injury time and advancing on the Cardiff goal. If we score now we have won the game and the league. Here it is, a cross into the box, an open goal, wait for it … we miss. Head in hands, what a chance!
• 93mins – Full time and we sing. We sing as if we’ve won the league anyway as this is a huge result!
On route back to London the coach has been organised to stop off in Wootton Bassett. As its St Georges Day some of the fans have bought reefs with them to lay at the war memorial. We also have time to visit a couple of local pubs and take in some west country cider. The sun is out and the cider is cheap, it’s been a good day!
After grabbing some fish and chips its back on the coach and back to London. We bought a few more beers for the home stretch and crank up the music as we approach west London. Conveniently we are dropped off at a pub that is 2mins walk from my flat. Its party time in the pub and we join the locals in a Saturday night drink. We make good use of the jukebox and chat about the days events. As a football team we are yet to be promoted, but took a giant step in the right direction.
When things go well in the game you have to celebrate, and celebrate we did. I crash and have sweet dreams.
Ok so I havent really told you much about Cardiff, sorry! … And don’t ask me how a Welsh team get to play in the English league, I don’t understand it fully and its doesn’t really bother me. This article is just a mash of two of my passions, football and travel. Travelling with my football team is a big thing for me. It means I get to see parts of the UK that I wouldn’t normally visit. Travel doesn’t necessarily have to mean abroad! If you’re into sport I highly recomend seeing an event of some sort in a different counrty to your own. I’ve been lucky enough to watch cricket games in Asia & Australia and Rugby in New Zeland & Fiji … all just totally amazing! I’ve also played sport in a number of countries, again if you get the chance, take it! Sport has its own language, dont let anything hold you back.
Check out my Sport in London post if you’re interested in seeing a game whilst in London. For the rest of the UK just Google it, there’ll be plenty of links. Enjoy the game!