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Land of the Riesling Sun May 17, 2011

Posted by normanmonkey in West Byfleet.
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The other day I was apprehended beside the wine section in Waitrose by a breathless Japanese in traditional costume. This is the kind of thing that happens if minutes before you breeze into a local sushi restaurant mutter your take-away order to the proprietor and then turn on your heels toward the nearest supermarket with an accompanying white shifting up to pole position in priorities.

I’ll learn in future to be more switched on in a sushi restaurant when placing a hurried order before dashing out. Instead of ordering ‘Five pieces of sashimi’ I’d blurted’ ‘Five pieces of sushi’, did a flit and left them wondering what type of sushi  of the many hundreds on offer I actually wanted. It’s not a good way to end the day and the genteel old ladies and tranquilised housewives nearly dropped their shopping at the sight of a frantic Japanese come rushing in. A few of the old timers probably had flashbacks to the fall of Singapore and ducked for cover and who could blame them as I almost had a heart attack as he waved a menu in my face having followed me a good hundred metres and across a main road.

According to a newly published Lonely Planet to Great Britain Surrey is dull, but with incidents like this I beg to differ. Dull? You don’t get that kind of impromptu theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue and had it not been me I’d have paid good money to watch the ensuing confusion. So it came to pass that i ordered my sushi dinner in a supermarket in front of bewildered onlookers and pointing children, the latter wanting to follow me round the fruit and veg (if I have any more sleepless nights older shoppers will assume I’m part of the display) wondering what would be conjured up next for their entertainment.

Despite or because of excitement like this I have decided to leave the country. There’s been a stag do in marbella I’ve been crying off for ages but seeing as I’ve driven everyone round the twist at work with Queens Park Rangers, point deductions, an ex-girlfriend texting at 3am and the paranoid fear of being leapt upon by a panting Japanese in traditional costume I’ve relented at the last minute, only I’ll be staying in my apartment and they will stay at their resort.

It is probably best for both parties that we have a break from each other or no good will come of it. I know them, the area and myself all too well. You go out to Spain thinking you are retracing the steps of Ernest Hemmingway and after two glasses of rose and a bikini passing by in the afternoon sun everyone has turned into a 21st century Sid James.  The chance of the weekend being spent sipping sherry and looking at old churches is looking slim, in fact if you want to bet on it you’ll hear the bookmakers stifling a howl of mirth at your expense as you hand over the notes.

No points deduction May 12, 2011

Posted by normanmonkey in Friends, QPR.
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The most beautiful three words in the English language are not ‘I love you’ but ‘No points deduction’.

This is my final word on anything football realted for some time as, believe me, I am more weary of it than anyone else reading this. After a week of sleepless nights, gnawing fists, speaking in tongues during meetings, bursting into tears, barking at and breaking down in front of friends, family and colleagues and reading wild speculation from those in the know (and not a single sports journalist can be included in that grouping), it was announced at midday on Saturday that QPR would only receive a fine for their transfer transgressions and were officially Champions. It is a week that I, nor anyone who came into contact with me, will want to endure again.

Enough has been written about the scenes of delirium around Shepherds Bush already. I’m not in a position to report on that moment as I was in a cab stuck in appalling traffic and going nowhere for a King’s ransom on the Warwick Road. All I’ve got to show for it is crippling shin splints after giving up and describing to run the remainder of the journey in Timberland boots arriving just in time to hyperventilate at the steps of the ground as QPR scored their one and only goal 29 seconds into the game before going on to inconsequential defeat.

Next season we will be in the Premier League for the first time in 15 years, entertaining the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea and for most of those games I will probably be stuck in a taxi somewhere on the Warwick Road.

Then there is Russell an ex-colleague, now present friend and ensconced in Paris who is a Cardiff fan who has watched our success and their capitulation at the final hurdle in unbounded horror. The rivalry between his club and mine is intense and dates back to a 2003 Cardiff play-off final victory – in Cardiff – that was full of loathing and retribution has been like an open wound ever since. Even in his job interview, he grinned to me, the interviewer, upon hearing I was a QPR fan ‘We could see you crying on TV’. He very nearly didn’t get the job.

A couple of years later Russell thought it a good idea to join me in watching a televised Cardiff-QPR fixture in a pub full of QPR types, most of them proper nutters, on a Friday night on the Goldhawk Road in Shepherds Bush. Despite Cardiff then being unbeaten  top of the league and QPR being bottom and pitiful, the latter scored a goal with their first shot in the 90th minute. Amid the eruption of hooped flesh and cacophony of delight sat a broken Welshman on a stool, his pint knocked flying, jostled by simian men who assumed he too was delighted at this sudden unexpected, undeserved twist, staring agonised, unblinking at the floor as if he’d just descended into hell.

Russell then did a funny thing. He went to the gents and locked himself in the loo for a full hour and refused to come out. Years passed and this season looked like being a head to head. For only two weeks this season was another team top of the league, that was Cardiff and, of course, Russell would be on me like a flash to salute the great breakaway (‘Just you watch us now!’ etc), yet it still went to the wire with Caridff bubbling closely beneath. In fact, had QPR had any significant points deducted, as it was predicted by the press they would, then Cardiff would be promoted in our place.

The no points deduction was announced and QPR declared champions at midday on Saturday and despite my best attempts to elicit a response there was not a text, tweet or call from Paris. All contact was down. And then at around 8pm on Tuesday evening he uttered his first words via Twitter: I’ve just come out the toilet. If Cardiff progress to the Play off final and lose to their bitterest rivals Swansea let me you, that self-imposed exile in the toilet will become permanent.

Brandy on ice – a QPR promotion May 1, 2011

Posted by normanmonkey in QPR, Uncategorized.
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Did anyone remember to check the Norwich score then?'

Only at QPR can supporters invade the pitch to celebrate being promoted to the Premier League before bothering to check whether the other game that affected our status had finished. It hadn’t. Yet no one had the foresight to patiently see if Norwich would finish with 2-2 draw. Norwich didn’t. They scored and won 3-2, rendering the chants of ‘The R’s are going up and now you’re gonna believe us’ premature.

I witnessed this from my seat just behind the Directors Box in full knowledge, unlike the club co-owner Lakshmi Mittal, the fourth richest man in the world, that our party had been shafted (it goes to show you that money can buy you anything, but not even 5 billion quid can give you the final score from Carrow Road before making a tit of yourself). The supporters were singing so loudly about being promoted that no one could hear the PA system trying to tell them we actually weren’t and asking them to go home. Eventually the message got through, the promotion celebration was brought to an abrupt halt (if it was a cartoon you’d hear the sound of a stylus being hoiked off the record player) and it was rather like turning up for a New Year’s Eve party where Big Ben only struck up to 11.

An old friend in Australia whom I haven’t heard from in 18 months even found time to email to say he’d spilled his Pinot Noir down his front laughing at the pitch invasion that had been on the news. Yes, our embarrassment and wretched anti-climax in a small corner of Shepherds Bush had gone global.

So after global derision, promotion and the Championship was secured with a majestic 2-0 at Watford yesterday, but, of course, it wasn’t. There’s the matter of an FA charge concerning the transfer of Alejandro Faurlin from Argentinian club Instituto in an alleged £3.5m brokered deal that appears to be part Gordon Gekko, part Gordon the Gopher. When Faurlin had his medical signing for QPR it is not known if physios found bruising from where he fell off the back of a lorry, but the FA are investigating how we happened upon the signing as his owners weren’t Instituto and there is a (possibly unfounded) speculation we may be docked points to deny QPR a return to the Premier League after a fifteen year absence that has taken in two relegations and no small amount of ignomy on the way.

This is typical QPR, certainly since I’ve been following them.  In 1986 we won away at Chelsea and knocked out the European Champions Liverpool in the semis to reach the League Cup final only to lose 3-0 to Oxford. Our last foray into Europe we managed to have a 6-2 home advantage over Partizan Belgrade overturned with a 4-0 away defeat. Since we’ve been out of the Premier League we’ve managed to spend an entire season in financial administration with fans collecting donations in buckets outside the ground; a court case involving a gun pulled on the Chairman at the ground by gangsters on a matchday (where the judge concluded the Chairman was an ‘unreliable witness’); a merger with Wimbledon; a possible move and certain death to Milton Keynes (Wimbledon copped that one) been knocked out of the FA Cup by a team that sounded more like a car dealership and whom no one knew existed (Vauxhall Motors) and actually not won a single FA Cup match in ten years. Think about that: ten years! There’s also been the matter of recent events where we managed to get through 12 managers in less than 3 years all with increasingly disastrous consequences until the appointment of Neil Warnock who may or may have not won us the Championship.

Frankly this FA inquiry is the sort of thing that keeps a man with a QPR season ticket and limited social horizons beyond the nearest bar awake at night (and disinclined to blog if you;ve noticed the lack of activity roughly coincides with the FA charge). Yesterday afternoon was still spent listening to BBC London hunched in the kitchen and then charging around in triumph, then pausing to wipe a tear, frantically texting and calling other emotionally unstable idiots with a similar orientation, but there was no champagne.  My publican friend Lee celebrated himself into a toxic stupor at his own real-ale festival, but after one false dawn the previous week I’ll save my celebrations until all bases are covered.

My Moet is being kept on ice until the FA verdict on Friday and I wholly expect to go berserk at the final home game on Saturday.  It’s not worth going into the details of the case safe to say the club say they’ve been transparent and are confident they will win (given our history, as soon as anyone associated with QPR says that concerning any contest I am immediately filled with dread). Considering the FA is in considerable debt, they’ve not exactly managed the case or publicity around it well and our owners comprise not one, but two self-made billionaires (who didn’t get to where they are today by taking no for an answer or with an ‘After you, Claude’ approach to business)  there’s doubt whether the FA have the stomach or can afford the lawyers for a very messy fight.

For fifteen years we’ve waited for a return to the top flight. It’s unprecedented a club can win the league with a game to spare and still be waiting for results to come in from else0hwere, in our case not from a football ground but a QC. And while we’ve waited since 1986 and that League Cup final to make another appearance at Wembley, at least the hearing is taking place there, but whether we’ll get a win reamins to be seen. Typical QPR, as we say. In the place of champagne a large brandy would be more appropriate. A final thought: Pete Doherty is a QPR fan, do you think he turned out the way he did by coincidence?