Sunday, November 24, 2013

The best and worst of West London

Queen's Park Rangers are a strange football club. As a child I remember they were one of the best in the land, Stan Bowles, Gerry Francis, and co playing the most attractive of football in the late seventies. Then there was that plastic pitch and the cup final, yet afterwards there has been years of misery, administration and scandals. Recently they've had a return to the elite but again only reached the headlines for less than illustrious achievements.

This has all been done without really upsetting, or more interestingly, hindering anybody else. Outside of West London you'll be hard pressed to find a supporter, and I (wrongly I admit) refer to them as London's forgotten club. That said, good old 'Arry, does his best to keep his mix and match of top flight journeymen footballers (and their accompanying sky high wage bill) on the back pages of your favourite tabloids.

So what is the best bit of West London you may ask, as you know I can't be referring to the view from the away supporters section of the Loftus Road Subbuteo grandstand. Well it's a little traditional boozer tucked right behind Notting Hill tube station.

Many Charlton fans took the disco boat along the Thames as has become almost SE7 tradition when playing in West London, but I believe police made this dock in Westminster Saturday. There were no boats for land loving me, as I took the circle line to the home of Portabello Road market along with many others, all of whom were looking for an antique bargain to take back home. Tucked behind the station though is The Uxbridge Arms, a pub time seems to have forgotten. A perfect pint of Tribute, a warming fire and a archetypal London landlady. A strong woman that certainly wouldn't take any mischief but would happily ply you with beer until either you could drink no more or the last bell was rung.

We left it as late as possible before taking the central line three stops and following the blue and white hoards to the ground where we must have had to walk round three sides of the place before finding entry. This was easier said than done. A bottleneck of supporters were herded through an army of stewards who frisked you once , then twice before finally allowing you past. I offered a third young steward the chance to pat  my pockets but he politely declined, ha ha, not one of them looked under my hat. A tip there for you youngsters keen on your flares etc. I do remember it being strict there in previous visits as back in the 90's I recall then Charlton drummer Mark Garvey being bundled to the floor by the men in hi-viz as he tried to carry his drum in.

If you thought entering was tough, you had no idea what treat was in store for us as we tried to escape!

The game itself had it's moments, Ben Hamer was called upon to make a couple of needy stops from distance and although Rangers superiority was obvious for all to see, they struggled to make a mark on the game.

Charlton played well, were organized and obviously stuck to their plan. It's just a shame the plan seemed to be to hold them to a goalless draw. Simon Church up front did was he does best and ran all afternoon but with little support it became clear we wouldn't score in a month of Sunday's. QPR were calm on the ball, never rushed, and showed real signs of being a top flight side again. Never has Bradley Pritchard looked more out of his depth.

The goal was a delight from Charlie Austin, struck cleanly it looked as good this morning on the small screen as it did at the time. In fact our only chance would have been if Cameron Stewart could produce something similar for us at the other end. At 0-0 our plan wasn't really working, at 0-1 it was defunct and we knew five minutes into the second half that Powell needed a change. It would be Pritchard and Church that came off, Harriott and Kermorgant on. We recognize the big Frenchman needs little convincing to fall to the ground but even on the unintentional occasions yesterday it was obvious little would be given our way; again we were unpopular with the man in the middle.

Joey Barton took remarkably little stick considering who he is, Rob Green, who as was frequently reminded had let his country down, certainly made up for it. Andy Johnson made a cameo appearance and again got his deserved share of flack, whilst the arrival of Shaun Wright-Phillips heralded  chorus after chorus of his brothers anthem, 'he's better than Shaun'. Great stuff. The stand out player for me though was the left back, a lad on loan from Spurs I am told. From where I stood, and granted, with rather failing eyesight, I thought I'd been beamed thirty years back in time and was watching the great George Berry!

Charlton can have no complaints, they did lose to a better side but certainly didn't disgrace themselves in any way. QPR however must wonder why, with stands so close to the pitch and with roofs surely designed to keep the noise in, have a support that hardly made a sound. Is that the worst of West London? It's certainly the same scenario up the road at Fulham.

No, the worst side of West London has to be the access, or lack of it. As I said before, getting in the ground was tough, getting out was a nightmare. The narrowest of concourses meant we all shuffled slowly through (at the times we weren't stationary) under the glare of stewards in a manner I can only assume would resemble prisoners at a concentration camp shuffling towards the 'showers' under the watchful eye of Nazi guard. On finally making it out onto the metal staircase down to the street there was a feeling of escaping and an urge to run in case I was captured and sent back in.

A couple of drinks in Clapham on the way home where my companion Jim found himself innocently caught amidst Chelsea - QPR urinal warfare rounded off another London derby defeat. I was feeling quite upbeat all things considered, then stupidly glanced at the league table. It's a little more concerning than I had realised. I don't believe it's too early to call Tuesday's visit of Doncaster a six pointer is it?

In typical Charlton fashion I think we'll rub salt in the wound midweek and come away victorious, just to burn all our Donny bridges once and for all. That's how football goes isn't it, but then come next Saturday and Ipswich and I'm certain normal service will be resumed.


  1. Charlton fans cannot talk about the atmosphere at any grounds. The home support at charlton is appalling, one song sang all match and only about 200 fans actually sang against leeds. The support at qpr probably is bad and when I go to loftus road away i will find out but if they have more than 200 fans singing then they will beat charlton fans hands down

  2. Al, you know as well as I do that Leeds United are the biggest club in the universe, with the loudest and wisest fan base.
    ....but they don't like to talk about it.

    1. I'm just pointing out the facts, the support was beyond terrible