Loftus Road, December 2008. I think I was about five or six years old when my dad first took me to see Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road. We were playing West Ham in a largely uneventful game that finished 0-0. Not the most auspicious start to my QPR journey and yet the place had me completely hooked, from the colourful language of the locals and the smell of sizzling burgers, to the team’s gorgeous blue-and-white-hooped shirts (best kit in Britain!) and the compact stadium itself with seats right on the edge of the pitch. As a teen I used to make regular trips in from Buckinghamshire and no matter what crazy corner of the world I lived in I’d always make it back for at least one or two games a season. This shot was taken when I was unexpectedly interviewed before a home match against Watford. I can’t remember what I was asked, or indeed anything I said, but it must have been more interesting than the game itself, another drab 0-0.
Loftus Road, March 2011. One of the most memorable Loftus Road visits came during the 2010-2011 season where we ultimately got promoted to the Premier League as champions. Just a few months prior to lifting the trophy, I flew over from Amsterdam for a crunch game against Crystal Palace. My dad and brother also made it down from Scotland, the first and only time the three of us got to see a live game together. To mark the occasion, we opted for a behind-the-scenes stadium tour before the match. It was a fantastic morning; our guide leading us into the home and away changing rooms, through the press and hospitality areas and eventually down the tunnel and pitch side. On its day Loftus Road remains one of the most atmospheric stadiums in the country and when the place is rocking there’s nothing quite like it.
Loftus Road, March 2011. We got to meet a whole host of players that afternoon, as well as then manager Neil Warnock. The pick of the bunch though had to be the enigmatic and mercurial midfielder Adel Taarabt. Emphatically the most gifted player I’ve ever seen at Loftus Road, he was in startling form that season with goal after breathtaking goal and an endless string of mazy runs and majestic touches that often rendered him unplayable. Sadly though, he was a fundamentally flawed player who failed to realize his full potential. Lazy, selfish, petulant and unpredictable, he eventually left in 2015 for Benfica, having spurned a crazy amount of second chances from a succession of frustrated managers. Since leaving, his career has languished with no evidence at all that he can get his career back on track.
Loftus Road, October 2011. I’ve been lucky enough to see some incredible victories at Loftus Road over the years. It doesn’t get any better than a 6-0 demolition of Chelsea in 1986! And I also recall another 6-0, when we beat Crystal Palace to avoid relegation from the championship on the last day of the 2004/2005 season. My dad and I made it onto the pitch that afternoon, as manager Gerry Francis was hoisted up into the air by the home faithful. Another great afternoon came from the game in this photo, with a hard fought 1-0 win over Chelsea. As our bitter rivals, there’s no love lost at all between the two sides and the atmosphere that day was vociferous as the two teams took to the pitch. As massive underdogs the media didn’t give us a chance, but we defended like Trojans, caused them plenty of problems on the counter attack and eventually scored a penalty after Heidar Helguson was brought down in the box. Chelsea’s Jose Bosingwa and Didier Drogba getting sent off was the icing on the cake!
Loftus Road, October 2015. The last great game I caught at Loftus Road came the night before I flew out to Cambodia in late 2015. We were in patchy form at the time, so I hadn’t been expecting much. And yet what unfolded was a frantic, topsy-turvy game that saw us quickly go 2-0 down, before eventually fighting back to a 3-2 lead with just eight minutes left on the clock. And then Bolton’s Wellington Silva scored with five minutes to go to level things up at 3-3. I thought we’d let victory slip. But then, in the 94th minute of the game and with virtually the final kick, misfit striker Jay Emmanuel Thomas popped up with his second goal for a 4-3 win. The entire place erupted in a spine-tingling wall of noise and the Bolton players slumped to the floor like a herd of shot deer. Tangibly reenergised by my annual fix of live QPR, I shuffled out of Loftus Road, packed my bags and headed off to Siem Reap.