A bright half-moon was hanging over Ladbroke Grove W10 as I left home at 7.15 p.m. for the away game at Loftus Road. The steward at the School End (Lower) called me ‘sir’ as he directed me left and left again to the School End (Upper), where the Sunderland fans were congregated. There was a big empty space around me but it was soon filled up by Carlsberg slurpers from downstairs. Those seats were mighty tight and there were a lot of knees sticking into backs.
I was pleased to see that I was almost sitting on top of the goal and I enjoyed watching the lads taking practice shots at Ward. This was my first match since January at Brentford and it took me a while to figure out who everybody was, as thankfully most of the dismal lot I’d seen back then were no longer around. The guy next to me was on his mobile describing how sad Q.P.R. were to have as their theme music ‘The March of the Dead’ or whatever from ‘Star Wars’ but I thought he was pretty sad himself to know such information. Mind you, he did later instigate a lively “Scum! Scum!” chant after a bottle or two was thrown onto the pitch from the Q.P.R. ‘end’ and we began what seemed like a stoppage of ten minutes as anxious eyes scanned watches. This is no doubt merely a genetic throwback in these times of flexible licensing hours. Incidentally my neighbour failed to return after half-time.
I’d had a feeling that we’d win the game beforehand, though I wouldn’t mind two bob for every time I’ve had a similar feeling and we’ve lost, but our first-half performance showed a lot of promise in patches. The most amusing event of the game was just after our first goal when they got the ball in the net and their celebratory music, ‘Papa’s Got a Brand New Pigbag’ (that’s quality, mate, and there’s nothing sad about knowing that) started blaring from the speakers only to be turned off rather droopingly as Uriah Rennie ruled the effort out. I had no idea why but I wasn’t going to argue.
At half time an upcoming charity match at Aldershot was announced and among the stars to be taking part is none other than ‘Q.P.R. fan’ Pete Doherty. This surprised me.
Miller went off ten minutes into the second half and I hadn’t even figured out which one he was; his contribution must have been decidedly lite. I’d heard a lot about Nogsy and he’s always been one to polarize the opinions of the faithful. I have to say I thought he was great, battling like hell for every ball and winning most of them while also making a few very threatening forays into their box. The main man was clearly Kavanagh, who dominated. With him back in the side and fully fit I think we can seriously start going places. Wallace was also great and has the ability to create a buzz when he gets the ball and starts moving but he somehow missed a very easy chance near the end after great work by Whitehead. It was very reassuring to have a player of Whitehead’s quality held in reserve. Ward looked solid and what a contrast he is to Kelvin Davis, whose inability to command his area spread a horrible malaise through an already shaky defence last season.
As we all know, Sunderland never make things easy for us and after looking like we could end up winning 4-0 in the end we were all looking at the time and sweating for that final whistle. When Ray Jones came on during the break for a warm-up he looked like a Massai warrior and I had the horrible feeling we’d have trouble with him. He duly scored but apart from that the R’s didn’t pose too much of a threat.
I was back in the house by 10.25 with a bottle of Vinho Verde chilling while I checked the tables on AOL. I was disappointed to see we’d only moved up one place but the climb to the top six isn’t looking impossible. Hmm… Crystal Palace on December 22nd is starting to look a likely prospect.