Kieran Robinson – check him out at kieranrobinson.com – was recommended to us as a QPR candidate for ‘Who are You?’ by Steve Colwell, a great friend this site who is not only a Rangers fanatic but at least twice an occupant of this little hot seat. He reports on the Old Bill’s heavy-handed (sorry Met Police: the phrase slips effortlessly off the keyboard) denial of pre-match pint opportunities, the premature ageing of Sunderland supporters and the leadership qualities of Joey Barton …
Salut! Sunderland: So you’re back. Did it feel a bit ‘”by the back door”, given how Derby dominated the playoff final, or did your season’s form justify it?
We had been hanging on for penalties with 10 men for half an hour until Derby’s Richard Keogh left the keys to the Premier League in the front door and invited Bobby Zamora to guide 40,000 odd Rangers fans through and say, “help yourselves to the fridge”.
QPR hadn’t won at Wembley since 1967. Thousands of us marched the five or so miles from Loftus Rd to Wembley knowing it might take years for us to get another chance. Whole generations have grown up without visiting the place, despite the fact many of us pass it every day. Being a QPR fan is like belonging to one massive family. Thoughts naturally went to everyone who couldn’t be there to see it for themselves. It was a moment I think we’ve all spent the summer on a come-down from, and one we will always remember.
You’d have to have a hard heart not to feel some sympathy for Derby. We had similar heartache in Cardiff in 2003 and I genuinely hope that “S-shh-teve” can achieve automatic promotion for County this season.
Rangers are back and whether we deserved it or not in footballing terms, it doesn’t really matter.
We’ll have our usual big following but some will be feeling miffed at the prices for a match at such a rundown stadium. Your thoughts?
I share your frustration on ticket prices, but I don’t think you can hold up a visit to Loftus Road as especially expensive compared to other Premier League grounds. £35 is about average for what we’ll be paying in the home end and the same as you’ll pay at Burnley.
It’ll be a sad day when all Premier League grounds follow the same identikit model and we lose the last of the atmospheric old English football grounds. At the risk of sounding like Joey Barton on Question Time, you don’t see me coming into your house complaining that your wife needs to shift a little winter timber.
If I can give some friendly advice to improve your experience in W12, it would be to avoid wearing colours, or at least be discreet. Not that you’ll get an especially unfriendly welcome from our supporters, it’s just that most if not all pubs in the Bush, are now “home fans only” on police advice. Old away fan haunts like O’Neill’s and Walkabout have closed or changed hands recently, so drinking around Kings Cross, Baker Street or Hammersmith may be a better shout for Sunderland fans. (I give way to the Beer-Meister here!)
‘arry is not everyone’s cup of tea, and I am not referring to the taxman. But his record is pretty good and you must be pleased that he got you straight back up.
There’s always a suspicion that Harry is the kind of cat who would eat his dinner in each of your neighbour’s kitchens and still come home to you for kippers.
The whole circus that follows him grates on me and Sunderland fans must have felt the same under Di Canio.
Sections of the press like to report on “Redknapp” rather than Rangers which doesn’t give the club enough credit in my book.
I think he deserves a fair chance to take us up and I for one am happy to see that we’re talking to him about a new contract. The last few years have been fairly tempestuous and we need some managerial stability.
Loic Remy. What is going on? Will he start the season or is he still on his way out, somewhere?
Remy’s started the season, but seems to view his future away from W12, somewhere like Anfield or the Emirates (I can’t believe he’d leave us for St James’ Park on a permanent basis). If he stays, I think Redknapp will get the best out of him and we’ll have one of the Premier League’s better finishers within our ranks.
And what do you make of the summer so far in terms of comings and goings at Loftus Road?
The number of signings puts pressure on the team to gel but thankfully we’ve just about cleared out the last of the highly paid prima donnas we became characterised with under Mark Hughes (a man who appeared to have the same transfer strategy as a 15-year-old boy playing Football Manager).
Rio Ferdinand’s arrival feels like a catalyst. He brings big-game experience, a hatred of all things Chelsea, and I think he’s already helped us to attract a better standard of player. If we’re to settle in the Premier League, we need to build some stability and we’ll only do that by signing young players like Steven Caulker and Jordon Mutch who can develop and stay with us for a while.
Whilst we will be labelled as “high-spending QPR”, the transfer policy looks far more sustainable than in previous years, with players seemingly chosen on merit of character rather than what their CV says they did in 2006.
I’ll ask you not him. Is Joey Barton up to standard for the Premier?
Whilst Joey Barton’s on and off field persona may divide opinion, he has worked hard to win over the Rangers support and does a lot of good stuff in our community programme that people prefer to ignore. We embrace the mavericks at QPR, and Barton is far from the beige, Phil Collins loving football player many fans grew up supporting.
In my view, he’s a good captain and I personally feel we could have done with him in the dressing room during our relegation season to give the likes of Bosingwa, Mbia and Djibril Cissé a kick (only harder than he did Aguero at the Etihad). I don’t pretend to know enough about the game to coach him, but if Barton can concentrate on playing the game simply rather than attempting the 40-yard Hollywood passes he’ll be an asset for us this year.
As a squad, where are you now strong and what still – desperately or otherwise – needs strengthening?
Hard to say after the weekend defeat to Tottenham where we looked like an ice-dance troupe rather than a team of battle hardened professional footballers. I’ll mark that down as a “one-off” for the time being.
Despite Charlie Austin’s form last season and the arrival of Chile’s “World Cup star” Eduardo Vargas, the main concern is where the goals will come from, especially if Remy moves and we’re left without a proven Premier League striker.
Redknapp has added some quality to midfield and appears to be building strength in depth at the back; we still need competition for Robert Green in goal and Armand Traoré on the left side of defence and I expect these areas to be addressed before the window shuts.
On the whole, even after two defeats, I’m optimistic about our chances this season.
Any memories – good, bad, amusing – of past encounters between our clubs?
My footballing memories are often clouded by nostalgia. My favourite game between our clubs was back in the early 90s when a bloodied (in my memory at least) Mark Falco, helped us come back from 2-1 down to win 3-2 at Loftus Road. If I remember correctly, we may even have had a man sent off. It was one of those battling performances you believe you’ll see every week when you’re 11 years-old and football players are still your heroes.
And your thoughts on Sunderland: the club, city, region, fans?
My main observation is that you don’t age well. There seems to be a lot of grey hair in the away end when you come to town which I’ve always put down to the regular cycle of promotion/relegation scraps you seemed to go through in the 90s/early 2000s.
I have family in the North East and have worked with a few Mackems down the years and whilst I’d never generalise, you all seem to be passionate about your club, are proud of your roots and define yourselves by the support of your team. There seems to be a gallows sense of humour to your supporters which I’ve always enjoyed and admired.
This season’s top four in order and the bottom three?
Being a religious man, I am prevented from tipping that lot from SW6, so it’s Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United. You read it here first.
At the bottom, Palace and Pulis have done us all a favour. Whilst we know we will have to scrap, it’s been a few years since all three promoted teams went down. I think Leicester and Burnley will fall short; however I can also see Villa or West Brom being drawn into the dogfight.
If one or both of our clubs is missing from either list, where will they finish?
I would be happy to finish 17th, as long as we survive by playing with a bit of the customary flair we were once known for. I’d dearly love to see QPR win back some of the admiration I fear we’ve lost in the past few years.
I like Poyet, think he’s spent well and would back you to finish 13th.
Among the players and staff familiar to both clubs – I can think of Peter Reid, Ferdinand, Tommy Smith, Danny Simpson, Djibril Cisse off the top of my head – [I belated added John Byrne when prompted by Kieran -Ed] – but there are a few more. Who comes to mind and why?
John Byrne sticks out for me. He was one of the first QPR number 10s I saw don the famous hoops and thus an early footballing hero of mine. His goal-scoring run for the “Rokerites” [NO! – Ed]on the way to the ’92 Cup Final always comes to mind when I think of Sunderland.
Brazil 2014: a fading memory or football to remember for a long time?
My love of football began in 1986. I was seven years-old and Diego Maradona taught me a lot about the world you don’t see in Ladybird books and Disney films. As a result, the World Cup holds a special fascination and I really enjoyed this summer’s tournament. It had everything despite England’s early exit. Goals, flair, colour and a spectacular setting. I’ll remember the emergence of Colombia and Chile, surprise packages like Costa Rica and ultimately; a superb German side who thoroughly deserved their title having beaten Portugal, France, Brazil and Argentina along the way.
What single step should QPR or football take to make the matchday experience better for ordinary fans?
I want to see more respect for supporters in terms of pricing, scheduling (less Sunday, more Saturday afternoon kick-offs!) and ideally the introduction of safe standing which I’ve seen work well in Germany.
We all have a responsibility as football fans to stop swallowing the marketing hype that surrounds the Premier League. For supporters, it is most definitely not the best league in the world and the Championship is a much better league for a genuine fan to be in. As fans of Premier League clubs, we are nothing short of a glorified paying backdrop for Sky to beam to pubs and living rooms the world over.
Is it time to stop moaning about diving and get it written up in the coaching manuals?
That’s like asking whether the Tour de France should legalise doping? If we allow diving and play-acting we’ll be left with something akin to professional wrestling. Bring on the spandex!
Will you be at our game? What will the score?
Unfortunately not, but I will make the game at the Stadium of Light when I hope to have some pints thrown at me for the “grey-hair” comment above. I back us to win 2-1, because after back-to-back defeats we simply need to.
* Kieran Robinson on himself: I am a football fanatic, father and freelance journalist. My support of QPR has strong family connections for me. Thankfully, I had no choice in who I support as my Mum, Dad and brother Graham all support the club. My Dad grew up on the Queen’s Park estate where QPR were formed and he ensured that my brother and I would be a lifelong R’s fans. I’m working the same indoctrination techniques on my son, who wil soon be two, though when I ask if he supports QPR, he answers with a firm ‘no’.
I spend more time watching, thinking and writing about football than a reasonable man should and no other sport really come close for me.
Interview: Colin Randall
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