Even a QPR-supporting friend thought his team was lucky. ‘Smash and grab,’ he wrote. ‘Someone should go to jail for that.’ Our own John McCormick, Liverpool-based, rued the loss of a grand day out (Wigan). Not sure anyone was too bothered about Brighton. But QPR won it and are back in the Premier. Monsieur Salut shares those thoughts but is pleased on two counts: his younger daughter, Nathalie, used to play for QPR Ladies, and Steve Colwell, Hoops fan and no stranger to these pages or the Salut! Sunderland Facebook group, is an all-round good bloke. Let him take up the story …
Getting back up at the first attempt wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.
QPR had been promoted as champions previously, having virtually led the Championship from the start of that season, and after the first few months of this season it looked to be little different. So much so, that I even posted on the Salut Sunderland facebook page something like “looking forward to playing against you again in 2014-15” (silly me). At least one Mackem posted doubts that you would remain in the Premier League (shame on you, sir!).
As we know, in the end, Sunderland stayed up with a bit to spare, great stuff, but QPR wobbled a wee bit on the way up, so why was that? And why do I keep in contact with yourselves despite my southern and Rangers credentials?
A brief look at my Mackem interests and, despite going to quite a few matches up in Sunderland, it all started with a Mackem pal on Twitter, then I got involved with the Salut Sunderland Facebook page, befriended more Mackems, met up with Jake Lark (whose name I factually know!) and it blossomed from all that.
Indeed, if I may be so bold, I even “starred” on your first podcast, when I got pretty close to the correct score too!
Though I’m guessing that podcast may have lost me a few potential friends…
Anyway, while following Sunderland’s season, I have obviously been more engrossed in QPR’s return to Premier League membership. We did have a flying start to the season, with Steve McLaren coaching at the club until he took over at Derby in September. We went 11 league matches undefeated, before losing 2-0 at Burnley, with eight wins and three draws.
Sounds great, but we hadn’t really been that good, though our defence had been massive (more of later); our goal difference was 14-3, which tells its own story.
Whatever, we remained in the top two for ages, but our season started crumbling in November when Ale Faurlin, who had been developing an excellent partnership in the centre of midfield with everyone’s favourite Joey Barton, suffered his second cruciate ligament injury of his QPR career. Coincidentally, this was in our first match against Derby this season, when we halted McLaren’s impressive run with Derby thanks to a 2-1 win.
January was the real turning point, though, when we lost Matt Phillips to an ankle fracture, Danny Simpson had a fractured vertebrae, and Charlie Austin suffered a shoulder injury that kept him out for nearly three months. We had lost four of our best players to injury, including our main goalscorer, this did not bode well.
Then followed a run of awful results, lack of goals, and even more injuries, while Rangers dropped out of the top two. Indeed, I remember one match day when we had eight more first team players out with injury, in addition to the four already mentioned, including the captain, Clint Hill, Ravel Morrison, Joey Barton, and Rob Green, our goalkeeper. A significantly better injured team than the one that played, with Andy Johnson the substitute, so no surprise there!
We managed to stay in the top six, and had a fair five match run-in, with Simpson and Austin returning, though not match fit yet. three wins, starting with a 5-2 demolition of Forest, a draw, and a 1-0 defeat at Leicester, where we played a reserve team rather than risk injury to important players.
So we entered the play-offs having finished fourth in the League, and got the better of Wigan over two legs. Thus to the final, and what an atmosphere at Wembley!
There were 80,000 fans of the two clubs at Wembley, QPR had the slight advantage with a thousand or so more than Derby. That electric atmosphere didn’t appear to be picked up by the players on the pitch though, both teams being pretty ineffectual for 60 minutes. Then O’Neill was sent off…
Derby took advantage of their extra player and laid siege to the QPR goal, with corner after corner being given away. Rangers had one chance on a break away, but Austin hammered the ball just wide of the post. Then it was more pressure, but the defence was massive again, notably Green, Onuoha and Dunne, and Barton and Henry as the defensive midfield.
The match looked to be going into extra time when, in the 90th minute, Rangers broke away, Zamora forcing a throw in for us. The ball was thrown over Hoilett’s head and he chased it to the line, hassling two defenders, managing to win the ball back and cross to the centre, Keogh miss hit his clearance tamely to Zamora, who hit the sweetest shot I have ever seen, straight into the corner out of Lee Grant’s reach, immaculate…
Half of Wembley erupted and half wept. No one saw the goal coming, indeed, I didn’t even know it was already stoppage time. The 4 minutes lasted what seemed like an hour, but we held on and half the ground erupted again, though had been rumbling all the time anyway, with Zamora’s name being the most obvious chant.
I hadn’t had so many strangers kiss me for years!
So, am I going to miss Millwall, Cardiff, Fulham, Brentford, Derby et al? Of course not! I’m looking forward to away matches at the biggies, Sunderland, United, City, Arsenal and Liverpool, to getting six points off Chelsea, and to the dog fights with another 10 teams or so.
I’m trusting Rangers not to make a mess of it this time round, as Tony Fernandes reckons he’s learned from the last few seasons. Many more players will be leaving the club, and a few new ones joining. We also have the threat of an enormous fine because of the financial “fair play” rules, and our enormous loss during the last season we struggled to stay up in the Premier League. It’s never been easy following Rangers…
Anyway, if you’ve read to this far, well done, and just maybe I’m dreaming, but I can see a future with QPR as Premier League Champions, and Sunderland the runners-up… well it could happen!
That’s all folks!
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