A Quality Night Out in The Bush

Thursday 5th March 2015

We are all guilty of saying it is ‘hugely important’ to pick up three points when other teams around us slip up. In situations like this week we also find ourselves saying the same when the teams around us all win. So overall, can’t we all just admit that each time we win a league game it is…..well…..’hugely important’!

I like going to Shepherds Bush. Having attended many a gig in the ‘Empire’ overlooking the Green I know the immediate vicinity quite well, even if our trips to Loftus Road have been a little bit inconsistent down the years. With much of London changing all the time I also find it is an area that doesn’t look or feel any different to the first time I visited back in the eighties.

Arsenal memorabilia and programmes are something I enjoy collecting. I’m not really sure why, I am a grown adult after all! But ‘collecting’ is something many of us like to do. Only recently have I realised just how much ‘stuff’ I have managed to accumulate down the years and as a result I have decided to revamp my office to incorporate as much of it as possible! Earlier this week I almost stumbled across an ‘unfiled’ programme from April 1978 and being QPR v Arsenal felt like a huge coincidence.

QPR v Arsenal, April 1978

QPR v Arsenal, April 1978

There are a number of similarities to this week’s fixture, being played midweek in the latter stages of the season, and incredibly us sitting in 3rd place with our hosts third from bottom. More than anything however, it demonstrates how much our wonderful sport has changed over the last 37 years. Our starting eleven contained 4 Englishmen, 3 Northern Irishmen, 3 Southern Irishmen and a Scot. Not a player from any other part of the footballing world in sight! Last night we started with 2 Germans, 2 Spaniards, 2 Frenchmen, 1 Columbian, 1 Brazilian, 1 Chilean, 1 Czech Republican and 1 Englishmen! A quite incredible contrast and example of how small the world has become.

The letters page back in 1978 is extremely amusing and although I would like to think it was ‘tongue in cheek’ I feel I must relay the details of one of them;

“Dear Sir, I wrung up General Enquiries and I asked the lady who said you were up Chiswick training. I said to the lady I wanted to play for the juniors and she said write us a letter and then let you see it. And they will answer it and come down for a trial. I said to the lady I am bit fat, she said you’ll get thinner. I am 12 years old. My favourite position is Inside Left. Yours, Leslie”!!!!!

Priceless.

The facts and figures are interesting too. The programme cost 20p for starters and if you wanted to follow the R’s on a luxury coach to Nottingham Forest away it would set you back £3 for travel and £2.50 for a match ticket.

And how did the season finish? Well, we went to QPR after beating Orient 3-0 in the FA Cup Semi Final at Stamford Bridge 3 days earlier to take us to Wembley for our first of 3 finals in consecutive years. Silverware was to allude us on this occasion but European football was secured in the League. The R’s avoided relegation by the skin of their teeth, the victory they secured against us on that April night proving crucial.

The final similarity comes in the 2-1 scoreline…….but bringing us up to date it was our hosts on the receiving end on this occasion of course.

Like Selhurst Park a couple of weeks back Loftus Road is very much one of those ‘old style’ grounds. Just like Highbury, night games when you walk amongst the terraced houses to reach the stadium definitely hold something very special compared to many of the new modern stadia. But if its a degree of comfort, facilities and viewing lines that are important to you, forget it!

Many of the match tickets in the away end at QPR are donned with ‘Restricted View’ or ‘Restricted Sight Line’. Fantastic when you think tickets are still 50 odd quid a pop! My ticket did not have such a message but having visited before I was confident my view wouldn’t be in the ‘outstanding’ bracket! And sure enough, although I saw the build up to both our goals and was even fortunate enough to see both Olly and Alexis strike the ball, I didn’t actually see them hit the back of the net. Only the reaction of the players and the expected jostles that ensued confirmed we had scored on both occasions.

The bit of the pitch we could see!

The bit of the pitch we could see!

With our hosts fighting for their Premier League lives and that London derby atmosphere, it was always going to be a potentially difficult fixture I felt. And like in a number of games in recent weeks, it was a victory for patience. QPR arguably had the slight upper hand in a fairly uneventful first half but going in at half time level definitely didn’t set the alarm bells ringing. And those chances we always create eventually arrived, Olly and Alexis slamming home to the joy of all us Gooners present.

Once again we tried to make it a little more difficult than it should have been when Austin’s unopposed strike narrowed the lead but although that had us all on edge a little, the remaining 15 minutes or so were seen out comfortably and professionally to secure three more massive points. That’ll do nicely.

The first of our two visits to Old Trafford over the coming weeks comes next as we all head to the ridiculously timed FA Cup Quarter Final on Monday night. Of the 9 odd thousand travelling Gooner Army heading to Manchester I am extremely sure my exact route will be different to every other person travelling…….but more on that next week.

For now, get those yellow and blue colours out the cupboard and sing up for the mighty Arsenal!

Frank
@stubbsy70

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