50 Shades of Chav – LFW Awaydays
Sunday, 14th Oct 2012 22:59 by Awaydays
It’s been so long since QPR last won away the Awayday team is already planning to mark the one year anniversary with a cake. Nevertheless, LFW named a strong line up for the trip to West Brom last Saturday. Why?
It’s 13.15 on Sunday October 7 and I’m in a lot of trouble. Ahead of me are my work colleagues, sitting on the 13.20 Easyjet departure to Nice for the bi-annual television festival that my company – and me – cover en masse. Behind me is a trail of chaos and an Easyjet employee attempting to rush me through the boarding process to ensure that I join them on the flight and remain employed at the end of the day.
The latest challenge is the burly security guard insisting that I, of all the passengers they’re processing today, have been selected for the random strip search. He is, of course, exactly right to say that if my late arrival was reason to skip it then every shoe bomber and Muslim extremist with designs on the 13.20 Easyjet flight to Nice would simply turn up late. While he argues this point with the Easyjet lady I recall that ‘put pants on’ had been one of several things scratched from the to do list when my colleague’s text message at 11.00 saying they’d checked in and would see me in the departure lounge woke me up at home back in Barnet.
As he pulls on the plastic gloves and asks what exactly I mean when I say he’s about to get more than he bargained for, the dispute is interrupted by an announcement on the public address system. It’s one of those “missing passenger, please get on the plane two minutes ago or we’re going without you” sort of affairs and although I’m too hungover to register it initially it’s my name they’re saying. “Mr Whittingham, Mr Clive Whittingham, gate 22 right now or we are unloading your bag.”
There’s some unpleasantness, a frank exchange of views, some sprinting of which Wayne Fereday would have been proud of and finally – as the angry flight crew slam the door of the plane closed behind me – applause from colleagues.
“Good Saturday?” asks one and I nod.
“But… didn’t QPR lose?”
Why do we go to the football? To the uninitiated – or the sane – the seemingly obvious answer is “to win.” You pull your boots on all winter on cold Sunday mornings to try and win, and you part with your hard earned for season tickets and what not to see your favourite team succeed. Anything else is seemingly preposterous – would you sit and play Monopoly for three hours every week not to win? No.
And yet it cannot be that. A quick glance down the league tables at the end of the season reveal that almost three quarters of the teams have either lost as many as they’ve won give or take, or in fact lost the majority of their games. But there are still people following these teams, still trawling the country to go to all the away games in some case. There are teams, Grimsby Town for instance, who have posted a losing record every season for 19 of the last 20 years who still find 5,000 people who want to pay to go and watch them.
It’s this that puzzles the people who refer to football as “just a game”. It’s this that has been the bane, and the ultimate prime reason for the downfall, of just about every relationship I’ve had with either girlfriends or family members who just cannot grasp the reasoning behind following QPR here there and everywhere. “Why do you bother?” they ask, and I confuse them still further with the following story.
There was a QPR game a few years back at Cardiff City. Jim Magilton was the Rangers manager at the time and, against all odds given the way our club was being run and the way he’d managed a much more secure set up at Ipswich Town, it looked like he might be onto something. A slow start to the season had given away to a tremendous run of form following a return to fitness of Martin Rowlands and the loan signing of Ben Watson alongside him in midfield. At one point this QPR team won three matches in seven days scored 12 goals in the process, including four while playing with ten men against Reading and another four to recover from a two goal deficit live on the BBC at Derby County.
At Cardiff the team was similarly superb. Rowlands and Watson dominated, Wayne Routledge seemed inspired by the abuse he received from the Cardiff fans he’d spurned to join QPR in the first place, and Jay Simpson scored twice in a two goal win. It was a fabulous performance and result, which could have been more emphatic had Rowan Vine hit the net rather than the post in the second half, against a team for whom Rangers had built a contempt through familiarity rather than geographical proximity.
But I was miserable that day. Regular readers will know that travelling to the football regularly with me is tantamount to signing your own death warrant. I lost my grandfather to a heart attack two days after John Spencer’s famous goalscoring debut at Reading, my dad to cancer two years after that and my best mate died rather more recently. Stupid cancer. My brother grew up and went to university and, although there was usually a Sheffield-Hoop or three to accompany me on trips, for whatever reason on this particular day I went by myself. I was by myself on the long train ride from Sheffield to Cardiff, by myself in the pub next to Cardiff station for the lunchtime match, by myself at the match and by myself on the way home. As the post-match text messages arrived offering congratulations and saying how delighted I must be I didn’t have the heart to tell them I was actually close to tears.
What happened next, just as I’d resolved to scale back this relentless QPR nonsense, was a series of chance meetings: I found Colin in the Bush Ranger sharing a love of arriving in pubs early to secure tables; I found Neil at a Player of the Year dinner ready to fulfil the role of somebody to talk to about the actual football on the rare occasions that felt necessary; I found Andy and Jas at another Player of the Year dinner with a shared appreciation of the presence of Rufus Brevett; Tracey took a job that meant she didn’t have to work weekends; Simmo moved in down the road from me; and the likes of Mick, Mark, Ian and others who used to hang around with my dad found they couldn’t kick the habit that easily.
Depressed people who tell doctors they’ve considered suicide in the past are told put together a list of phone numbers to call next time they feel that way. The doctor then hopes and prays that the list includes people like this.
At 09.40 on Saturday October 6 all these people were standing by the departure board at Marylebone station tapping their watches at me because I’d arrived less than half an hour before our train was due to leave. This trip was booked months ago, before we knew if the team was any good, before we knew if we had any chance of beating West Brom. It turns out it’s not and we don’t – nobody in the travelling party predicts a win when asked on the journey north. Later they all signed up for a Christmas trip to Newcastle.
Before the match we drank in The Crown in Birmingham. It’s right next to the magistrates court which means that for five days a week it serves as a venue for the pond life that end up in magistrates courts to either celebrate their latest reprieve or enjoy a final drink before their latest conviction. At weekends, when the court is closed, it’s empty. There were three bar staff and two punters when we arrived, Celine Dion was playing on the jukebox and the screens were showing American wrestling. We corrected all three situations immediately – turning up en masse, commandeering the remote control, and stationing Jas next to the jukebox ready to shovel in money and correct it whenever it felt that Cyndi Lauper was an acceptable choice of Saturday lunchtime tunage.
It’s a place that recognises that pond life doesn’t have much money for a last meal and therefore serves a lasagne for £3 which, as you would expect, is absolutely hideous but, in fairness, isn’t bad for the price. It also serves 50 chicken wings for £7. Unless they’re ordering those things in batches of 750,000 and profiting from the economies of scale it’s impossible to believe those chickens aren’t being reared in some tiny wire cage and fed on sand at the site of the former Chernobyl Nuclear Power plant, or the victims of some hideous chicken genocide somewhere. I half expected them to glow in the dark.
Andy ordered a plate for himself and finished them in 12 minutes. Neil decided to get involved in the dick swinging as well but had to call for help 25 minutes into the pile.
We stayed for most of the afternoon, happily chatting about this and that, and could quite easily have remained there for the rest of the day. With £5 train tickets and £3 lasagnes we actually worked out it would be cheaper to come here every night after work than go drinking in our own city. Jas and Tracey inadvertently re-enacted the ‘final black’ World Championship snooker final between Dennis Taylor and Steve Davis from 1985 on the pool table as well so it wasn’t as if we were so short of low quality entertainment that we had to go to The Hawthorns to seek out some more.
But, according to Mark more out of habit than anything else, off to The Hawthorns we went at the designated time. And QPR were crap. Absolute crap.
Hmmm, yes, my thoughts entirely Jose.
To the right of the away end was a gang of 20 knuckle draggers who, if asked, would no doubt tell you they go to the football for “the aggro”. They booed Anton Ferdinand’s every touch, and chanted “one John Terry” until the police waded in and told them to stop being so bloody stupid. One of them was black. These are the sort of people who appreciate the work of Tim Lovejoy, who watch ITV on a Saturday night and use the word ‘banter’ to describe behaviour which the normal, right thinking person would describe more accurately as ‘twatishness’.
Ferdinand responded by having a hand in all three West Brom goals. Well done Anton, that’ll learn em.
I found myself sitting near a man in bare feet, and then after the match he was there again on the tram, standing and having a conversation in jeans, QPR replica shirt, and bare feet as if it was the most normal thing in the world. A quick query on Twitter provoked several responses along the lines of “Oh, that’s Johnny No Shoes, he’s there every week.” Each to their own I guess, he probably thinks ordering 50 radioactive chicken wings for £7 is daft.
The tram back was delayed; initially by a broken tram in front, and then a problem with the doors which meant every time we stopped it required two grown men to physically pull them shut and hold them in place so the driver could lock them. Somebody muttered something about hoping the Swiss couldn’t see us now, deciding who looked the strongest among the crowded carriage and could therefore be nominated to hold the doors of our state of the art public transport system closed with their bare hands so we could proceed.
We went back to The Crown, which was deserted once more save for two pubescent locals who’d also cottoned onto the fact that should you want to lay low in Birmingham on a Saturday afternoon then a pub next to a magistrates court isn’t a bad place to do it. Apparently oblivious to our presence they engaged in two hours of what began as heavy petting, and ended up being some sort of cannibalistic mating routine.
LFW group stunned by first ever in-context use of ‘heavy petting’ outside a swimming pool warning sign situation.
At one stage she was sitting astride him, his head bent back at a right angle to face the ceiling, hers forced down into his mouth so that her outstretched tongue, lips, cheeks, chin and a good portion of her nose were completely submerged. He appeared to be choking, so she took his mind off things by running a hand up his inside leg, into the top of his tracksuit bottoms, and onwards to the horrors that lurked beneath. The group watched on with a mixture of disgust and jealousy. We wondered for a while whether 50 Shades of Chav could be a bestseller, chock full of expressions like ‘face like a plasterer’s radio’, and started taking pictures of them and adding them to social networking sites to gauge opinion. What a time to be alive.
Quite some time later.
The train home was made up of three carriages. The rear was occupied by normal people with normal lives quietly leafing through the Lifestyle and Money sections of the Saturday papers. The sort of people that would hear the subsequent kafuffle from the front carriage and ask what on earth we had to be so happy about after a 3-2 away defeat - the sort of people that ask “why do you bother?” The second carriage was taken up by the new breed of QPR fan, mostly Koreans in shiny new Ji-Sung Park replica shirts. They quietly read their match programmes, hunting for clues as to why this new team they’re following is so God awful. Don’t worry about it kids, Mark Hughes says he’s baffled as well.
And the front coach was the old school. When a grey haired gent got up to go to the toilet it provoked a 23 minute chorus of “Shaun Derry my Lord” followed by a two minute chorus of “Father Ted my Lord.” He took it in good spirits. Shami Chakrabarti would probably say it was bullying.
Back at Marylebone, against my better judgement with the departure time of my plane fast approaching, we decamped to the Sports Bar and Grill for “a swift half” which, at the behest of Simmo who’s new to the group, and has bizarrely been appointed to the position of ‘toilet canary’, actually turned into “three trays of shots.” I’ve only ever done shots about four times in my life and I fully understood why that was over the coming hours.
The next thing I knew we were on the tube home, annoying the other passengers by trying to guess where they were getting off by the clothes they were wearing. Despite the alcohol it turned out we were remarkably good at this game – although to be fair even a drunk person knows that the Amy Winehouse wannabes get off at Camden Town, the people who clearly have mental health issues get off at Kentish Town, and anybody in a Barbour jacket leaps off at Woodside Park or Totteridge and Whetstone into a waiting Range Rover.
And then it was light. And I was asleep. And my phone was buzzing. And I couldn’t help but think I was forgetting something. And it was all so worth it.
Why do we go to the football? Well, it’s not for the bloody football at the moment that’s for sure.
On the pitch >>> QPR performance 5/10 >>> Referee performance 8/10 >>> Match 6/10
Off the pitch >>> QPR support 8/10 >>> Home support 7/10 >>> Overall atmosphere 6/10 >>>> Stadium 8/10 >>>> Police and stewards 7/10
In the pub >>> Pubs 7/10 >>> Atmosphere 7/10 >>> Food 5/10 >>>> Cost 9/10
On the train >>> Journey 8/10 >>> Cost 10/10
Pictures – Action Images, LFW Team
Photo: Action Images
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