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Awayday Review - Leicester, Walkers Stadium
Awayday Review - Leicester, Walkers Stadium
Saturday, 15th Sep 2007 10:15

Rangers got a point at the Walkers Stadium despite a poor performance. This is turning into quite a happy hunting ground for the team, but how is it for the visiting supporters?

1- The Match
A bog standard Championship match between a side well out of form and another till reeling from the sacking of a manager who'd brought most of them to the club. No doubt the appointment of that odious little gnome Gary Megson has sent the Leicester players into a spiral of depression and while they were clearly the better team here they were still very poor.

DJ Campbell and Stephen Clemence were both denied goals early on by Lee Camp and Carl Cort headed two gift chances wide of the post when it seemed easier to score. A flick on from Ben Sahar that bounced back off the foot of the post was all QPR had to show for the first half and they had a big let off before half time when Danny Cullip cleared Campbell's effort off the goal line.

Daniel Nardiello came on for the second half but struggled to get into the game until the final ten minutes but Rangers were already behind by then - Damion Stewart's silly challenge on Campbell drew a penalty from referee Mason and Hume calmly rolled it in.

Rangers got back on terms within ten minutes when Leigertwood played a scruffy one two with Rowlands and then lashed the ball home from twenty five yards out. Suddenly the traffic was only going one way and Rangers had a great chance to win the game when Nardiello miscued a header at the near post. Clemence hit the bar in injury time but Rangers finished the stronger team and could have won the game - incredible considering just how awful they were for the vast majority of the match.

2- Rangers' Performance
I'm a little perturbed by the post match comments from both John Gregory and Adam Bolder who both seemed to think we'd played very well and were unlucky not to win. Now unless you sneaked in through the exit doors with ten minutes left and caught the tale end of this match for free then you'll know that this is complete nonsense. Rangers were dire for 80 minutes here and it was only after Leigertwood equalised out of the blue against the run of play that things started to come together. Yes QPR had three or four chances to win the game in the closing stages but that doesn't mean they played well or deserved three points - for 80 minutes prior to that Leicester were superior in every department and would have had the game all sewn up but for Cullip's goal line clearance and numerous saves from Lee Camp.

The defence looked more solid with Cullip in it but with Stefan Moore turning in the most anonymous performance you're ever likely to see from a professional footballer we were effectively playing with ten men. Ben Sahar received the ball to his feet just three times in the first half - yes we were counting - and all in all this was another very poor, long ball orientated, performance.

3- Rangers' Support
All things considered our away support does seem to be holding up very well. More than a thousand Rangers fans made this trip and they were in good voice for most of the game, especially once Leigertwood had equalised. Former Rangers' striker Kevin Gallen was among the travelling faithful and they entertained themselves for the majority of the game by mocking the excessively large drummer in the home end - more on him later.

Very little sign of trouble all day and plenty of familiar faces - a credit to the club as always.

4 - The Ground
God I hate these places. It used to be just a mild dislike but I'm really growing to loathe them now. It's just all so dull and boring and lifeless. The Walkers Stadium that nearly bankrupted the club when they built it looks like it was knocked up on the cheap and the away end shakes alarmingly when the home team score - should a solid structure made of concrete and metal really sway about like that because a few people are jumping around on it?

The concourse area doesn't look finished, while not quite sinking to the Coventry City levels of awfulness, and the facilities are no better for away fans than in a ground nine or ten times this old. The away fans are stuck high up in a corner when we could easily be accommodated behind the goal what with all the empty seats knocking around. The seats are miles away from the pitch when there's no need. It's a horrible, soulless, shithole.

Please God if we ever move from Loftus Road we don't end up in a place like this.

5 - Atmosphere
Well we had to ask didn't we? Ten minutes before the game started the Northern R's wondered between themselves just what purpose of the large hunk of scaffolding away to our left served. We very quickly found out that it supported a rather large drum, and an even larger drummer.

Covered head to toe in tattoos and weighing a good 25 stone he cut a bizarre figure standing on his specially built platform high above the singing section of the Leicester support in the side stand. These characters are gold for the away fans - especially when their team is playing as badly as QPR are at the moment. A baiting session almost as prolonged and as brutal as the infamous episode with the fat bird and her bloke at The Dell ("You're fat, and your bird's a slag) kept the away support occupied for most of the afternoon.

He did seem to have a problem drumming for any length of time and had to take regular breaks and lean on his instrument for a breather which gave the Rangers' fans ample opportunity to make fun of his physique, life expectancy and lack of staying power on the drum. Midway through the second half he did manage nine consecutive rounds of the kitchen to whip the home fans into a frenzy and each new hit was greeted with an almighty roar from the QPR supporters who gave him a standing ovation when he collapsed again and then started signing "we want ten".

Previous visits here have been a little intimidating at times, and only last season we were separated from that section of hoe fans by a line of riot police in full get up but the introduction of the drummer and the QPR fans' reaction to him added a much needed dose of hilarity to the occasion and made for a decent afternoon. There's still a lot of 12 year olds in that section passing their time by taunting away fans while waiting for their balls to drop but they're harmless enough.

Overall, apart from the little corner between the drummer and his gang of pimply faced chavs and the QPR fans the atmosphere in the Walkers Stadium continues to be terrible with three quarters of the ground remaining silent for the entire match. Empty seats and a terribly dull new ground contribute to the "football in a library" factor despite the drummer's best efforts.

6- Pre-Match
Ahh poor deluded Walkabout management. No amount of surf boards on the wall and understaffed bars are ever going to convince me I'm in Australia but it's not stopping them trying. "Nah, nah, look roo burgers, it's 'straya in here mate, honest." If anybody involved at Walkabout is reading this then do try to remember this is E N G L A N D. You can serve as much kangaroo as you like that isn't going to change. Here in England we like football - now you're A-league may not be up to much, you may prefer rugby, cricket and mindless violence on a big oval but here we like football.

The Walkabout in Leicester is handily placed for those arriving by train and it's the only pub we've found in the middle of town with Sky Sports on so we persevere with it. The problem is this "no we're in 'Straya honest" bollocks they're persisting with. For our visit this season the lunch time football match was Portsmouth v Liverpool and we arrived nicely in time for kick off. What we found was enough to have you tearing your hair out.

At the far end of the bar the biggest screen you've ever seen in your life was down and showing New Zealand 365 Portugal 0 from the Rugby World Cup. The surround sound on it was turned up so much it knocked you back as you tried to get through the door. Three people sat in front of the screen watching the match, spread out over five or six empty tables.

To the left a crowd of people were huddled around a tiny television set mounted on the wall watching the Liverpool match. As if it wasn't ridiculous enough that 30 people were crowding around a tiny set for this match, unable to speak to each other because the surround sound from the big screen which three people were watching was deafening, but the bar staff in their wisdom decided to make up for the lack of football commentary by turning the subtitles on. So not only could we not hear the football, or each other, or make out who was who on the tiny screen, but we also had to watch the match through lines and lines of poorly spelt text.

It was a quite ridiculous situation. New Zealand catching the ball from the kick off running the length of the pitch and scoring over and over and over again against that well known giant of international rugby Portugal is not a sport people are interested in - 2% of people in the bar were even bothering to watch it. For the love of God know your customer. If it had been one of the home nations playing then fair enough but we are not in New Zealand or Australia and it was nothing more than a bloody training session anyway. Even the three that were interested looked bored.

Brainless behaviour from the staff.

7- The Journey
Whenever the Northern R's go within three hundred yards of a Midland Mainline service something always goes wrong with it and so it proved again. A week before the game a press release came off the fax at work - proper work - from Network Rail saying that they would be closing the line between Sheffield and Derby and our train would be taking a detour as wide as a Stefan Moore shot on goal through Alfreton, Long Eaton and all sorts of other little towns in the Midlands adding an hour to our journey. No big deal for me going back to Sheffield but Northerns the Elder and Younger were heading back to the coast and so it was almost 9pm before I packed them off on the Cleethorpes train clutching their whiskey miniatures.

On the way home there was a nasty beer explosion incident just south of Derby. Northern the Younger, an inexperienced drinker you see, didn't realise what happens when you slam a freshly opened bottle of beer down on the table after taking a quick swig. He noticed in time that the beer was frothing up and over the top but decided foolishly to stick his thumb in the neck and stop it. This caused the pressure to build and build inside the bottle and when he tried to let a little air out the beer nearly blew the roof off the train. Passengers with items of clothing and luggage in the overhead rack were less than impressed. Northern the Elder was among them.

Still, a lot of fun.

8- Police/Stewards
Much, much better than normal. In the past it's been complete overkill here with lines of riot police surrounding the away end and teams of coppers rushing into the city centre pubs to stop us quietly watching football on the television. This season the presence was a mere fraction of what it has been before and it led to a much more relaxed and friendly atmosphere all round with no sign of trouble either in town or out at the ground. The stewards also sat back and let QPR fans get on with sitting where they like or standing up at the back. Sad to see two QPR fans lifted from the far side of the away end in the second half but I've no idea what they did so it would be wrong to comment. All in all much more common sense on show this season.

Total- 45/80

All Pictures C Justin Brown

Photo: Action Images

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