|QPR Awaydays - Norwich, Carrow Road|
Tuesday, 29th Apr 2008 09:19
A bad day on the pitch for QPR, but how were things in the stand and around the town for the travelling fans?
1 – The Game
Norwich needed to win and QPR didn’t so the one sided nature of this encounter probably shouldn’t come as a great surprise, however the game and the pattern of play clearly swung on the fifth minute dismissal of QPR’s Damion Stewart. Rangers had actually gone close to scoring twice already before then and looked a good bet to continue their unbeaten run but the sending off, the Norwich goal immediately afterwards and then the bizarre double substitution that saw QPR remove both their wingers and with them all hope of getting back into it killed the game as a contest. Norwich were pretty decent, QPR were a mess, and ultimately the score could have been far greater. Evans got the first and was hugely impressive all afternoon, Pattison, Cureton, Huckerby and Evans all went close to getting the second goal before half time but they didn’t have to wait long into the second period to double the lead. Skipper Fotheringham’s low drive took a deflection off Zesh Rehman into the net but QPR were riding their luck later in the half when Lee Camp went walkabout and Fotheringham chipped just wide of the empty net. Camp wasn’t so lucky when he did it again ten minutes from time, Darrel Russell the man to profit. In the end the R’s only had one wayward shot from Balata to show for their efforts and Dion Dublin nearly chipped his own 50 yarder over Camp in the dying minutes just for good measure. No doubt a fantastic game for the Norwich fans but as a contest it was killed by the sending off.
2 – QPR Performance
Of course Rangers will point to the sending off as a reason for this result and rightly so, it’s seriously difficult to play a full ninety a man light especially against a team like Norwich who had a whole season riding on the outcome of this match. However there are ways of playing with ten men and once the referee had sent Stewart off Rangers didn’t seem able to remember any of them. This lack of a plan B when circumstances change is a real issue for us at the moment. The substitutions we made after the sending off seemed crazy to me, I understand the logic of keeping two up front to get back into the match but you have to have a way of getting the ball to those two strikers and with both wingers off and the midfield completely overrun as a consequence that just didn’t happen. All of that coupled with Lee Camp having a rare off day meant a heavy defeat was inevitable and in the end it could have been far, far worse.
3 – Travelling support
The allocation of tickets that QPR got for this one was a disgrace. 1500 tickets in a ground that holds 26000 is a piss take, especially considering that we have given Norwich 3000 tickets at Loftus Road for every single one of their visits including the corresponding fixture this season. I certainly know how many tickets I’d be giving them next season. So 1500 of us made our way to sunny Norwich for this one, the tickets sold out within a fortnight of going on sale, and despite events on the pitch the fans did themselves proud with non-stop signing in the second half and a superb example of gallows humour with the dancing to the Norwich goal music. There was an end of season feeling to it all in the away end, and there was plenty of ale sunk beforehand if the conversations I had with a few people are anything to go by, but good fun all the same.
One thing though, while everybody who’s stuck with the team through the bad times rightly wants to be proud of that now the support is building with the success on the pitch, that doesn’t mean that those fans can randomly pick on people in the away end who they feel aren’t supporting the team in the correct way or making enough noise and tell them to not bother coming or brand them glory hunters. This happened to my brother and me at Norwich when the gentleman sitting next to us decided that as we were watching the game rather than standing on our seats spouting off, and that neither of us thought we had much of a chance of winning after the sending off, that we were in fact glory hunters who only started to follow QPR when the money arrived and we should “fuck off”. Lets think before starting on each other in the away end shall we?
4 – The Ground
Very nice place to watch your football but why in the name of God did they turn down the chance to fill in the final corner and build a Holiday Inn instead? Makes no sense at all. Incidentally a steward was telling me the hotel lets pitch view rooms go out on a match day and allows six people in the room to watch the game which may be worth considering for people who struggle to get tickets for any future game at this venue. The atmosphere in the two identical stands behind each goal is in marked contrast, one passionate noisy crowd behind the goal to our right, one group of silent cardboard cut outs behind the others. The home fans are very, very close to the away fans in the Jarrold Stand and while there was no hint of aggro between the two I’d prefer a bigger gap. I’d prefer a bigger ticket allocation as well and I think the 1500 we got for this one was a bloody insult. Still the view was good from all areas and there were plenty of hot drinks on sale which will keep everybody’s favourite hack Mick Dennis nice and happy. All in all an excellent Championship ground.
5 – Atmosphere
Pretty decent actually. The QPR fans were in good voice, particularly in the second half, and the Norwich fans behind the goal were very vocal as well. There was no hint of aggression or nastiness, in stark contrast to our recent trip to Hull, and the banter was flowing back and forth for most of the game. The QPR fans raised a smile from their hosts by dancing to the Norwich goal music and there was no hint of trouble in or around the ground all afternoon. Didn’t stop the over zealous police lifting one or two from the away end for little discernable reason. Noisy and passionate on both sides.
6 – Pre Match
Every year since the beginning of time we’ve arrived in Norwich and walked straight from the station to the Compleat Angler on the other side of the river. This despite the fact that it is a horrible pub. Two seasons ago they had the lunch time match on but were doing only burgers (that were disgusting) and pies (and I’d rather have eaten my own faeces) and the drinks were served in plastic glasses. Last season we were assured by the bar staff that the lunch time match would be on only to find out, after we’d all ordered food, that they didn’t actually have Sky and we’d have to watch “the lunch time movie” instead which, on that occasion, was the original Wizard of Oz. The menu was better last time but they again insisted that we drank out of plastic glasses, despite two of us being served our dinners with steak knives. Give me an attack with a pint pot over a knife any day. On every occasion we’ve been in there the place has been rammed and criminally understaffed resulting in long waits at the bar.
So this year we decided to look elsewhere. Why patronise a place that treats you like crap so consistently? We’d had a recommendation for a place up the road from the station, a pub attached to a brewery and after finding it very easily it did indeed look promising. A nice pub with a wide variety of ales and the Chelsea v Man U match on plasma screens. Sadly the dreaded beer and pie menu from the Angler had progressed this far up the road so my brother Paul turned his nose up at this and we moved on. The next place we tied was one of the new 'yoof' bars by the river, Squares, and while our plain clothes and northern accents got us past the door staff we found no menus inside. With kick off fast approaching at Stamford Bridge we decided to cut our losses, ate breakfast over the walkway at Nandos (great for the guts) and then went back into Squares for the match.
The place was absolutely rammed, mostly with Norwich but with one or two glory hunting, never been within 50 miles of the home ground Man Utd and Chelsea fans dotted around. We took our seats on the pool table with about 15 other people and enjoyed the first half until two kids decided that they wanted to play pool. The bar was packed and everybody was watching the match, the pool table was clearly out of action but they racked up anyway and proceeded to prod and poke anybody in their way with their cues for a good half hour. Where were the parents you ask? They were encouraging them. Yeh go on kids, be a right royal pain in the arse for everybody in the bar trying to watch the match while I stand here and drink. Miss Katona, please hand over your parent of the year award.
After the match we tried the riverside bar opposite the Angler and although they only had two bar staff on to serve the thick end of 150 people that was a pleasant way to end out day in Norwich. All in all half decent but really could have been better. We want a meal, we want the lunch time match and we want beer from a glass bottle. Is there really nowhere in Norwich that can offer us this?
7 – The Journey
Scunthorpe to Norwich as the crow flies isn’t actually that far but with the roads between the two little more than dirt tracks, and the traffic nightmare that is Lincoln in the way, and no direct train running the route the journey is actually much longer and difficult than it might seem. Paul did the trip from Scunthorpe, I started in Sheffield, and we met in Doncaster before heading down to Peterborough on the East Coast mainline. When we arrived the earlier train to Norwich was running late which gave us just enough time to get on that and arrive in Norwich at half 11.
On the way back we were out of Norwich on the 6pm and we managed to get on that one nice and early and get a couple of tables with our usual travelling crew from Sheffield. As the train started to fill up the two spare seats at our table started to look vulnerable and even though the football had been awful and we were all angry and just wanted to be home instead of sitting in a stuffy train we decided to do the decent thing and offer up the spares to a Mum struggling along with two toddlers. Well that’s the last time I do that. No sooner had we stood up to allow her to sit down than one of the kids sat down in my seat so I was now standing up and before Paul could sit down a bloody Dad had turned up from somewhere and sat down in his seat. So from having a nice position at a table suddenly neither of us had anywhere to sit. Then, after speaking English perfectly well and understanding “we have some spare seats would you like to join us”, the language apparently deserted the family and they just shrugged and muttered at us in Gujarati when we protested that they were being bloody rude. I grabbed a seat elsewhere but Paul spent the first hour of the journey standing up. There’ll be no courtesy from me in future.
The train back from Peterborough was rammed full of Newcastle fans shoving questionable substances up their noses in the toilets so we were glad to get off at Doncaster five minutes early enabling both of us to get earlier trains in our separate directions. As usual the scenes between Doncaster and my bed are missing, and I’m not sure how I got home, but I woke on Sunday cuddled up with a Thai green prawn curry that I’d picked up from somewhere the day before. Following QPR may make me poor, but it makes me happy and I’m going to miss it over the next few months.
8 – Police and Stewards
As always when we travel to Ipswich or Norwich the area was like a demilitarised zone with law enforcement officers on every corner desperate to shove a camera in your face or ask where you’re going. We’ve long since given up on the idea of travelling in QPR shirts to away games because of the 'football fans = criminals' law that operates in the provinces on matchdays and consequently Paul and myself were able to move around the town pretty freely before and afterwards but we saw plenty of others less fortunate, forced to wonder the streets searching in vain for a pub that would let them in to watch the lunchtime match despite their QPR shirts. It’s such a shame that it has to be like that. Total and utter overkill from the police yet again and as the many hundreds of cops patrolled the streets on their overtime I was forced to wonder just exactly what was the point – I mean on the two or three occasions we saw somebody that should have been banged up all the police did was stand and film them. If you’re going to cover the town in police officers at least arrest the one or two trouble makers that are knocking around, don't just collect hours of video tape of them. The stewards in the ground were very polite and helpful so 5/5 for them, 0/5 for the police.
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