Before my team Wigan Athletic got into the league all those years back it was quite common for all the youngsters at home to have a "second team". Sure, we all still went to Latics but we all had our own “second team” in the Football League. I was no different. Well I was in a way in that my team wasn't Manchester United like ninety-nine per cent of the kids but Queens Park Rangers! Queens Park Bloody Rangers.
When I started supporting them they were in (the old) Division Two but like the Pistols I didn't care. The reason for supporting them was basically that they played in a fantastic blue and white kit. Not only did they play in a fantastic blue and white kit but it was blue and white hoops - quite simply the best kit in the league! Still is…
As I got older and with Latics still not in the league I actually found out where they played and knew the players, the ground, looked for the results and was a right little West Londoner - in my dreams.
In the 1972/73 season Queens Park Rangers were promoted and at the age of fifteen and I was now old enough to go watching them whenever they were around my way. And you know what they were absolutely great to watch.
By the time they had their best ever season 1975/76 when they finished runners-up to a - as normal, lucky - Liverpool, I was smitten. I'd even been down to London on a couple of occasions to watch them. Now I've always been a worldly guy but those first visits to West London were a revelation.
For some reason the weather always seemed warm and Shepherd's Bush bustled with character. I tasted food I'd never heard of and drank Guinness with arl Irish fellers on the Goldhawk Road. I'd go in The Loft with all the lads and watched some exquisite football. Phil Parkes, Gerry Francis, Dave Thomas and the awesome, brilliant Stan Bowles, the greatest footballer ever, in my view. They almost did it that year and that is to this day their greatest season.
A few years on and Latics are in the League. Absolutely magnificent! Apart from the fact I'm now in the big city doing the Dick Whittington bit and West London's team is where I was often to be found. The glory days were long gone but I’d still pitch up in London W12.
The years went by and I returned to the north however towards the end of the millennium I was seconded to the smoke for a two-year work assignment and found myself in Kilburn and I didn’t half love it. Living just off the High Road, money in my pocket, a plethora of magnificent boozers nearby and of course the R’s just around the corner. It would have been rude not to have gone.
Yet of course there was still no glory and Queens Park Rangers were hanging on in football’s second tier. There was no Stanley or Rodney, Gerry or Phil. There was however a kid from Dulwich who had grown up in Bury called Trevor Lloyd Sinclair. He was decent, good balance, two good feet and had a terrific engine. He played at the top level for the majority of his career and represented England at the 2002 World Cup, but it's “very QPR” that Trevor Sinclair will be best remembered for a goal on a chilly February in 1997.
It was a normal sort of day, just an ordinary Saturday, when I bowled into The Crown and Sceptre for a few pints and a hot dog or two. Stanley was in – as he often was – chatting to the dads and signing autographs for their sons. Reminiscing and telling tales before reluctantly leaving the warmth of the pub for the short walk to the ground.
Just another Saturday but at least it was an FA Cup game, a bit of a distraction from the humdrum of the league. Barnsley were the visitors and it will stay in my memory for one reason and that is Trevor Lloyd Sinclair with his funki-dred haircut and his remarkable overhead goal.
I was in the main stand when just below me John Spencer crossed a long hopeful ball towards Sinclair who - with his back to goal - attacked the ball with a bicycle-kick that powered past the Barnsley keeper and into the back of the net from within the ‘D’ of the area.
It was just an ordinary Saturday but within those ten seconds this little corner of West London was alight; a stupendous goal that lifted the roof off Loftus Road. Three quarters of the ground celebrated madly whilst the Barnsley support sat there stunned. Then a couple of them began to applaud, then a few more and then pretty much the whole end rose to their feet to acknowledge a special moment.
The goal was so good it later won the BBC's Goal of the Season award but on the day it seemed to be just an ordinary Saturday.
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