The Travels Of A QPR Football Tourist

Football tourism is a great excuse to see the cities you'd never get around to visiting and where best to drown the sorrows of a 1-0 defeat than in one of the country's oldest pubs?
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The Travels Of A QPR Football Tourist

What has the magnificent eleventh century Norwich Cathedral and the nearby Elm Hill, a perfect Tudor street built in 1507, got to do with footy? Or for that matter the Grade 1 listed Albert Dock, the Hamilton collection or the Lady Lever art gallery in Port Sunlight just across the Mersey from Liverpool?

The answer of course is quite a lot. It’s all footy tourism.

The match is the thing and if time and money is in short supply in the run up to Christmas then the passionate QPR fan who wanted to see the lads play at Carrow Road, and even more exciting at Anfield, one of the beating hearts of English football, simply had to hop on a coach or a train and be home in time to catch the end of Strictly Coming Dancing.

But if you have the time to go for the weekend and become a footy tourist a great time can be had in some of the most interesting cities in England - places you meant to go to one day but never quite got round to visiting. After all not many people suddenly jump up out of bed one morning and say I must go to Norwich for the weekend. Not even Liverpool.

With footy tourism you have the perfect excuse to build a great weekend with The Game at the centre of it. Norwich is a beautiful city and for fans of food and football can there be anything better than tottering out of the ground only to turn right and go back in again to Delia’s restaurant where all of the good lady’s favourites are on the menu?

It’s Norwich City season ticket holders only at lunchtime but they are not so fussy for the 5.30 sitting although QPR shirts were removed as a mark of respect to the Norwich owners. Follow up with a couple of pints in the Adam & Eve the oldest pub in the city. Then on Sunday it’s the long way home via north Norfolk and the Wash with a traditional Sunday lunch in The Crown Hotel in the splendid village of Wells next the Sea and then managing to  to steer my wife Diana, another QPR fan, safely past the special fashion boutiques of Burnham Market.

Norwich is a beautiful city and for fans of food and football can there be anything better than tottering out of the ground only to turn right into Delia’s restaurant where all of the good lady’s favourites are on the menu?

Then there was the game. That was the only bit of the weekend that didn’t go swimmingly. At 1-1with QPR belatedly running the show on comes substitute Grant Holt and bundles the ball in the net for a Norwich winner. Damn. We surely had earned a point at least.

At the Norwich game the QPR faithful came up with a new song to the tune of Que Sara, Sara:

"Tell your Mum, your Mum

To get the champagne on ice

We’re going to beat Chelsea twice

Tell your Mum, your Mum"

The creativity was impressive though the obsession with Chelsea can be tedious. Less impressive - many of the QPR supporters insisted on standing throughout the game blocking the view of many around them. And some gave very vocal expression to their belief that Norwich fans are prone to sexual relations with relatives – or effing “inbreds” as it was sensitively expressed.

At Liverpool we were all just awestruck to actually be at Anfield and stand by the Bill Shankly Memorial gates but even more moving was the permanent memorial to the dead of Hillsborough.

Liverpool FC attracts football tourists from all over the place but there was still a remarkable number of gents with Ulster accents wearing Liverpool shirts as they had their full breakfast frys in the Britannia Adelphi on the Saturday morning. After the signing of You’ll Never Walk Alone, Liverpool were up and at us and it was something of a minor miracle, and the skill of Cerny in goal, that enabled QPR to reach half-time with an implausible nil-nil score-line.

Unfortunately the QPR supporters reacted to the brilliance of Luis Suarez by singing over and over - "Suarez, he looks like a rat."

Naturally “The Rat” then scored what turned out to be the winning goal of the match a minute into the second-half. Most unfortunate. But if you like Catalan food there is always the top quality tapas and paella at Lunya in College Lane – an excellent place to drown your sorrows before spending Sunday in the art galleries of Liverpool and Port Sunlight.

Where next? Not sure Blackburn or Bolton does it quite for the weekend and Newcastle is a long way away. Birmingham is probably worth a look for the Aston Villa game but the big one comes on May 13th the last game of the season against Manchester City. All Hoops supporters will be praying that they don’t have to go to City needing points to avoid relegation. If QPR are safe by then, the visit will just be another bit of footy tourism – enjoying the delights of Manchester before and after the game.

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