Friday, February 1, 2013


HAVE-NOTS: Q.P.R. are aware of what relegation might mean. to them
The Transfer Window, like an addled giant in crotchless pants, waddles through our life once a year with Sky Sports News "hanging out the back", desperately trying to keep us all up to date with near-to-precisely nothing at all. It is a gauge of where modern football has carried us all kicking and screaming: the final gurgling death throes of a witless and feckless agent dust-up in the grey and wet of olde England. In amongst the bullshit, the unhinged and the grotesque posing as something vaguely glamorous, the wrinkly sausage of English football, Harry Redknapp, cast in the role of transfer day fulcrum, the non-fashion magnet, Mr Dave Beckham, posing as a priceless but brainless sporting commodity and Mr. Christopher Samba, intruding on a dank Friday in our lives with his multi-million pound, £100,000 a week (count them, just count them) wages to stand before us as Transfer Deadline Day's Hottest Hot News.It's not Mork and Odemwingie and it's not really worth all the fuss, now is it?

I ask you. From Anzi Makhachkala to Queen's Park Rangers. Once upon a time this would have been little more than the route the Orient Express took. Once upon a time we would not have stopped stirring our weary tea for trifles such as that.

Jordan Obita has left Reading for Oldham. But only on loan. Who is Jordan Obita? Heurelho Gomes, Tottenham to Hoffenheim. Good luck with that, good and stout villagers of Hoffenheim.

We are saturated with football. The minutiae, the crumbs, the dribble of leaking break fluid, as we career off down the hill to where Jim White and Mike Parry and Alan Brazil and the Cybermen are all waiting for us. Set tazers to Destroy Utterly.

It is entirely fitting that a club like QPR, with its ramshackle flamboyance and its Ford Capri puzzaz, should be the focal point of this year's close-to-non-stories. They even have their very own Harry Redknapp, my God, the real one, to preside over this monstrous celebration of not Very Much At All.  

Batman Close gets an extra watering
Last Tuesday, it must be said, with two goalkeepers on the bench for the visit of City and a team already beginning to bear the latest fruit from Tony Fernandes trolley dash through the French first division, you could have been forgiven for asking "Just What Is This All For?". The stakes are high, higher this year than ever before to those considering taking the Premier League underground service to Lower Middling or Muddle on the Floss. Or even Portsmouth Central. New tv money will be much like old tv money, only there will be even more sacks of the stuff lining the director's private corridors. It is this that Queens Park Rangers wish to avoid missing out on. It is this that makes Queens Park Rangers a sort of compelling car crash soap opera to those still awake enough to follow.

Whilst they throw a hundred grand a week at the delightful talents of Christopher Samba, however, not a single penny seems to have been spent on the, what shall we call it, snug away end at Loftus Road. The School End, so called because it has the look of a delapidated bicycle shed, is narrow, painfully narrow, constructed from pipes and boards and odd things left over after geometry class, and gives you the feeling it could be deconstructed with relative ease if you possessed the right levels of anger. I'm sure I read a sign with a lightning flash on it telling me not to lean against the back panels in case I fell out onto South Africa Road.

STAY BACK: There is danger beyond this point.
Owing to a prolonged team talk in the Hop and Pole ("Pop and Hole" by the time we had finished with it) in Hammersmith, some of us were what is generically called "legging it" with two minutes to kick off. The ground loomed ahead of us out of the sheet rain like a capsized pedalo in a boating lake. After dark sounds and smells cascaded about the place. South Africa Road, Bloemfontein Road. The place wreaks not only of hotdogs and kebabs but of a colonial past when money was easy and diamonds were chipped out of the pavements every ten feet. I strayed haphazardly into Batman Close for a super hero leak behind a broken bus shelter. Here there was only a discarded polystyrene and smudged savoloy treasure trove.

Owing to the crushing interest being shown by the locals for their Premier League club, City have been awarded only the paltry offering of seats crammed into the top deck of the School End. I feel like pelting those below with chewed paper pellets from the end of a ruler, but I am missing the materials (no programmes in the rush and the rain and the dark) and a man in a flourescent bib is telling me to get back from near the edge for my own safety. Maybe I look unsteady on my feet, maybe he means he'll be forced to twat me if I advance, I'm not sure. Owing to these vigorous safety measures, not only are we deprived the bottom tier tonight, but also the front row of the top tier, which is covered in savage smelling tarpaulin. Maybe we will be issued with helmets next and a safety video to play on the iPhone before kick-off. Only kick-off has already happened. Figures are scampering about in the driving rain.

Vuvuzela Man prepares to parp
Modern technology had allowed us a look at the City line-up long before we left the pub. Glasses were raised to a side bristling with intent. The pocket rockets are back in after the big boys' day out at Stoke and most agree that that is fair enough against the division's most errant schoolchild. However, it quickly looks like these snotty nosed young savages are up for a fight tonight. This will be no Milton Keynsian utopia, but real life Shepherd's Bush. City prod and probe, only to find 'keeper Julio Cesar erecting an impressive defensive structure. We cannot pass and when we do, Zabaleta's header slaps the bar.

Half time brings an opportunity to walk the vivid concourse, meet and greet and swing a cat above one's shoulders. In fact, none of this is possible, as 1700 people converge on a streak of concrete the width of a piece of an aeroplane aisle. Ah, Mr Fernandes, spend some dosh on this heaving bike shed before it blows away in the storm. Back on the steps, it is increasingly obvious we are witnessing a stalemate between ones who want to but cant and ones who don't want to at all. It is neither pretty nor clever.

Silva makes one last attempt to flick an effort past the Brazillian keeper, but he is having none of it, sticking out a hand to swat it away. A rotund figure with a vuvuzela in the South Africa Road Stand starts to parp a serenade to his 0-0 heroes. He is quickly told how and where to store the annoying instrument. If ever the croaky coughs of a plastic trumpet could represent the hollowness and absurdity of life, it is this. David Beckham, newly signed by Paris St Germain, a club outdoing even City in the shock horror spending stakes, would appreciate its strangled melody. It quacks of hypocrisy and vanity, it parps look at me and chokes in the cold air when it realises it is a sad parody of all our yesteryears. Beckham will do well in Paris. He has the natural style and class to sway the Parisiens. He knows literature and history and politics. He is at once ambassadorial and trite. He speaks fluidly and profoundly. And his wife. Victoria Paradis, can sing the pigeons clean out of the trees. Apart from his well aired dislike of clubs who spend to match the old elite, he should be an absolute hit by the banks of the Seine, of that there can be little doubt. 

Back by the Thames our time is up. The cold embrace of Bloemfontein Road awaits us. It is dark and all roads look the same around here. I walk into a cul-de-sac and swear loudly into the rain. It is a metaphor for something, you can be sure of that.


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