QPR v Arsenal – 18 years late

By Ian Grant

The publisher came in and said to the pool of writers, who wants to write about football?

Two of us agreed.

He’d just won the contract to do Queen’s Park Rangers paper, The Ranger.

Guiness had just won the QPR club sponsorship. We got invited to the opening. The host handed out pints of Guiness and champagne at 11’oclock in the morning. Too early.

I can remember talking to The Sun’s Brian Woolnough and he left by putting his card in my top pocket, saying if you get any stories, give us a ring.

Strangely the only story I ever wrote for the Sun was about a University in the Netherlands which was experimenting with using marijuana as a paper feedstock. It was spiked.

QPR v Arsenal was a strange affair. Loftus Road was a tight atmospheric ground. In keeping with the surrounding market.

The only problem – the plastic pitch. Having relatives who played First division football in the thirties on good old Northern grass, I wasn’t keen on plastic.

There were stories about players getting bad skin burns following sliding tackles going wrong.

I can remember that QPR scored first. Can’t remember any QPR players for definite, but Simon Stainrod rings a bell.

The only Arsenal player that I can remember playing on that day was Lee Chapman. Mainly because, I think Arsenal played the long-ball game, and he was the chief target man. And I think he equalised.

It wasn’t really football. The ball had an extra bounce to it. And the home team had a very great advantage.

The only other thing I remember was a really big, skinhead Arsenal supporter who used to sort out the opposition fans. I can remember him pointing to some QPR fans and going in for some bother. He was obviously some cult terrace figure that other fans looked up to. I saw him doing the same thing at Selhurst Park, not much later.

It got back to Terry Venables that I had said it wasn’t football. And the publisher came to me and said that “he [Venables] didn’t like your remark.”

But the test of time proved me right.