QPR have a tall order to earn the right to be called a Premiership team

THE posters of the legends pasted onto windows along the tunnel are fading, even peeling.

There are no signs to indicate who’s who up there and even the security folk and stewards who hang out there have little idea who these black and white life-size guys are.

So, the likes of Stan Bowles, Gerry Francis, Terry Fenwick, Dave Seaman, Wayne Faraday and Gary Maddock look angrily down at strangers who have forgotten what they had achieved, probably hoping – from that great football field in the sky – that the glory days will come again.

The last poster along the tunnel, one depicting a yearbook from the distant past, says: The ambition and the frustration (1931-1944). That about sums it up for Queens Park Rangers.

A short hop from the very-international sounding Holland Park, India Way, Canada Way and Australia Road lies South Africa Road. And here you will find Loftus Road – the stadium.

It’s a bluish building and looks much like an office block and supermarket from the outside.

On Saturday, though, it was packed to the brim with 16,487 paying guests. Not bad for a stadium with a capacity of just about 18,500.

Some big names were there, too, including Tottenham Hostpur coach Harry Redknapp who was welcomed like a brother by the guests at the director’s box.

And there were also Malaysians and several Asian-looking types. After all, the hosts were taking on Blackburn Rovers in an Asian contest of sorts.

QPR are owned by Malaysian Tan Sri Tony Fernandes and the Mittals of India. Blackburn Rovers belong to the Venky’s, the poultry kings of India.

It wasn’t the best of games, with a fortuitous goal putting QPR ahead after a goal-bound header had been stopped by a team-mate. An equally unspectacular header saw Blackburn drawing level.

But if the action on the pitch wasn’t breathtaking, the fans certainly were.

They cheered every QPR move, sang their songs and chanted the names of their players. And then they went: “Tony Fernandes, Tony Fernandes.”

The Malaysian had walked into the sun-baked director’s box.

Those London fans are the type every club would love to have. Two weeks earlier, when QPR were hammered 6-0 by Fulham, the visiting fans sang to the end, standing by their team and coach Neil Warnock even as they were humiliated. That’s fandom for you.

The players do their share, too. No millionaires here to sneak to the car park and roar home – or to some party – in their Porsches, Ferraris and Bentleys.

Instead, there’s much affection and intermingling between the fans and the players.

After the match, the crowd did not go home but waited outside. And out came Armand Traore, Fitz Hall and even captain Joey Barton, all stopping to sign autographs and posing for photographs with the fans as they sauntered down South Africa Road to where (I assume) their cars were parked.

Two weeks earlier, hard-working Adel Taraabt had walked out of the stadium after being substituted. But he did not go home to sulk. Instead, he was pictured posing with the fans.

No wonder that the fans love this team despite the ups and downs – mostly downs.

QPR have been London’s greatest under-achievers, their best season coming in 1975-1976 when they failed to win the Division One title. Liverpool pipped them by a point. When the Premier League started in 1992, they were fifth and then eighth in 1995.

Then came relegation and financial trouble. Last year, inspired by top scorer Taraabt, they won the Championship and, despite an FA investigation, got to keep the title and promotion.

Then, Fernandes came on board and hope floats again.

There is even talk of a bigger stadium where the sprawling BBC building now stands.

But first, QPR have to earn the right to be called a team that belong to the Premiership. After the mauling by Fulham and big matches to come against Chelsea and Spurs, it all looks very difficult.

Ambition and frustration, indeed.

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