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Loftus Road Stadium
Queens Park Rangers v Charlton Athletic
Championship League
Saturday, November 23rd 2013, 3pm
James Butler
(Charlton Athletic fan)

QPR away was always going to be, for me anyway, one of the stand out away fixtures of the season. Apart from the obvious football related reason, a newly relegated Premier League team, London Derby, etc.. I used to live in the area near Loftus Road in my early twenties and occasionally would go to Loftus Road to support the home team. Strangely however I could never warm to QPR, even in a ďsecond favouriteĒ team kind of way, not sure why, I had been with Charlton before this and had seen QPR play at the Valley without any strong adverse feelings developing, they just werenít Charlton I guess.
 
QPR is centrally placed in the London sprawl  so we elected to go on public transport, meeting my trusty companion Del Boy at Cannon Street  in the City of London at 12.30 accompanied, to ensure good behaviour, by our respective wives. This was the final reason for the anticipation of this fixture. QPR is very close to the massive Westfield Shopping Centre at White City, this close to Christmas it was their cup final, they donít get out much. After a quick bite to eat and a pint in a city pub, it was on to the central line for the 11 stops to White City, 10 to Shepherds Bush for the girls.
 
I travel around London on public transport a lot for my work and have spent a fair bit of time in the Loftus road area in the last 10 months, so I am no stranger to the surrounding streets, although itís a bit livelier on a match day. Everyone walked along, home and away fans, without any bother at all, just as it should be.
 
As I have been saying I know the area and the ground, but I have not been inside for over 25 years and I was eager to see if getting in was easy than it look and if, once in, was it as cramped as it looks.

Answers? No and Yes
 
Entry  procedure for away fans to the Loftus Road Stadium started with a short queue to show a valid ticket and bag search. Next we were then scanned with what I presume was a hand held metal detector. Then for good measure the more traditional frisk type search. Just as I thought I was going have the search hat trick the steward seemed to decide that I was not the security risk they thought I was, I turned to see Del Boy completing his hat trick, they clearly knew a risk when they saw one. Now I know QPR are majorly sponsored by Air Asia, but airport style security? If I had known I would have brought the passport.
 
Taking my tongue out of my check there was a serious side to all this, I think. Charlton fans in the last year have smuggled smoke bombs and flares into at least four away venues, if was the reason for this over the top security I applaud it, if this happens every week, itís over the top, even if we, as Charlton fans deserve it. I must emphasize however we are a friendly bunch home and away, just a few idiots seem to a 1970ís type of addiction to flares???
 
Through the turnstiles and in. Everything that followed can be described in one word, cramped. A tight flight of stairs leads to a dark narrow concourse, we had a beer, bit pricey at £4.20, but served quickly and efficiently. Del boy disappeared to the loo and was gone ages, tells you all you need to know about these facilities. In these cold and dark metal clad surroundings the beer did not taste the best so we went in.
 
Thankfully we stood all through the game. We were given a mean 1800 tickets in the upper tier of the school end opposite the identical Loftus road end. There was barely room to stand, I donít know how the QPR fans managed to sit down at the other end. They must be A) use to it B) Very small or C) very friendly with each other. Their close proximity to each other clearly prevents any sing or chanting because this only happened twice in 90 mins and one of those was when they stood to applaud Charlie Austinís wonder goal mid-way through the first half. That was the highlight of an extremely dull game, dominated and won with easy, 1-0, by QPR, we were dreadful, they did what they had to.

The stewarding was very hit and miss. They cleared the gangways of standers and showed them to their seats, a very difficult task in such tight confines, also an on-going job. As people left their seats to go to the loo etc many struggled to get back to their seats. Then there was the strange episode in the first half when for some reason they decided to take exception to a flag held up by some lads at the front. As far as I know this flag is a tribute to Drummer Lee Rigby murdered in the summer close to the Valley in Woolwich. May be not relevant to football, but it is not offensive either. The arrival on the scene of Police thankful introduced some sanity to the a situation which briefly look as if it might get out of hand.
 
Final whistle and we file out, all 1820 of us through one exit at one end of the concourse. I hope this was to control and slow the flow of away fans into the surrounding streets, I trust in an emergency this would not happen. If it did I seriously wonder how a safety certificate was obtained for this Stadium. Outside stewards helpfully direct away fans back to trains, coaches, etc, I would not advise driving to Loftus road. The Police presence outside was huge, but not in an intimidating way, as long as Charlton arenít paying the bill I donít care, keeps them in overtime.
 
From there it was round to Westfield, shoppers heaven, to meet the ladies at Shepherdís Bush tube and a pleasant evening in Notting hill where we had a trip down memory lane. It was here I meet my wife 28 years ago. We starting going out after an afternoon watching the cup final, she had been shopping, we had a Curry and the magic flowed from there, guess where we had a Curry after the QPR match?


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