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Loftus Road Stadium
Queens Park Rangers v Stoke City
Premier League
Saturday, April 20th 2013, 3pm
By Philip Green
(Stoke City fan)

I was really looking forward to going to this game for two reasons. Firstly, it was a ground that I hadn't been to before and I wanted to make sure I got there before QPR dropped out of the Premiership (although Stoke's recent form has made it a distinct possibility that we'll both be in the Championship next year!) Secondly, my neighbours are QPR season ticket holders and I wanted to see their team, as it was a club I had not seen home or away before. The reason for going became more pressing due to it being probably my last Stoke game of the season (and Premiership?) and the announcement during the previous week that Loftus Road would be replaced by a new stadium as soon as possible.
My journey in was easy - I was dropped off at Perivale by my wife and travelled the four stops in on the Central Line to White City. I was surprised as to how few QPR fans were on the train, despite this being the local team (Premiership or otherwise) and it being reasonably close to kickoff. The walk from the station was well-signposted, but it takes you to the Main Stand of the ground, rather than where away fans were allowed in. This added another good few minutes on to the walk, as it meant going round the back of the school. I should have looked at my A-Z beforehand and found the shortcut to Ellerslie Road! I was surprised about how wide the road closures spread around the ground, and if being dropped off by car, you will not be able to get closer than the main road running past the BBC.
Due to the time (and the walk taking far longer than the five minutes mentioned on this site!) I didn't have time to have any refreshments outside the ground. However, there were plenty of fans around outside enjoying the spring sunshine and the atmosphere was remarkably upbeat considering the perilous position that the home team was in. I couldn't work out whether the comment of "let's enjoy it while it lasts!" that I heard from a home fan was because of the weather or their team's stay in the Premiership.
When going to a new ground, I really like to walk around the perimeter of the entire ground before going in. Unfortunately at QPR this isn't really beneficial as accesses to the various stands (other than the Main Stand) are through alleyways so you don't get a real impression of what the ground is like until you are in it. Away fans enter through a temporary cage where they are searched thoroughly, and this has the impact of making progress through turnstiles much more straightforward. Once I got in, I battled through the crowds on the concourse. Although the away end was not quite sold out, it was virtually impossible to battle through the crowds, so my advice would be to get there a bit earlier if you are in one of the furthest blocks from the turnstile (Y1, Y2 and Y3). I did, however manage to grab a coffee and Double Decker for the bargain (by London standards, anyway) price of 3. The catering offers looked pretty good in general and the staff were friendly.
Once I had taken my seat, towards the back of the upper tier, I had a good look round the ground. It's very tidy, and makes for a good viewing experience as the tier was quite steep so I still felt pretty close to the pitch. From my seat in Y3, the only part of the pitch I couldn't see was the corner flag away to the right. The seats were incredibly cramped, though, and I am not surprised that everyone stands up in the away end as it would have been physically impossible for some of the Stoke fans to get in their seats! Stewards were absolutely fine about this - in fact, someone was standing next to me in the gangway and this wasn't even a problem. In fact, I don't think I have come across more accommodating and friendly staff at any other ground.
The match itself had something of a cup-tie atmosphere from our perspective. I couldn't believe how quiet the home fans were and can't remember a single song they sang. Stoke fans were at their most voiciferous, even when it looked as though we might concede from one of the many free kicks on the edge of the area. The first half was entertaining though, but things really sprang to life when Stoke scored after a decent counter-attack just before half time. In the second half, we were almost completely dominant and it looked as though we might go on to win by more than the 2-0 final score. "We are staying up, we are staying up!" rang out from the away end at the final whistle.
Getting out of the ground at the end was straightforward, and congestion outside the ground was eased by the early departure of many of the home fans. We were forced to onto South Africa Road, the opposite side of the ground from where we went in. There was no segregation whatsoever outside the ground, although there was a larger police presence than I think I have seen at a ground in London. Bizarrely, the Police stood in the middle of the road at 10-yard intervals almost all the way back to the station. There appeared to be some trouble outside White City, as several horses and a police van went up there ahead of me, but the atmosphere in the tube station was completely calm. It seemed to me that all fans were being directed onto the Central Line at White City, although this might have been to segregate fans away from those coming back from Craven Cottage on the Hammersmith and City Line. I caught the first tube back with no problem. and was back home in Potters Bar by 7.
Overall, this was another great day out, aided of course by the result. I am glad to have gone, as it might be the last opportunity to go to Loftus Road to see my team play. I would be sorry to see QPR move to an identikit stadium away from their heartland, but the ground is really unsuitable for Premiership football.

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