Do we really need to be reminded of QPR`s dismal record in this most eminent of competitions? Do we need another list highlighting how the best we have achieved since we were relegated from the (then) Premier League is to make it to the 5th round and that remarkable feat was back in 1997? Is there anything positive that can be taken from the games we`ve played over the past 12 years; or do we have to go back into the annals of history to be able to hold our heads up high as we look towards the Burnley fixture on Saturday 3rd January 2009?
Let us cast our minds back to 22 May 1982 – the date that saw QPR go to Wembley as finalists of the FA Cup. Yes – you read that right! QPR got to the final of the FA Cup in 1981/82. And, although we were ultimately not able to beat First Division Tottenham Hotspur (Rangers being a Second Division team at the time), we gave a jolly good account of ourselves over the two games and, in reality, were probably, marginally, the better team overall!
1-1 was the final score in the first match, which had to go into extra time as the score remained goalless at the end of 90 minutes. Then, on 110 minutes, Glenn Hoddle scored for Spurs, as the ball deflected off Rs` midfield maestro, Tony Currie. But their lead lasted a mere five minutes as QPR legend Terry Fenwick equalised on 115 minutes to take the game to a replay, following a long throw-on from striker Simon Stainrod. Bob Hazell flicked the ball on at the near post and Fenwick headed past Spurs goalkeeper, and English legend, Ray Clemence, at point blank range.
And so to the replay: Thursday 27th May. Within 6 minutes of kick-off Rangers found themselves 1-0 down thanks to a penalty, scored by Glenn Hoddle. Tony Currie, Rs` skipper in the absence of the suspended Glenn Roeder, felled Spurs midfielder Graham Roberts as he surged into the penalty area. Glenn Hoddle coolly slotted the penalty away. But Rangers fought back and I remember surge after surge, attack after attack. We really took the game to Spurs! We even had a goal disallowed – scored by Gary Micklewhite – although I can`t remember why it was disallowed! Despite all our good work, Rangers were unable to find the back of the net, even with John Gregory`s second half speculative shot which hit the crossbar and, disappointingly, bounced out to safety (well, safety for Spurs, that is!). And so, our failure to score meant that we were not to add our name to the illustrious FA trophy; and, to date, QPR`s name still does not appear on the FA Cup.
Why have I written about 1982? Well, seeing how since then, QPR have not exactly set the FA Cup alight, doesn`t that memory make for enjoyable reading? In fact, since falling from the top flight at the end of the 1995/96 season, QPR`s record in this competition is dismal. Only in the 1996/97 season did we actually make it into the 5th round, where we lost 2-1 to Wimbledon, having previously beaten Huddersfield and Barnsley. (I have detailed below the full history of our cup disasters since 1996/97 – it is too depressing to give those statistics too much prominence!)
Are there any other memories that bring even the faintest trace of a smile? Well, how about our humiliation at the hands of Unibond League Vauxhall Motors, in the first round of the FA Cup in November 2002?! Neither the game itself, which was a dreadful performance from Ian Holloway`s Rangers` team, nor the final result bring a smile, I can assure you!
But, after Rangers had failed to beat Vauxhall away (that game, on 16th November, ended goalless after 90 minutes), my friend and I decided to do something we`ve never done before or since. We bet on Vauxhall Motors to beat us in the replay, ten days later, at Loftus Road! I don`t remember what the odds were, but we each put £5.00 on Vauxhall to do the business. We figured that, with Ranger`s terrible track record, at least if we lost we would be marginally happy because we would`ve made some money out of the humiliation!
So, after watching the dreadful team performance played out over 120 minutes, and then the ultimate debacle of scoring only 3 penalties to Vauxhall`s 4, we trudged away disconsolately to the betting shop to pick up our winnings. Only thing is – not being seasoned betters – we hadn`t stated that the bet was for the whole game, to include extra time and penalties. No! We had put the bet on us to lose in 90 minutes! You can just imagine our horror as we realised that we weren`t even going to make any money out of this defeat, surely the lowest point in Rangers` history over the past twelve years?
And then we just started to laugh! And laugh and laugh! That`ll teach us!! Of course, from then on, neither of us has put a bet on Rangers or against Rangers – however tempting! We`d only lose . . . And I even have brought myself round to driving a Vauxhall motor car!!!
What about January 2008? Everyone must remember the great afternoon Rs fans, including the likes of Marc Bircham, Lee Cook and Kevin Gallen, had at Stamford Bridge? With Luigi De Canio now at the helm, we all headed to our greatest and oldest rivals with hope in our hearts. None more so than my daughter, Amy, who could not have been a prouder Ranger`s fan that day? “At last,” she announced puffing her chest out with pride as we took our seats amongst all the other Rangers fans (well, metaphorically – who, in fact, sat down that afternoon?!). “I am a fully-fledged, proper QPR fan!” I could not have been a prouder Mum!
Amy soaked up the atmosphere, singing from the top of her lungs from the minute we walked out of the tube station until we got back onto the tube at the end of the afternoon. She particularly enjoyed the newest song to our repertoire, “We`ve got more cash than you!” as well as the constant ribbing we gave to Ashley Cole (remember, her Dad and sister are Gooners!!) She revelled in the fact that we Rs fans out-sung, out-cheered and, let`s be honest, totally overwhelmed the Chelsea fans, who could barely muster a short squeak for their team all afternoon.
One funny moment was when, just before the teams came out at the start of the match, the announcer invited everyone to stand for the anthem. Amy dutifully stood up – only for the Chelsea song “Blue is the Colour!” to come blaring over the speakers. She looked horrified as I tugged at her coat forcefully to bring her crashing back into her chair. “You can`t stand for that song,” I urged, “it`s Chelski`s anthem – we don`t show respect for that!!”
And so to the game which, quite frankly, I think we could have won if we had only been sharper in front of goal. Although the records show that we went down 1-0, we all know that Chelsea didn`t actually score against us that afternoon! It was a fluke own goal, with the ball bouncing into the goal off poor Lee Camp`s backside after Claudio Pizarro`s goal-bound shot rebounded off the post, that decided the tie. Akos Buzsaky, who had just made his loan deal from Plymouth permanent, had a half-chance at the end of the 1st half, but his long-range effort flew over the crossbar. Patrick Agyemang, who had just joined us from Preston, and was a 2nd half substitute for Gareth Ainsworth, had a chance to level the scores shortly after joining the field of play. And captain Martin Rowlands also had a great half-volley early in the 2nd half, but it blazed over Chelsea custodian Hilario`s goal, much to our disappointment. Rowlands was a constant thorn in Chelsea`s side, forcing Hilario into another good save shortly afterwards.
And it was about then that Avram Grant brought Didier Drogba on. The Chelsea fans actually responded positively to this substitution. But Drogba was unable to weave any magic against a resolute and determined QPR. As the BBC reporter, Nathan Mercer, was to comment: “But he, (Drogba) and those behind him, struggled to kill of a dogged QPR.” Even Chelsea`s own website acknowledged that their 1-0 defeat of QPR was “an undramatic victory.” They had expected to turn us over (a little like Arsenal had done in 2001, when they beat us 6-0 at Loftus Road?!) – but we showed them that we were made of sterner stuff.
It was with heads held very high that we left Stamford Bridge at 5.00pm that evening. Walking back through the streets to the station, an older Chelsea fan spotted Amy and me, and our group of friends who had joined us to make the trek. He started heckling us: “Rangers are worse than Fulham!” he yelled, trying to provoke an immediate response. Seven of us just stopped in our tracks, looked at this guy, and started to laugh! That made him mad! “Rangers are worse than Spurs!” We looked at him, laughing hysterically, “Yes!” we agreed.
He was so upset that we weren`t getting worked up that he yelled: “Rangers are worse than Derby!” Well, by now we were howling with laughter and all called back as one voice, “Yes, we are!” Well, we were, weren`t we? I mean, at that time, we were bottom of the Championship and Derby bottom of the Premiership!! The chap skulked off into the night and we realised that that was another little victory we could chalk up for the Rangers` faithful!!
For those of you who are masochistic enough to look at our record in the FA Cup since 1996/97, read on! This is a record that I am sure Paulo Sousa and the current squad will do their best to put right. I take nothing for granted, particularly with our recent home record against Burnley! Let us hope, therefore, that we can put to rest both our FA Cup voodoo and our inability to kill off Burnley so that we can enjoy the rare delight of being included in the draw for the 4th round of the FA Cup!
1996/97 – lost 2-1 to Wimbledon in the 5th round (having beaten Huddersfield and Barnsley in the previous two rounds)
1997/98 – lost 2-0 to Middlesbrough in the 3rd round
1998/99 – lost 1-0 to Huddersfield in the 3rd round
1999/2000 – lost 1-0 to Charlton in the 4th round (having beaten Torquay after a replay in the 3rd round)
2000/01 – lost 6-0 to Arsenal in the 4th round (having beaten Luton after a replay in the 3rd round)
2001/02 – lost 4-0 to Swansea in the 1st round
2002/03 – lost 4-3 on penalties to Vauxhall Motors in the 1st round after a replay
2003/04 – lost 1-0 to Grimsby in the 1st round
2004/05 – lost 3-0 to Nottingham Forest in the 3rd round
2005/06 – lost 3-0 to Blackburn in the 3rd round
2006/07 – lost 1-0 to Luton in the 3rd round after a replay
2007/08 – lost 1-0 to Chelsea in the 3rd round
So, what will this year`s FA Cup bring for QPR? Glory? Infamy? Funny memories? Memories we want to banish forever, like most of the last twelve years` worth? I know that Saturday`s tie is not exactly a “glamour” tie, at least in terms of it being two Championship clubs fighting it out for a place in the 4th round. But wouldn`t it be nice if, at last, we can put a little run together – similar to that which we had going for us in the Carling Cup earlier this season? And we can only do that if we beat Burnley on Saturday afternoon. Anything`s possible and this is, after all, the glorious FA Cup – but this is also Queens Park Rangers and if there is one thing I know for certain, we never do things the easy way!!
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Sousa Gripped By Cup Fever.
One Day In History – Burnley 1982-83.
One To Watch – Martin Paterson.