The dust has settled. The tears dried up. The sun is still shining and my grin is still as huge and soppy as it was from about 11.40 am yesterday.
In true Hollywood theatrical style, the FA "Independent Commission" led all associated with QPR a very merry dance, announcing the verdict of their enquiry one hour before kick-off yesterday lunchtime. I was standing in the queue outside the café in Bloemfontein Road where I always dine with my friends before a match, when the news broke (well, actually, I was flitting between chatting to friends inside the café and those outside - you can probably guess that I`m a friendly sort!) Maggie, who runs and owns the café, came racing out of the kitchen shouting "no points deduction, no points deduction", just as my friend Jezza on the opposite side of the road was trying to yell to me that we weren`t going to lose any points!
The near hysteria that followed - surpassed only, from what I saw last night on the Football League Show (the last time we`ll be on that particular BBC programme, I`d like very happily to point out!), by the scenes of utter jubilation outside the ground - meant that our egg & chips was going to be delayed! You know what - I was so excited, I couldn`t eat anyway! Come to think of it - these past couple of weeks have played havoc with my eating habits. Nerves have eaten away (pardon the pun!) at my insides and I have found myself turning my nose up at food, pushing plates of my usually favourite meals away, as another wave of nervousness hits me. Will we be promoted? Will we win the Championship? Will we be alright after the hearing?
I have to admit that, if we hadn`t had such a ropey April, I`m sure those nerves would not have featured as they did. And we didn`t exactly cover ourselves with glory in April, did we? Be honest! But this season has not been about just one month - it`s been about nine long, hard months - often playing 3 games in a 7-day period, during cold, wet winters or, more recently, boiling hot springs. It`s been about the fighting spirit first witnessed by yours truly at Derby at the end of August. Who can forget the eruption of utter joy when Mackie equalised on the 96th minute, following Agyemang`s goal on the 90th minute - or was it the 91ST?! I remember so clearly how amazing I felt - a fight-back the likes of which hadn`t been seen from a QPR team for a long, long time - and I felt then that we may be on the cusp of something very, very special!
But back to yesterday. After finishing our "brunch", Amy, Sara, Sara`s son Josh, and I headed into the ground. Neither Amy nor Josh had ever seen Rangers pick up so much as a bucket for a collection (!), so this was a very special moment for both of them - and going to the ground, knowing that the FA verdict was in and everything was going to be ok, both of them were like kids heading down to the Christmas tree on Christmas Day morning - the word "excited" just doesn`t do them justice!
The cheering throughout the game was raucous and I was assured, by hubbie watching at home, that it came over very loud and clear through the tv. We did our best to rack up the noise level in the South Africa Road stand - and I lost my voice in the process! It`s only just coming back now (but bursting into rounds of "we`re premier league" and "ee-i, ee-i, ee-i-o, up the Football League we go" today, certainly hasn`t helped!)
The game was immaterial and although I would`ve been happier if we had won - particularly after such a great start (25 seconds was it when Helguson scored?) - I actually just wanted the referee to blow the final whistle so the real reason we were all at Loftus Road could begin: to see QPR presented with the Championship trophy. The tears of joy as Adel Taarabt lifted that glorious piece of silverware (the very same trophy, I should point out, that we should`ve picked up 35 years ago!!) was matched only by the loud and constant cheering from Amy and me Even Sara had a tear or two and did I see Josh`s eyes glinting?! Amy had painted her face blue and white before the game: she was paranoid that nothing had smudged, no paint had run - as she felt the tears of joy trickling down her face! I assured her everything still looked beautiful!
I loved the way the players came out two-by-two to enthusiastic applause and acclamation - the biggest cheer being reserved for Adel Taarabt. He was so excited and the joy on his face as he lifted the trophy was glorious. He has said in interviews he wanted to repay Neil Warnock by helping us get into the Premier League - he has done that. (Now I hope he keeps true to his word and, so long as Warnock is at Rangers, Taarabt will be at Rangers!) I loved the way Hogan Ephraim couldn`t wait to get the champagne flying - it hit one of the BBC`s cameras - you got to love it! The traditional jumping up and down with their arms around each other - walking around the pitch to show off the trophy, with young sons and daughters in tow - the hard-to-hear interviews from the pitch. All of it something special and memorable, especially since Loftus Road had been host to such scenes for WBA and Newcastle in the last two years. It was our turn now - at last!
"Memory fodder" is how I term times like these - you have to stop and take it all in, almost like using your mind as a camera to photograph the memories into place - the sights, the sounds, the colours, the smells - everything must be recorded! There were the fireworks ; over there, in front of the Loft, was the group photograph before the board with the immortal words - "Npower Championship Champions 2011 Queens Park Rangers" - emblazoned in white on a blue background - the red ribbon of the champions` medals. Can you see them?
Who did you hug at the moment that Taarabt lifted the trophy? I was hugging just about anyone and everyone around me (luckily I know most of the people in the immediate vicinity of my seat!) And then, when the players left the pitch, Amy and I decided to wait a little bit, as others started to drift away; and we were privileged to hear Neil Warnock`s impromptu speech given from the Directors` Box - where he assured us that his hardest job was yet to come - keeping us in the PREMIER LEAGUE. Boy did that get a cheer and a half! Yes! We are back! Finally! After 15 very long years in the wilderness, QPR has at last taken its spot amongst the elite.
Afterwards, Amy and I went to celebrate in the Springbok. On the way there, we were hijacked by members of our new Twitter family - Lilmissmyers and Beckybanners and, of course, Ben(underscore)Farrow - he`ll understand! Lilmissmyers had recognized me because I had earlier posted a photo of Amy on Twitter - and hours later that blue and white paint was still very much in evidence! After shrieks of delight and excited exchanges, we promised to meet them again later and we made it into the Springbok to join fellow VitalQPR mates QPR4Me, Lenny, Superhoop50 and Daxvondrac , and where I was also most honoured to meet PaulRanger.
It was fun on the balcony because Jamie Mackie and Fitz Hall passed by and we all started cheering and singing their names and they rapturously acknowledged us! Lakshmi Mittal and Amit Bhatia walked past to an amazing reception. They stopped to chat with fans milling in South Africa Road, posing for photographs and signing autographs. Everyone was in such great spirits.
Then Dax, Lenny, QPR4Me, Amy and I headed off to Shepherds Bush Green. On the green itself were pockets of QPR fans, lying in the warm spring sunshine, drinking beers, playing a game which looked as if it was meant to be football, bursting into chants of "the Rs r going up" and "we are the Champions" (thanks Queen!) spontaneously every now and again. There was the fan dressed as a rabbit who insisted on having his photograph taken with me! We`ll never meet again but who cares - that`ll be a fun memory for him! We stayed a while, drinking cider, beer, coke - whatever - till Amy and I realised we had to start making our way home.
But not before we`d popped into The Green (the pub this time!) to meet up, as promised with Lilmissmyers and co - all members of our "QPRtwitfam"!! A few songs later, we said our reluctant goodbyes and headed home. Our partying wasn`t finished but now we were going to join my long-suffering husband and celebrate with him. After all, being an Arsenal fan, he wasn`t going to have any other chance to celebrate silverware this season other than vicariously through his wife and daugther`s team, was he?!!
I had jumped up and down so much during the day, that I was exhausted and so wasn`t surprised that, on the train journey home, I collapsed! But not before having a chat with two ladies who had been at the game and had been out celebrating like us! Or with the West Ham fan who was really, sincerely delighted for us that we were back - and only regretted that we wouldn`t be playing each other next season as they passed us on their way down to the Championship! Oh and there was the strange looks this weird woman, sitting opposite us, kept giving Amy and me - she obviously didn`t have a clue what the wonderful blue and white hooped shirt we were wearing was all about!
The evening`s family celebrations were perfect and were followed by a cup of coffee whilst watching the last-ever time that QPR will be on the Football League Show (I know I`ve already said that, but I like how it sounds!) And so to sleep - yeah, right! At 5.00 am this morning, I was awake and buzzing, singing songs in my head and checking if anyone was on Twitter - Wayne Routledge was! And then, of course, I had to get all the newspapers to read (even though I`d sworn not to get some because, after all, they`d been really mean to QPR over the last week to ten days!)
But it hadn`t really sunk in, even with watching Sky Sports News coverage of yesterday or reading any of the articles or going online and trying to devour everything that is on there, including on the official website. Not, that is, until I watched the Stoke v Arsenal game this afternoon. It wasn`t the game itself - it was the fact that, as Sky announce the teams they show photos of all the players with their names emblazoned in front of them; and Amy and I looked at each other having the exact same thought at the exact same time: we`ll be doing THAT next year, we shouted at each other. Then we cheered, whooped, high-fived and hugged. And at that moment, my tears flowed and flowed.
We are back! We are Queens Park Rangers and we`re Premier League.
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