I have lost my voice - it seems to have disappeared overnight Saturday. Could I have possibly lost it in the old-fashioned, uncomfortable stands that form Goodison Park`s away section? Well - yes, I did!
I do not think we (that is, not just me and my faithful travelling companions, but all the QPR travelling fans), stopped singing from the moment the squad walked out onto the Everton pitch to warm up till they left at close to 5.00pm, jubilant and exhausted. You could tell that the Rs` fans felt a resurgence of pride following the news that Tony Fernandes had bought out Briatore and Ecclestone last Thursday - the persistent chants of "We`ve got our Rangers back!" followed by "Rangers are back!" may have given a clue to the uninitiated! But we were also extremely proud of our team on the pitch! Amy, watching on her computer in Montreal, BBM`ed that she could only hear us Rangers` fans singing throughout the entire game!
If we wondered how the team would respond to the rather forgettable collapse against Bolton, on the opening game of the season, we were quickly reassured that lessons really had been learned! The defence - well, defended! The midfield created and broke up play as demand dictated; and Patrick Agyemang, who had been drafted in at the 11th hour owing to the collapse of DJ Campbell with the mystery stomach bug that had hit some of the squad, tried manfully up front.
That it was Tommy Smith who scored our first goal in top-flight football since Saturday 27th April 1996 (when Kevin Gallen scored the second of his two goals, and the Rs` third, in our 3-0 win against West Ham) should probably come as no surprise. I felt that Agyemang was always lagging behind the pace whereas Smith looked bright and eager and got into space well - in fact, I couldn`t believe how much space Everton were giving us at times!
We defended like Trojans - each and every one of our defenders was a hero. Stand up Connolly and Orr at full back and Gabbidon and Hall in the centre of defence. And so was Paddy Kenny (who, by the way, is still having a party!!) Yes, Everton`s chances, particularly in the 2nd half, may have been bread and butter for such an accomplished goalie - but Kenny still had to make those saves and he did so with confidence and aplomb. No signs of last week`s defensive implosion reoccurring!
But it was also so thrilling to see us play attractive, attacking football (even if it wasn`t all the time, there was enough to show we had it in us). There was that lovely moment in the first half (to be repeated periodically throughout the game) when we kept the ball, passing it from one Rangers` player to another to raucous cheers from us fans, for - what was it? Twenty passes? The stuff I dreamed of seeing us doing - playing like a Premier League team!
Adel Taarabt added guile and wizadry at times and, as he grows in experience, I feel he really will blossom into the true Prem player that we all hope he will become. Buzsaky and Faurlin were masterful in midfield (although Faurlin probably has a little bit more "learning" to do before becoming the dominant midfielder that Warnock crooned he couldn`t wait to see plying his trade at the highest level - which I have no doubt he will also achieve quickly).
And then, there was Shaun Derry! What can I say about our leader - the man with the heart, the man with the drive, the man with the desire - the man with no legs! Let me explain! Shaun Derry ran his heart out on Saturday afternoon - non-stop hustling, harrying, defending, leading, cajoling, encouraging - and exhausting himself in the process. So much so that, a little while later, the man himself tweeted that he`d left his legs on the Goodison Park pitch! I saw a comment from an Everton fan that compared Shaun Derry with Claude Makelele; he made the Sun`s Premier team of the week (well, I think that`s a big deal); and was "man of the match" for a plethora of Sunday papers.
Yes, we need those "quality" signings that Warnock is oozing confidence he will make before Wednesday week. Yes, there were times towards the end when my heart was in my mouth as we looked leggy and tired, having given "our all" in defending the one-goal lead for the best part of 60 minutes. Quality players will make the difference over the season as we try to build for a most promising future under the guidance of Tony Fernandes, Amit Bhatia and co. But on Saturday we all saw just how much had changed in the short space of one week - players, manager and fans are excited again - oh, as is Amit Bhatia whose post-match tweet really summed up what we all felt - COOOOOMMMMMEEE OOOOONNNNNNN UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU RRRRRRRRRRRRRSSSSS!
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