After a disastrous season in the Premier League in 2014-15, Queen’s Park Rangers find themselves back in the Championship. On the plus side, plans are being formalised for a new stadium at Old Oak Common in north-west London – the club is hoping to move out of their revered 18,000-capacity Loftus Road ground.
Chairman and majority shareholder, Malaysian budget-air entrepreneur Tony Fernandes, has long been looking at expansion – QPR play at one of the smallest grounds in the whole Football League.
The club’s heyday came in the late 1960s and 1970s. After decades of lower-flight football, manager Alec Stock and chairman Jim Gregory steered the club to a remarkable League Cup win in 1967 and, for the first time, the top flight a year later. Despite the presence of mercurial forward Rodney Marsh, QPR were quickly relegated. Maverick Marsh was replaced by the equally maverick Stan Bowles, and with Dave Sexton in charge and home-grown midfielder Gerry Francis as captain, Rangers were a force to be reckoned with, coming within a point of winning the league in 1976.
Under ex-player Terry Venables, QPR made the FA Cup Final of 1982 and a UEFA Cup place in 1984, while Francis and another old boy, Ray Wilkins, also led creditable Premiership campaigns as coaches.
Swift managerial changes and boardroom shenanigans were to follow, but manager Neil Warnock still managed to steer the club back to the Premiership in 2011. He would only stay in place for eight games before incoming chairman Fernandes brought in Mark Hughes, who suffered a similar fate the following season.
Bobby Zamora’s late play-off strike gained promotion to the Premier in 2014 but had been long forgotten by the time the reign of manager Harry Redknapp was ended in February 2015. An end-of-season 6-0 defeat by Manchester City must be regarded as a low point in the club’s history.
Coach Chris Ramsey failed to motivate a thinned-out squad to regain Premier League status in 2015-16, his place taken by Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink in December.
Loftus Road seats just over 18,000, modest even by Championship standards. It feels it too – in a good way – with spectators so tight to the touchlines, it must be intimidating for away players. The main entrance is through the South Africa Road Stand, where you’ll also find the ticket office, shop and reception; along the far touchline is the Ellerslie Road Stand. The goal ends of the stadium are the Loftus Road Stand and the School End, where away fans are accommodated, usually in the top tier, although the lower tier can also be used given demand.
The nearest Tube is White City (Central line), about five minutes’ walk away: turn right out of the station, then left on to South Africa Road. Wood Lane Tube (Hammersmith & City and Circle lines) isn’t much further away. Shepherd’s Bush Market (also Hammersmith & City and Circle lines), although a 15-min walk from the ground, allows use of the pub options on the Uxbridge Road.
General sale starts four weeks before each match, which is to say two weeks after season-ticket holders and club members (membership £40 with £5 discount off the first match) are offered tickets. Tickets are then available at eticketing. The club are also part of the viagogo ticket-exchange scheme. The ticket office is in the South Africa Road Stand.
The QPR Superstore (Mon-Sat 9am-5pm; match days 9am-6pm, closed during the game) is in the South Africa Road Stand, to the right of the ticket office. Somewhat pleasingly, nodding dogs, branded dart flights and furry car dice are among the accessories.
The Loftus Road Experience (Thur 11am; Sat 11am; match-day Sat 10am for a 3pm kick-off, match-day Sun 11am for a 4pm kick-off, no tours for early kick-offs; £15, under-16s £10) includes dressing rooms, the players’ tunnel, the dug-outs – and the swanky snakeskin-lined Mittal Suite. There are no tours out of season.
The nearest pub to the stadium, The Springbok on South Africa Road, is very much a home fans’ destination. Its bare interior is embellished by a little mural of QPR badges down the ages, just inside the door, blue-and-white iconography brightening up the back bar. A pool table at the back provides entertainment.
Place names around Loftus Road relate to the Empire Games staged at nearby White City in 1934 – originally awarded to Johannesburg but moved here because of concerns over treatment of black and Asian athletes.
You’ll find a decent selection of pubs and restaurants along the Uxbridge Road, at right-angles to Loftus Road. On the corner of Adelaide Grove, the Queen Adelaide is a recently converted gastropub, with beers including Truman’s Zephyr, Harvey’s Sussex Best and QPR-themed Queen & Hoops. Old Chesterfields, a piano and a fire in winter create a homely atmosphere. The bus stop for Shepherd’s Bush Market station is right by the terrace, but it’s no more than a 7min walk, another 7min to Shepherd’s Bush.
On the same side of Uxbridge Road, The Pocket Watch is also newly refurbished and gentrified, with Brakspear beers, Estrella Damm lager from Barcelona and a dining area at the back. Diagonally opposite, the Coningham Arms (No.191) on the corner of Percy Road is an honest-to-goodness Irish pub, as friendly as it gets, with horse racing on TV and regulars round the bar counter.
Further up towards Shepherd’s Bush itself, Defectors Weld is a contemporary bar/restaurant popular with young professionals. Opposite Shepherd’s Bush Tube, Belushi’s is a chain sports bar beneath the West 12 Shopping Centre while above, The Central Bar is a handy Wetherspoons popular with weary shoppers.