West London football team Queens Park Rangers (QPR) has embarked on the most exciting chapter in its 125 years of history – after gaining promotion back to the Premier League for the current season.
Words: Tony Incenzo images: Back Page Images
During the 70s, 80s and 90s, QPR regularly finished as top London club in English football. Indeed, they achieved fifth place in 1992/93, which was the very first year of the Premier League. However, relegation in 1996 saw QPR fall on hard times. They were relegated again to the third tier in 2001 and, had an unlucky spell in financial administration before winning promotion up to the Championship three years later.
The club struggled along until the appointment of manager Neil Warnock in March 2010. It took Warnock just 14 months to turn a relegation haunted team into the npower Championship winners, and a glorious return to football’s top table.
Rangers were boosted at the start of the current Premier League season with a takeover by Tan Sri Dr. Tony Fernandes, Group CEO of AirAsia. This led to some frantic action at the end of the August ‘transfer window’ as Warnock was able to dramatically enhance his squad. He signed Premier League stars Joey Barton, Anton Ferdinand, Armand Traore, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Luke Young.
That news was then quickly followed by the launch of a major deal with AirAsia, which will sponsor QPR’s away shirts and third choice jerseys for the next two seasons.
On the pitch, Rangers have made a solid start to the campaign with encouraging away victories with Everton, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Stoke City. But it was their pulsating 1-0 home win over Chelsea on October 23, 2011 that really cemented the return of QPR to the Premier League.
With the future looking bright indeed, here’s a look at the club’s chequered past.
QPR has its roots in the working class areas of West London and was formed in 1886. This came from an amalgamation of two boys’ teams – the Christ Church Rangers FC and St Jude’s Institute FC. These clubs were founded in 1882 and 1884 respectively, with St. Jude’s being mostly lads from Droop Street School. The name for this merged club reflected on the fact that members were based in the Queen’s Park district.
Queens Park Rangers are in the record books for having played at more home grounds than any other professional club in the UK.
QPR joined the Football League in 1920 and battled away quietly in the Third Division for many years. Promotion was gained for the first time in 1948, but the club only lasted four seasons at the second level before being relegated.
Car dealer Jim Gregory joined the QPR board of directors in 1964 and became chairman the following year. He outlined plans to develop Loftus Road stadium and improve the team on the field.
In 1967, QPR was Third Division champions and League Cup winners, coming from two goals down to beat First Division West Bromwich Albion 3 – 2 in the first Final to be staged at Wembley Stadium. Rodney Marsh hit 44 League and Cup goals during that season; a QPR club record.
Twelve months later, QPR won promotion to the First Division (now the Premier League) for the first time in the club’s history. However, this tenure lasted only 12 months.
QPR was promoted back to the top flight in 1973 and this led to the club’s heyday in the mid-1970’s under manager Dave Sexton, who introduced a flamboyant Continental style of ‘total football’ to Loftus Road. This involved his team building up flowing attack moves from the back.
In 1975/76, QPR was runners-up to Liverpool by a point in a thrilling First Division title race.
The following year, QPR reached the UEFA Cup Quarter Finals, but lost in a penalty shoot-out to AEK Athens of Greece. After their greatest ever team broke up, QPR was relegated from the top flight in 1979.
In1981, QPR became the first professional club in the world to lay a plastic pitch. Opposing teams complained that they were at a disadvantage playing at Loftus Road. This controversial surface lasted seven years before being replaced by a grass pitch.
1982, QPR reached the FA Cup Final under manager Terry Venables. It lost 1-0 to Tottenham Hotspur in a pulsating replay after the first game ended 1-1.
QPR was promoted back to the top flight in 1983 and qualified for the UEFA Cup again the following year.
In 1992/93, QPR finished fifth and was the top London club in the first season of the newly-branded Premier League, inspired by centre-forward Les Ferdinand’s goals.
In1996, QPR was relegated from the Premier League a year after Les Ferdinand was sold to Newcastle United for a transfer record of £6 million.
In 2001, relegation to the third tier of English football and severe financial matters led to further problems for QPR.
In 2004, the team was promoted back to the Championship under manager Ian Holloway.
2011 saw QPR enjoying a title winning season and getting promoted up to the Premier League after 15 years away.
In August 2011, the Tony Fernandes takeover signals a new era for QPR with a host of new signings.
Loftus Road Stadium
LOFTUS ROAD is located in the multicultural suburb of Shepherd’s Bush, just five miles from the centre of London. The stadium itself is renowned for its atmosphere due to the grandstands being located very close to the pitch. This lends itself to the noise generated by the passionate QPR supporters.
Loftus Road was first used in 1904 by Shepherd’s Bush FC. They were an amateur team that disbanded during the First World War. Then, QPR moved to Loftus Road in 1917. At this time, Loftus Road had very basic facilities. It was just an open field with a pavilion. A major improvement came when one grandstand from Park Royal was dismantled, transported and re-erected to form the Ellerslie Road Stand in 1919. It had a capacity of 2,950 and remained as the only covered seating in the ground until 1968.
In 1938, a new covered terrace for 6,000 spectators was constructed behind the goal at the Loftus Road End. This took the capacity of the stadium up to 30,000 with open terraces on the other two sides of the pitch.
In April 1948, QPR bought the freehold of the stadium plus 39 houses in Loftus Road and Ellerslie Road for £26,250. Floodlights were erected in October 1953 and they were officially switched on for a friendly game against Arsenal. In 1966, the original floodlights were replaced by much taller pylons. Then in 1981, these in turn were replaced with the current floodlights.
In 1968, the South Africa Road Stand was constructed at a cost of £150,000 to replace the old uncovered terracing. It included changing rooms and offices. Four years later, a new stand was completed in Ellerslie Road, replacing the old tin-roofed structure.
The stadium’s highest recorded attendance of 35,353 was for a First Division game against Leeds United on Saturday, April 27,1974. A year later, the lower paddock of the South Africa Road Stand was converted from terracing with the installation of 4,600 seats. New seated stands were opened at the School End in 980 and one year later, at the Loftus Road End.
In 1981, an artificial Omniturf pitch was installed at Loftus Road, the first such surface to be used in world professional football. It was removed in April 1988 because of new football legislation and, was replaced with grass.
In 1994, the arena became all-seater with the installation of seating in the lower Loftus Road Stand.
The stadium has changed very little since then. With a capacity of just over 18,000, there is no room for expansion.
*Check out QPR Player Profiles in Jan 2012′s digital edition of Travel 3Sixty. Download now.