Queens Park Rangers 0 Leeds United 1

 by Martin Belam, 18 September 2005

When I am sitting at my desk at work I only have to turn my head to the right and I can see the floodlights of Queens Park Rangers' Loftus Road ground behind the White City estate.

Loftus Road viewed from my office window

Yesterday I actually went there to watch Leeds United versus QPR. I found my regular commute to be much more pleasant when I knew work wasn't waiting for me at the end, although on a Saturday lunchtime if anything it seemed a bit busier than in the mornings.

The last time I saw these two teams play was back in the early nineties, which I think was a match distinguished by being one of the few occasions that Thomas Brolin scored for United during his ill-starred spell with the club. That was when I lived in Leeds so I traveled down to London for the evening game, sitting with the Leeds fans.

For yesterday's visit I was undercover amongst the QPR supporters, as getting tickets as an away Leeds fan is like pulling teeth, but more expensive. I had seats right by the Leeds dug-out, and I can't recall a time when I have sat closer to a football management team. It did have the disadvantage that about a third of the pitch could only be viewed through the perspex shield that kept the elements, and presumably the fans, away from the substitutes and management teams.

There was some great banter between the QPR fans near the dug-out and the Leeds bench. Early in the game one of Leeds' coaching staff jumped out to pass some instructions on to one of the players:

You've got to get right up his arse!

Quick as a flash came the reply from the terraces:

We don't like that sort of thing down here, you know.
Action from the 1st half of QPR vs Leeds

Once Leeds scored the game subsequently turned on a red card issued to our striker Healy with around 25 minutes to go. I didn't really see what happened, but the Leeds players were infuriated by the decision. After that I had to (hopefully) disguise my furrowed brow and nail-biting as concern that QPR didn't have enough time to equalise, not the truth that I was gripped by whether Leeds could cling on.

With five minutes left QPR had a massive shout for a penalty, but to the crowd's disbelief the referee judged the foul had taken place outside the box, so they only had a free-kick which they duly wasted. During the uproar a fan near me was shouting at the bench "Oh, so you think he's a good referee now. He's a good enough referee for you now is he?". Fair play to the Leeds bench, on of the coaches came round the side, held his hand up in apology to the fan and said "It looked like it was in the box from here".

I was amused at how little actual communication the mangers seemed to actually be able to have with the players. I don't know whether that was specifically a Leeds thing, or for all players, but most of the time the players responded to the manager with the blank smile and thumbs up of someone who didn't have the faintest clue what you were going on about but hoped it was the right response. Shaun Derry in particular had perfected a Manuel-esque expression of faux comprehension which he repeatedly directed at the bench.

Mind you, it occurred to me what an odd model of managerial encouragement the football one is - where your boss and his assistant bellow at you for 90 minutes about everything you are doing wrong. I can't quite see it translating into the office workplace. I had visions of my mangers occupying a perspex box at the side of our open-plan office bellowing: "Belam. Belam! Call that a GANNT chart? Mark your dependencies. Mark your fucking dependencies son!"

With the game deep in added on time one of the fans around me shouted out one of the funniest things I have heard during a game. Directed towards a particular QPR player he yelled:

Are you listening to me or are you listening to Holly [Ian Holloway, QPR's manager]? Who's managing this fucking team?
A victorious Leeds United team leaves the QPR pitch

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