It's difficult to remember many awayday experiences as wonderfully strange as the one celebrated by QPR fans last Wednesday evening. How many of the travelling faithful at Stamford Bridge were merely hoping to witness a narrow defeat rather than a horribly heavy one? A good number, probably. All the omens were bad.
The Rangers had just stumbled through three dispiriting defeats, thereby wiping out the feelings of joy and relief we had gained from the home tie with Fulham, that long-anticipated first league victory of the season. Chelsea, meanwhile, while not winning the full approval of their petulantly greedy fans, were riding a five-game Premier League winning streak. Given our side's frailties, one of those five wins seemed particularly ominous. Just before Christmas, the Pensioners had stuck the ball in the back of the net eight times without reply against Aston Villa.
As if this context for the match were not sufficiently inauspicious, a couple of stark stats were in the mix for added toxicity. For starters, QPR had not won away at Chelsea since 1983. On top of that, we had to contend with the knowledge that in the Premier League era, only one club has entered the New Year at the foot of the table and then gone on to avoid relegation.
Hence the doom and gloom expressed here at this is my england just a few hours before kick off:
Yes, some of us are crazy enough to be heading to Stamford Bridge this evening. Bonkers, right? What pleasure can there possibly be in schlepping down to that hell-hole and in contemplating the near certainty of a humiliating defeat? Also throw in the prospect of show-boating mockery from English football's most loathsome fans and a fifty-five quid (plus booking fee) ticket price. Then there's the prospect of getting home late in the dark, cold pissiness of this first grim week back at work after the seasonal festivities. Also, as we turn our keys and climb our stairs, many of us will be returning to long-suffering spouses or partners who will wonder at our ongoing masochism. This bloody football club. The behaviour into which it pushes us - repeating the same pains and hassles over and over again, and all the while hoping for different results.