It's been a long while since this blog last featured any musings about life as a QPR supporter. Prior to the most recent post of that nature (written back in May 2013), Rangers-related ramblings had been something of a staple here at this is my england. So why have I not since felt motivated to write about my beloved club?
Well, I only have to look back at that last article for a sharp reminder. I was writing, back then, about the lack of respect for the club displayed by one its overpaid and under-performing players, a certain Stéphane Mbia. The Cameroonian's crassness, for me, added a shit-flavoured cherry onto the piss-scented icing of what had already been a depressingly toxic 2012-13 campaign for the Superhoops. Yes, there was the odd point of light in the gloom - the unexpected triumph at Stamford Bridge, of course, stands out in the memory as the brightest of these. But, by and large, last season was an unpleasant one for those of us who struggle through life carrying the burden of an affection for Queens Park Rangers. Notwithstanding all the frustrations and disappointments which followed, my own disenchantment reached its nadir during the home game against Southampton. I was surrounded by fellow fans who united in song, berating the men on the pitch in blue-and-white hoops for only being at Loftus Road for the money.
It was in this context that I felt moved, in March 2013, to indulge in a sustained moan about various features of twenty-first century football with which I felt dismayed: the know-nothing virtual "fan" spouting ill-informed garbage from a keyboard in Singapore, Mumbai or Riyadh; the dismal intersection of snide journalism and questionable veracity on the part of football managers; the deluge of filthy lucre and its numerous poisonous effects.
Nothing I've experienced or heard about since has disabused me of any these unhappy notions. I continue to attend matches at Loftus Road and continue to want QPR to do well. I continue to enjoy sharing all of this with my dad, my son and my Rangers-supporting pals. But I really haven't felt the old fervour which used to sweep me along on match days. Perhaps this is partly down to the nature of the fare on offer this season - I'm certainly not alone in feeling that most Rangers performances have looked over-cautious and rather unexciting. Yes, there are solid reasons to remain optimistic about the prospect of immediate promotion back up to the division from which the club was ejected so ignominiously last May. But, to me at least, something is missing.
The last time the Rangers were pushing toward the bright lights of the Premier League, I experienced sustained feelings of excitement and anxiety, ending with an outburst of almost angry relief when the shadow of Faurlingate was finally lifted and promotion confirmed. This season? Yes, it's good to cheer a goal and celebrate a win. But it all just feels flatter and less vivid than last time around. Am I alone in this? I don't think so. Little Loftus Road, so often a noisy, exuberant arena in the past, has seemed oddly quiet in the last few months.
Some other time I may feel inclined to think more deeply about why I feel this way and to try to understand if others share these unsettling feelings. For now, though, I'm just choosing to resist the allure of nostalgia.
My feelings about current manager Harry Redknapp remain stubbornly mixed, resulting in a strong temptation to compare him negatively to former QPR bosses towards whom I have found it easier to develop some measure of affection. Neil Warnock, for instance, was someone to whom I warmed far more readily. But that doesn't mean placing the outspoken Yorkshireman on a pedestal marked "hero". Any admiration for Warnock, as with Redknapp, should not, perhaps, be wholly unalloyed. Rumours of sharp practice cloud the images of both men, after all, adding baggage to their various successes.
We were reminded of this only today when Jason Puncheon, once brought to Loftus Road on loan by Warnock, unleashed a potentially libelous Twitter tirade against the former QPR manager. The tweets, all since deleted, include a very serious allegation of what can only be described as disgracefully corrupt practice. It will be interesting to see what follows. If Puncheon is neither sued nor forced to retract his remarks, serious new questions about Neil Warnock's ethics are bound to occur. This is a shame for me. Even in middle age, and even with a ton of reasons not to be so sentimental, I continue to want my football club to provide me with heroes - men for whom my admiration is uncomplicated, uncompromised and unarguable. It's silly, I know. But there you have it.