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A View From The Away End: What it was like for a Lads fan at Loftus Road

One lad outside Millers had clearly gone too hard on the train cans, and threw up what looked like pure Strongbow Dark Fruits into the street. Maybe that was a good – if weird – omen for the match to follow.

The Championship feels relatively bereft of London clubs these days, with most of them fairly well established in the Premier League. We’re currently left with the on-field thugs of Gareth Ainsworth’s Queens Park Rangers and the on-and-off-field thugs of Millwall as our only league fixtures in the capital (Watford doesn’t count), so whenever one of these games rolls around you can guarantee that we’ll make a big day of it.

Since most of the pubs around Loftus Road subscribe to a lame “home fans only” policy, we headed to Kings Cross for pre-match refreshments, to join those hardy souls arriving on the early trains. I joined a few of the usual suspects from the London Branch and some others who’d made the journey down from the North East.

It occurred to me that, much like your family, your mates who follow SAFC away are for life. There are plenty of friends from university or work with whom I’ve unfortunately lost touch with over the years, but all being well the same old faces will be popping up at away games decades from now, debating whether Jude Bellingham’s son is worth the £600 million transfer fee paid by Chelsea.

Everyone was understandably in good spirits, coming off the back of a 5-0 win, and keen for the tedium of the international break to finally come to an end.

A passing Newcastle fan and Portsmouth fan were subject to the expected level of abuse, though I was hoping we could leave the faux rivalry with Pompey behind with them in League One.

One lad outside Millers had clearly gone too hard on the train cans, and threw up what looked like pure Strongbow Dark Fruits into the street (coincidentally the same colour as our “vibrant” new away kit).

Maybe that was a good – if weird – omen for the match to follow.

Taking our seats at the back of the lower tier, we watched as the lads kicked off in the aforementioned pink and purple kit. I was far from a fan of it initially, but it is slowly growing on me, and at least we’ve already outdone its spiritual predecessor from the Moyes season by managing to score a competitive goal in it.

We started brightly without really threatening; then QPR broke the deadlock with a well-taken shot from outside the D that seemed to take forever to trickle into the bottom corner.

We’d resigned ourselves to a long afternoon of trying to break through Ainsworth’s patented defensive rearguard, until a certain Mr Colback saw red for stamping on Bellingham’s leg. The bloke has now lost in every game he’s ever played against Sunderland, one of the more satisfying stats from the last decade.

Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Despite the man advantage, it still felt like we needed an equaliser before half-time to fully shift the momentum in our favour. Clarke hadn’t had much joy for us on the left so far, but thankfully one of his trademark forays inside saw a deflected shot fly past Begovic.

After the break it felt like only a matter of time until we made our numerical and technical superiority count, and thankfully Ballard was on hand to tap in after Pritchard broke through.

Without wanting to tempt fate, it felt like that would most likely see the points in the bag, and when Ba smashed in Aouchiche’s cross it was party time in the away end.

The post-match celebrations continued long into the night; the London Branch put on an event to celebrate the 50 year anniversary of our FA Cup win, which was the perfect way to cap off the day.

Fortunately, it’s not too long a wait until our next London away day at Millwall; I just hope the lad who fell victim to the Dark Fruits remembers to ease off the pace a little next time.


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