MARCH 16, 1996 and my beloved QPR are beating the eventual Premiership champions 1-0 thanks to a fortuitous Denis Irwin own goal.
QPR – managed by the Mr Nice Guy and Tango voice-over artist Ray Wilkins – have been struggling all season since our star striker Les Ferdinand was sold to Newcastle United the previous summer.
But today QPR look the polar opposite of the timid side that has been languishing in bottom three throughout the season – we were beating Alex Ferguson’s first great Manchester United team.
With just a handful of games left, a win of this magnitude would perhaps have inspired us to stay above the relegation trapdoor. Unfortunately, every QPR fan feared the inevitable as we nervously struggled to defend our lead with the game moving into ‘Fergie Time’.
Even in the mid-nineties, United had a penchant for salvaging a result in the dying minutes and, lo and behold, with the clock at 95 minutes, Eric Cantona rescued a point for his team. A hammer blow for QPR’s belief and morale. Relegation almost certain.
I was only ten-years-old at the time and my father – a Manchester United fan – seemed to be more preoccupied in an Ireland v England Five Nations clash as he held a portable radio in one hand and a Racing Post in the other. As the final whistle sounded that day I knew the club was doomed. I realised we would not enjoy lofty fixtures like this one for a long time.
Suddenly, to my bewilderment, I began to blubber uncontrollably as if I had suffered a family bereavement. I remember waiting to leave the stadium and was consoled by at least 20 – mostly overweight – tattooed diehard fans (who had also been in tears). “Don’t worry mate, we’ll be back”, one said.
As my father walked down the stadium steps his face turned to shock as he could not believe how devastated I was.
Prior to this season, that was my last memory of QPR playing in the Premier League, and at times since, the prospect of us returning seemed highly unlikely.
But we made it. Bliss!