Loftus Road: West London’s hidden gem

The city of London hosts a wealth of fantastic away days. From the depths of Brentford’s old-school Griffin Park to the idyllic views over the Thames at Craven Cottage, each ground and location seems to have it’s own little quirks. One ground, however, attracts little attention- yet offers so much. Wedged in between an unsuspecting housing estate is Loftus Road- the home of QPR.

Loftus Road was built in 1904, and first occupied by QPR in 1917. It’s last major alteration was the erection of the new Ellerslie Road stand in 1972, raising the standing capacity to around 35,000. However following the Hillsborough disaster the capacity plummeted to a mere 18,000 ( 4th lowest of the 12 football league clubs in London) as all-seater stadiums became mandatory. Yet what’s most surprising is not the size of the ground for a club dipping in and out of the Premier League in recent years, but the fact they can actually fit 18,000 people in there.

On my trip down last season, where Forest triumphed 1-0, Reds fans felt obliged to rekindle one of the old favourites from the dark days in League 1: “My garden shed, my garden shed, is bigger than this, is bigger than this,”. Tongue-in-cheek ? Yes. But wildly inaccurate ? Not so sure. It’s microscopical seats are accompanied by an equally dwarfish leg room, to the extent whereby one’s knees actually graze the person in front’s back. Crouchy, if you’re reading this, please never go to QPR away.

We can joke over the size all we want, but the bottom line is that it made for a cracking atmosphere and viewing. The seating at both goal ends is reminiscent of Valencia’s intimidating ‘La Mestalla’ stadium, where the stands angle at practically 90 degrees. It feels as if your perched in the heavens- yet directly above the keeper. What is most striking, however, is the compactness and sense of community within the ground. Loftus Road lies, quite magnificently, in the heart of an active Shepherd’s Bush housing estate. And that doesn’t mean there is some sensible gap between the houses and the ground, oh no. Some residents can literally walk out their garden door and find themselves face-to-face with the turnstiles. A proper hearty, old-fashioned set-up.

The QPR away day, though, is much more than the match itself. Put it this way, you have two options: glamour-fest or absolute p*** up. Loftus Road is a mere 10 minute drive from the famous Notting Hill and Portobello Road, which hosts an abundance of beautiful pubs and restaurants for those who need a bite to eat after catching the morning train or coach. Post-match, the likes of Marble Arch, Grenfell Tower and Hyde Park are all nearby landmarks available to visit. And then there’s option two. Scattered among the various Shepherd’s Bush alleyways are your grimy, hooligan boozers: open all night long and ideal for those middle-aged, Stone Island head-to-toe men who came down to London for a scrap outside the “White Fox” or some other generic pub name. QPR away really does have it all.

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