My ‘sponging off QPR’ shame

I am no better than a sleazy politician who preaches family values and then gets caught with his pants down.

After many years standing in pious, self-righteous judgement of others, I am facing up to the reality that I’m just as guilty as them. In fact, I’m worse.

Let me explain.

Relations between myself and QPR have often been strained, which is putting it very mildly indeed. As a result, I’ve always been reluctant to do or agree to anything that could be construed as help or a favour.

It’s just how it should be. As civil as things usually are, we are still on different sides as far as I’m concerned. So certain rules should apply.

Even during times when relations have been good, and people I count as friends have worked at the club, as far as I’m concerned even a car park ticket on matchdays is a no-no. It’s seemed irrational, even insulting, to various people down the years. But that’s how it has to be.

Take the food at Loftus Road. Since the Briatore-led takeover, people have often asked me what the grub in the press room at QPR is like.

The answer is that I don’t know, because I won’t touch it. Same as I wouldn’t eat any of the food at Rangers in the years before Cipriani’s.

Yes it’s there, and yes it smells and looks flippin lovely, but in my book that would count as a non-essential freebie. And why should I take a non-essential freebie from QPR? For much of the last 11 years I’ve been slagging them off.

I wasn’t in favour of his takeover and have written or contributed to most of the negative stories associated with his ownership of QPR, so why should I have lunch on Flavio?  

At other clubs, I eat whatever I can get my hands on. And virtually any favour from a club is gratefully received. I have no shame. But when it comes to QPR, I am – or at least I was – a man of principle.

And from my position on the moral high ground, I have condemned others. I have called them spongers, hypocrites and worse. In fact the word ponce has been uttered on more than a few occasions.

So it was with tail between legs and a sick feeling in my stomach when I realised that a laptop and phone disaster at a game, the type of which I’d overcome many times in the past without asking for help,  had beaten me into submission. I had no choice but to ask the enemy – the QPR press team – to dig me out of a hole.

I had to ask if, on the off-chance, they had a spare laptop lying around as I was in the brown stuff and no mistake. I assumed they wouldn’t have one.

What was particularly galling about this episode was that the said QPR official couldn’t do enough to help. There was no hesitation. No mickey taking. A laptop was produced within a couple of minutes.

It worked perfectly too. And it had wi-fi. Of course, Mr Perfect from QPR just had to have a perfect laptop with perfect wi-fi. He probably designed and built it himself.

And afterwards, as I was the last man left in the press room, he waited patiently and even, get this, told me not to worry about the time as it was not a problem.

I had no pride left. A hypocritical sponger incapable of meeting his deadlines.  Attracting sympathy from the kind of man he used to go to war against on an almost daily basis.

I’ll get this bit out of the way: there is no getting away from the fact that this sorry episode was testament to the professionalism and decency of more than one member of staff at QPR.  But enough of that.

So, whatever happens throughout the rest of my life and career, I sponged off QPR. That is the awful truth. I stood there typing away on a club laptop while a club official went beyond the call of duty to help me finish what I had to do.

He oozed decency and professional integrity, while I felt like a child struggling with their homework – fitting for a man whose maths gremlins (the bane of my life) struck yet again over Tommy Smith’s loan.

I couldn’t figure out why people were asking whether Smith could play against Preston, as I was beyond sure it was the Cardiff game he was likely to miss because of the way his loan deals are structured. It was Friday evening, when someone took me through it all for the umpteenth time, that the penny finally dropped.

Mr Goody Two Shoes from QPR doesn’t struggle with basic arithmetic. You can be sure of that.

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