When you find yourself alone in your mate’s mum’s garden, shivering, a lovely cracking pain in your head, and barely able to see, you know something’s gone terribly wrong. Full of dread and confusion, the last thing I needed was a Sky Sports van with a bloody huge satellite pulling into view. As a burly cameraman started moved towards me with purpose, jostling past the pristine flowerbeds, I knew I was in trouble. And it was all José Bosingwa’s fault.
It was December 23rd 2012. At about 8am I received a text from the QPR1st Supporters Trust. Everything hurt when my phone vibrated and jolted me awake. I hugged the duvet for twenty seconds of hazy warmth before a wave of all-too-familiar pain kicked in, my body remembering that four hours ago I’d been clutching a bottle of vodka on top of a slide in the middle of a flooded playground in Stratford-upon-Avon.
I was in my mate’s spare room in the suburbs of town. I’d been up to visit family and friends for Christmas and things had got badly out of hand. The text stated that Sky Sports wanted a comment about Harry Redknapp fining José Bosingwa two weeks wages for being shit. I wasn’t in the mood, my mind being firmly in the bin, but I agreed and went back to sleep.
As a lifelong QPR fan, the Briatore/Paladini egomaniacal focus on creating a ‘boutique’ football club got me interested in the Supporters Trust movement. Turfing out long-term season ticket holders for an expanded VIP area galvanised me and I began volunteering for the QPR1st committee, continuing into the Tony Fernandes period of well-meaning dizzying ups and downs.
For those who didn’t follow the club closely, it was the transfer policy that was most emblematic of the era. Under the stewardship of Mark Hughes, Kia Joorabchian, and Harry Redknapp, the QPR board associated success with a well-publicised trawl through a battered copy of Championship Manager 2007 as the likes of Benoît “I play for the money” Assou-Ekotto, Park Ji-sung, and Stéphane Mbia flowed into the club. Where once being a QPR fan got you sympathetic chats in the pub about soft spots, I now got rants about us being a microcosm of everything that was awful about modern football.
But it was José Bosingwa who best encapsulated the cultural death of my football club. I suppose you can’t really blame a player for signing the contract put in front of him, sure. But you can blame him for playing with absolute, obvious disinterest. For not tracking back. For not being arsed. For being a massive liability who made it feel that he was physically sucking season ticket money out of me like some monobrowed, vampire fullback. And he was Chelsea.
At around 9:30am, Sky Sports called. I was ready with an opinion, but that wasn’t what they wanted.
“Where are you based, mate?”
“I live in East London but I’m up in Stratford-upon-Avon staying with a friend… Why?”
“All good, we’ve got a satellite van on the road about an hour away, text us the address.”
The terror sent me packing to the bathroom with a speed and purpose Bosingwa could only dream of.
As the van pulled up, my friend and his brother laughed as I sat hunched over their mum’s aging computer, frantically trying to stuff information into my still-drunk head. None of it would stick. I can’t emphasis enough how looking out the window at an incongruous satellite van in the driveway makes you feel like you’ve done something Really, Really Bad. The Sky Sports people calmly told me that it would only be about 30 seconds of recorded comment. They lied.
“…James Wright of the QPR Supporters Trust, he joins us now…”
I was plunged into a five minute live televised interview on Sky Sports News. I made no sense, sounding off confused platitudes about players needing to be ‘hungry’. It felt like an hour, my recently shaved balding head sweating bullets in the December cold. The only bit that stuck with me was softening my opinion on Redknapp to sneak in the name of my friend’s band, Human Hands, for a bet
“He’s only human… hands are tied.”
The YouTube video of the interview captured by a giggling friend on his phone became social media laugh fodder—the shaky footage being eerily appropriate for my own personal horror movie. The video did the rounds for a few weeks. The hangover lasted three days.
A few months later, Harry Redknapp was forced to substitute José Bosingwa at half-time in a home game against Newcastle. Having cost us two goals almost single-handedly he copped the worst abuse I have ever seen at Loftus Road since Juan Mata laughably tried to take a corner by R Block under a hail of lighters and bile. As relegation was confirmed in a mutually lacklustre display against Reading, he was filmed laughing on his way down the tunnel.
I can still see his face. The man who ruined my fucking Christmas.