Last night was a bizarre night in Shepherd's Bush and all because of a football match.
Before I go any further I should explain that I am a true and sympathetic football fan.I have to be because I am an Everton supporter. I have been to football matches all over Europe (not supporting Everton as that doesn't happen very often) because I like to experience the atmosphere and because I genuinely appreciate good football and sharing this with good football fans. Growing up I was also a season ticket holder and Crazy Gang member at Wimbledon FC (RIP), and after living in Italy I became a regular at the Stadio San Paolo in Naples so I am no stranger to "lively" football matches.
However I am yet to go to a QPR home game but it is on my ever-growing list of Bush things to do.
Last night Millwall came to Loftus Road, and their fans seemingly invaded the surrounding pubs and roads. According to the good tw'eople who were witnessing it all first hand, from as early as 4pm there were police vans, dogs, riot squads and a helicopter accompanying up to 100 officers surrounding many of the notorious pre-match pubs. As 8 o'clock kick off approached it was reported that many pubs and shops decided to close and so potentially clashing fans spilled out on to the streets of Shepherd's Bush, mainly in the Uxbridge Road area.
I only know this from the numerous tweets that were sent by local people who watched it unravel from their living room windows or from the many incredibly loyal QPR fans that had hoped for a few pre-kick off pints, some of which I've included here.*
I was actually sat at my office desk near Bank station where I was working late while this all unravelled. I have to admit that when emerging from the tube in Shepherd's Bush a few minutes before 8pm I was expecting a scene of blood and devastation and at least one policeman to greet me at the station. Instead there wasn't a plod in sight and the usual commuters were rushing home and the tired and poor looking shoppers were lugging their bags home from Westfield. And then I heard the sirens, and I saw the bottle neck traffic going nowhere towards Uxbridge Road. However these are not unusual things in Shepherd's Bush.
I wasn't there so I can't comment, but I can say that for nearly 4 hours my twitter feed was full of quite startling reports of chaos and drama and a much heavier than usual police presence, and we are not a pocket of London where police are strangers.
It's not my intention to point the finger at Millwall and their long-standing reputation. There were reports from QPR that trouble had been stirred up early by the Ultras in town "supporting" Marseille in their Champions League clash with our Fulham neighbours Chelsea. But I am sad that so much of the perpetually stretched Metropolitan Police's resources were so heavily absorbed in our corner of London yesterday, but I am not going to pretend that I don't acknowledge and even appreciate how passions run high when it comes to football. That said, it's a very different breed of football "fan" who resorts to violence and chaos.
Whenever QPR play at home I always notice (and avoid eye contact with) the many tattoo-ed fierce looking men in their Hoops shirts. There are, however, just as many, if not more, families that religiously and optimistically head towards Loftus Road on a Saturday afternoon. This is what I was thinking about last night - the young girls and boys who may have got caught up in it all last night and that's when any kind of report of violence and rioting really does concern me.
*If you don't like me using your tweety-tweets please tell me and I will remove. Thank you please x