As anxious QPR fans argue over what can be done to rescue an already desperate looking season, one side in blue and white hoops will always see them put on a united front.
The Tiger Cubs – the club’s team for children with Down’s syndrome – are about to celebrate their fourth birthday and it’s a success story Mark Hughes can only dream of as he surveys a wretched-looking Premier League table.
There are no signs of the new-found opulence that graces Loftus Road – from billionaire board members to players picking up a weekly salary that would dwarf most supporters’ annual wage – when you attend a Tiger Cubs training session.
The unbridled joy on the faces of the kids is a delight to behold – and it is a huge credit to the QPR Community Trust team who have given them a chance to live the dream.
To coincide with their birthday celebrations, I will be joining a group of hardy supporters on Saturday to walk the 10 miles or so from Loftus Road to the Emirates (we’re taking the scenic route) to raise funds for this worthiest of causes.
The previous three jaunts, to Crystal Palace, Watford and Tottenham, have yielded two victories and a defeat and if the players could bottle a fraction of the enthusiasm and belief shown by their junior counterparts, an unlikely hat-trick might just be in the bag.
On average we have raised £10,000 per walk but at the time of writing, the current tally stands at a rather more modest £900, so if you can find a few quid down the back of the sofa in these troubled times (donation details at the bottom of the page) we would be very grateful.
Earlier this week, I spoke to Tiger Cubs coach Matt O’Brien on the Open All R’s QPR podcast about where the money goes.
He revealed the funds have enabled the Trust to expand from one to three training sessions a week, while paying for new kit and the hiring of venues, plus introducing educational workshops including cooking and street dancing.
“Socially it’s great for the kids to meet other guys and get to know each other,” Matt said.
“It builds their confidence massively – and because they all share the same disability it’s really good for them to help each other and talk to each other.
“It’s good for the parents too, who can share their experiences for an hour and a half without having to worry what the kids are up to – and as for the children, you will never see so many happy faces after a Monday night training session.”
The last word goes to my fellow Open All R’s podcasters, with Paul Finney saying: “This shows another side to football and what QPR are brilliant at doing, which is working with the community”, while Clive Whittingham simply added: “It’s the best thing QPR do by an absolute million miles.”
You can’t argue with that.
If you would like to make a donation to the Tiger Cubs by sponsoring us for our walk, please click here
To see the Tiger Cubs in action, click here