Just two years ago, Queens Park Rangers were plying their trade in the Premier League, but on Saturday the West Londoners were in the village of Bovingdon for the
most unlikely of friendlies.
The big day for the Herts Senior County League Premier Division outfit attracted an estimated 500 spectators, one of the largest crowds anyone could remember at Green Lane in recent times and perhaps a 107-year-old club record.
The remarkable fixture was a result of Bovingdon boss Lee Bircham’s family links to QPR – their first-team coach and former Loftus Road player Marc Bircham is Lee’s brother.
It was QPR’s under-23s side which visited Bovingdon and among their ranks was former Premier League player and Arsenal Academy product Jay Emmanuel-Thomas.
To put into context the gulf in class, the QPR’s youngsters’ other fixtures in this pre-season campaign include Premier League club Southampton and Athletic Bilbao.
Among the QPR staff on the sidelines was former QPR manager and ex-Spurs coach Chris Ramsey, who is now the technical director at Loftus Road, as well as Lee’s brother Marc, who played more than 100 times for QPR.
It was the second of two pre-season friendlies for QPR’s under-23s on Saturday with another squad facing a full-strength Wycombe side behind closed doors at Harlington.
Paul Hall’s young team was mainly comprised of under-18s prospects and they put six past the Green Army.
Emmanuel-Thomas featured prominently for the young R’s, who went 3-0 up at half-time after strikes from trialist Matthias Fanimo and Hugo Cardoso either side of a Luke Ladyman own goal.
Lewis Pritchard and Ben Butler went close for Bovingdon before Stefan Bailey and skipper Ryan Laville both went clean through for one-on-ones but failed to beat QPR keeper Dieng.
Pritchard had the ball in the net at 0-1 but it was disallowed for offside.
Romeo Akinola and half-time substitute Amrit Bansal-McNulty extended the QPR lead after the break before Mus Dauti added a sixth.
Lee told the Gazette on Tuesday: “I was really proud of my team. After a shaky start they really did apply themselves well and, forgetting the score, they should be really pleased with how they played.”
“Now the circus has left town, so to speak, it’s about the business side of football for us now and that starts tonight (last night, July 18, as the Gazette was going to press) against Aylesbury United in our next friendly.
“As for Bovingdon as a club, this wasn’t a one-man thing and we all had to graft to get this done. We had a few doubters that we could host QPR but we did that plus interest.
“Well done to everyone at the club. The chairman, John Wood, in particular, could not have done any more to support me in getting this game to the club.
“Lastly, thank you to a large part of the village and those locally for turning up and to all the QPR supporters as well.
“You all made it a day the club will always remember.”
Bovingdon – Anthony Ladyman, Connor Deadman, Ben Davis, Stefan Bailey, Luke Ladyman, Mitchell Cole, Ben Butler, James Bent, Lewis Pritchard, Ryan Laville, Jay Caines . Subs (all used): Lee Bircham, Jack Maynard, Joe Slade, Stewart King, Ryan Luke, George Mitchell-Gears, Callam Wakefield, Louie Buyon and Josh Banks.
QPR – Dieng (Bowman), Kioso, Genovesi (Ribeiro), Bettache (Mesias), Noel-McLeod, Kaiser, Corner (Bansai-McNulty), Akinola (Miller), Cardos (Dauti), Emmanuel-Thoms (Corner) and Fanimo (Francis).