Oh, the skill was there, the laconic poise, the ability to fall over anywhere on the pitch, but especially in the vicinity of Tony Adams

FAN'S EYE VIEW; No 116 QPR's No 10 shirt Alex Wade
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The Independent Online
As a Sunday footballer of average incompetence, but an imaginary pro as refined as any, one shirt - or rather, the concept behind that shirt - has been both curse and inspiration for longer than a grown man with any sense should admit. What am I talking about? Why, what else but the QPR No 10.

As a child of 10, showing an interest in football a little worrying to my unconverted parents, my grandad, a Carlisle fan whose word was law, hammered home the message that the true fan supported their local team.

No matter that we lived nearer St James' Park (the Exeter City version) than Loftus Road, the question was one of birthplace. The A-Z was found and QPR shaded it over Chelsea and Fulham by half an inch.

As kids do, it took no more than a week or two to absorb what there was of legend on offer at the Bush. The meteoric rise to the First Division which began with the incredible League Cup and Third Division championship double in 1967; the swift return to where many believe we belong in 1969; but then, by the time my grandad's tribal scruples had pointed me in the right direction, a good side was back in business.

The spectre of Rodney Marsh and the No 10 loomed large in my mind. That goal against West Brom in the League Cup final, the astonishing volley against Birmingham in 1970s 5-2 cracker. He may have left for Manchester City, but he had set the trend.

With the arrival of Stan Bowles, there was no hope for me. OK, so we lived in Devon, but did that stop the euphoric newspaper reports, the television highlights, the sound of Brian Moore simply stating "Stanley Bowles", as if the words were complete in themselves? Soon enough, Dad was driving all the way up to Loftus Road, and I was spending every minute flicking a ball from foot to foot, perfecting tricks so complicated that they would only ever come off against a team of statues.

Stan finally went, having dazzled, tripped up a ref and broken his ankle in the mud at Bristol when no one was near him (the only Bowles feat I have ever emulated). The next magician in the hallowed No 10 was Tony Currie, another player whose like isn't around any more.

By this time, I still had not ditched my dream of stepping out in the hoops. But while dreams are free, so was plenty of advice to the effect that being able to juggle the ball all afternoon did not mean much over 90 minutes.

As for QPR, they came close in 1976, finishing runners-up to Liverpool, lost out to Spurs in the 1982 FA Cup (Currie, did you have to?), and as for the 1986 Milk Cup debacle against Oxford, the least said the better.

But we've always been there or thereabouts, the mid-table team whose style and seasons are touch and go. One or two players have, like the team, flattered to deceive, hinting at a revival of the Marsh, Bowles and Currie lineage - Simon Stainrod, John Byrne, Roy Wegerle.

Roy came closest. The skill, the laconic poise, the ability to fall over anywhere on the pitch, especially in the vicinity of Tony Adams, but in the end something was missing, something so devoid from today's game that the idea of an old-fashioned No 10 appearing anywhere, let alone at Loftus Road, is as chimerical as a Bowles header.

That something is flair, true footballing flair, which means outrageous natural ability allied with unshakeable self-belief. It is a fearlessness of the unexpected which the Premiership's bland super-athletes have been conditioned to deny. Its absence makes for a poorer game.

Which is why, as a No 10 whose theatre of dreams is a muddy park somewhere in Southfields on a Sunday morning, I'm thankful for QPR and the club's gifted trio, forgiving of the daft tricks and obsession with style which has been my lot these last 20 years. It would be nice to win something at Loftus Road, but nicer still if a slick No 10 got the winning backheel.

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