Last week I brought you the history of Sheffield United fans’ animosity towards Carlos Tevez, a player who spent most of his professional career playing one or two levels higher than the club in question.
It can often be the case that one flashpoint in a rare meeting can be responsible for years of hatred. Particularly if, as was the case with the former West Ham and Juventus man, they had a part to play in such a gap opening up between the two clubs involved.
But it doesn’t have to be about goals. Indeed, when it comes to Queens Park Rangers and John Terry, goals are nowhere near the equation.
Before the Rs met Chelsea in the Premier League in October 2011, Terry had played a mere 13 minutes of football against them, replacing Sam Hutchinson in a League Cup match two years prior. In QPR’s 13 seasons after Terry’s professional debut for their neighbours in 1998, 12 were spent in the second tier and three in what is now League One.
“The hate for John Terry is something that unifies QPR message boards in a way I’ve never seen,” Rs fan Alex Ingham tells me,
“Left vs right, ‘moaners’ vs ‘happyclappers’ – all divisions gone.”
But if the hostility had been largely shaped by club rivalries and a vague personal disdain, that all changed when Terry came face-to-face with Anton Ferdinand at Loftus Road in a bad-tempered game which would see Chelsea end up with nine men (Terry was not one of the two men dismissed).
For those with short memories, here’s the TL;DR version of what happened in October 2011.
• The FA found Terry guilty of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand during that Premier League game.
• The England man was slapped with a four-match ban and a £220,000 fine.
• Chelsea fans were heard chanting “Anton Ferdinand: you know what you are” during a Champions League game between the offence and the guilty verdict.
• Some home fans booed Ferdinand in the reverse fixture between the two teams at Stamford Bridge in 2012.
“I can remember thinking that John Terry was a bit of a dick head way before the incident with Anton Ferdinand,” says Sam Norman, a QPR fan from Northampton.
However, while he says earlier stories about the England man were one thing, the fallout from the Ferdinand incident were another altogether.
“It was just a horrific, disgusting game,” Norman adds. “They had two players sent off, and then all of this happened, which was annoying because it was our first time playing Chelsea in the Premier League in such a long time, and we won 1-0, but it was overshadowed by John Terry.
“That incident really laid the foundations for every West London derby that followed. I wasn’t at that particular game, but I’ve been to Loftus Road to see us play Chelsea in the seasons that followed and the atmosphere was toxic. I think I speak for most fans when I say he’s universally hated there.”
Indeed, a quick scan of the ‘Loft For Words’ QPR fan forum gives us a glimpse into the ill-feeling towards the former England international.
“[Terry] was obviously never liked anyway but after the Anton Ferdinand thing that hate became concentrated 1000% and his treatment in the media as ‘captain, leader, legend’ really, really irks the whole fanbase,” Ingham adds.
It would be wrong to overlook the response of Chelsea fans too, especially when Ferdinand’s brother Rio made the move to Loftus Road in 2014, with Norman pointing to “victim blaming” which was “off the scale”.
There is every chance the following Premier League meetings between the sides would have produced just as much ill-feeling towards Terry, but it is impossible to gauge the capacity for that kind of sentiment.
You cannot look at the Terry-QPR situation in a vacuum, ultimately due to what the centre-back was found to have done that evening at Loftus Road. But at the same time, it seems unlikely that we would have ever seen a situation between the pair that could be described as ‘all smiles’.
QPR dropped back down to the Championship in 2015, of course, and with Terry’s time at Chelsea coming to an end this summer, we have surely seen the last encounter between the two parties. Does that mean the froth and the forum posts will dissipate? It seems unlikely.