Eight years ago marked one of the greatest days in the Queens Park Rangers history books.
It was the day that the former England striker fired the R’s back to the Premier League in the 2013/14 Sky Bet Championship Play-Off Final.
But now, there might be a new date added to the calendar.
“There is a ‘Bobby Zamora Day’ here, and we hope now that there’ll be a ‘Chloe Kelly Day’,” said Charlotte Edwards, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Lead at QPR in the Community Trust. “In the QPR community, that is still such a huge day, winning the Play-Offs and Bobby Zamora getting that goal.
“When we saw that winning goal go in and it was her toe on the end of it, we were over the moon. We’re really pleased that she remembered her roots and had that QPR flag waving around in her post-match interview.
“There’s been calls for her to be inaugurated into the Forever R’s which is our past players alumni, so I really hope that happens.”
The Lionesses star, who netted the match-winner in the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 Final against Germany, marking her first international goal, started her journey with her hometown team, who she still follows religiously.
A Hoops flag could even be seen in the wake of England’s triumph as a shellshocked Kelly made an attempt to sum up her emotions in the aftermath before breaking away to join in a rendition of Sweet Caroline with her team-mates.
“It is amazing. To see her being involved in that spotlight is incredible, knowing what she’s been through,” Edwards added.
The R’s now boast a number of competitive women’s teams, from Under-10s, Under-12, Under-14s and Under-16s, to supplement the Women’s First-Team, who ply their trade in the Women’s National League (Tier 4) in the South East Division, and the Women’s Reserve Team, who will enter into the National Reserves Division this year for the first time.
And, since bringing the Women’s Team back into the Club fold three years ago, prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, QPR have driven attendances to fixtures, which are played at Hanwell Town – incidentally, where Kelly grew up.
“That association to the Club is really, really important to us. We tend to find that a lot of the people that come to the Women’s games are season ticket holders or members at QPR and they just love the Club.
“We had a game at Loftus Road at the end of the season and not only did we get five or six times the amount of the usual fans, but for the players themselves to be surrounded like that and treated like professional players for the day was hugely important to them.
Photography: Ian Randell
“We’re really fortunate that we work very closely together with the Club. Our Foundation is based within the stadium itself so having that day-to-day interaction is key. That could be working with the commercial department to help us try and bridge sponsorship deals across the main Club and the Women’s setup, or it could be working with the press department.
“It just makes everything a lot more professional, and we get a wider audience then. We’ll put something out in the newsletter to our season ticket holders and members at QPR and we’ll get much more reach than it would if it was a newsletter to those that attend our Women’s Team games.”
Edwards, who was in attendance at the Final at Wembley Stadium, has been around the sport for just shy of two decades and the growth of women’s football is still astounding to her.
“I remember starting with a County FA 19 years ago and we had 12 girls’ teams registered with a County FA that covered around three million people within London,” she explained.
“If you can fast forward and see where we are now, our local girls’ league has 1,500 girls playing every week. We ourselves could double the number of teams that we run if we had the capacity to do that.”
“For us now, we just need to be prepared for all of the logistics behind that because we’re starting to get a lot of interest in all levels of female football. We need to be prepared that we need more coaches and facilities, and the financial implications of that as well. I work with the UEFA Legacy group and the whole thing has been about what happens next.”
The EFL Trust’s Talent Inclusion Programme is one way in which future international stars can be accommodated and QPR have become heavily involved in the project.
“It’s a huge piece of work for us,” she continued. “It’s something that I’m quite passionate about and have been for a number of years, particularly in the diverse area that we work in. We’re really keen to try and find that unearthed talent and support those players that might not have traditionally got involved in football.
“It’s an exciting time for female football. Having someone like Chloe lead the way, that doesn’t do us any harm.”