We always welcome writing from Royals around the globe and that phrase is particularly appropriate this evening as Brian Willett explains what it's like being a Reading fan on the other side of the globe.
Imagine hearing some wonderful news (job, girl, free Kinder Buenos for life or what have you) that you absolutely must share with someone. Now, imagine that you’re only speaking the Queen’s English and everyone around you speaks French. Not only do they only speak French, they wouldn’t even care about your job or girl or Kinder Bueno even if they could understand you.
With no overstatement whatsoever, this is what it’s like being a Reading supporter in Birmingham, Alabama during this incredible 2011-2012 Championship season. It has been difficult and lonely being a supporter here ever since I started following the club in the 2004-2005 season.
I basically became a supporter after Bobby Convey’s transfer in 2004. I’m generally partial to clubs featuring Americans and Reading had two. Plus, I needed a club to support and my contrarian nature would not allow for me to cheer for the Manchester Uniteds or Liverpools of England.
Most of my support has consisted of watching gamecasts, following on Twitter, the occasional BBC Radio Berkshire stream and reading this fine site, naturally. I watched the Royals on TV in the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 seasons on occasion but, as you can imagine, Fox Soccer doesn’t carry the “small clubs” as often as they do Chelsea and Arsenal. I did sign up for Reading Player last season, but have been unable to do that this year on account of my own coaching commitments.
I’ve managed to make it to two matches at the Madejski: a 2-0 loss to Portsmouth on New Year’s Day 2008 and a 1-0 win against Ipswich in October 2010. All that to say, I’ve probably actually “watched” Reading about 15 times in that 7-8 year span. I even had to miss the play-off final last year! although, maybe that was a good one to miss.
Of course, I’m blessed to live in a time where I can even follow a Championship club thanks to the wonders of the internet. However it just becomes slightly more difficult to stay engaged in a promotion race when you can only follow on BBC’s live text. Trust me, no amount of describing a dirty tackle from Michael Brown will cause me to become righteously indignant about it. Displeased, sure but, it’s hard to arouse much passion while reading a 140-character tweet.
The worst part of all of this, however, is the inability to share in my excitement with anyone else. There may be plenty of Reading supporters in Alabama. If there are, then they never say anything when I sport my Reading jersey.
Mostly, I just celebrate on an island. I have a few friends whom I can message about our progress. I have done this often in the past few months, much to their probable annoyance. They mostly respond with a token “hey, good job” or “you think you’ll get promoted?” There’s little actual discussion. I mostly just sit in my office (during the weekday games) and on my couch and flail around in celebration all by my lonesome.
Wait, what’s that? We beat Southampton 3-1 and now sit top of the table? Why don’t I just stop my whinging then. URZ!
Thanks again to Brian and if you're a Royal abroad or at home and fancy sharing your experiences then drop us a line at Thetilehurstend@gmail.com or tweet us @thetilehurstend.