So this is it, an FA Cup semi-final, a moment in the history of the club, a huge game, the moment we've been waiting 88 long years for—well, actually, I've only been waiting nine years for it.
So You Want A Life Story, Kid?
Nine years. To save you from working that out, I became a supporter of Reading over the summer of 2006, meaning I missed that fantastic 2005/6 season, my debut football supporter season being the one in which Steve Coppell managed the side to an unforeseeable 8th in the Premier League.
Now hold on with your, "Plastic!" assaults for just one moment, please. My dad and his sister—therefore, my aunt—had long since quarrelled over me and my football support. Ever since I was a boy, my dad had told me about these fantastic Tottenham Hotspur players whilst my aunt would give me Arsenal merch at every opportunity. The only problem with these two approaches was I had literally no interest in football or the culture. I was far more interested in playing Pandemonium on the Playstation One, or watching the Lion King on repeat.
Football? What's the point? Pah. What the hell is an offside? Hold on, why does that guy have stupid hair? Football would be more interesting with explosions and fireworks. Yeah, I want a ball that explodes whenever it hits the net. That is entertainment.
I began supporting Reading in 2006/7 because something happened over that summer. Can you guess what it was? Yeah, you got it, the 2006 World Cup in Germany. For one reason or another, that tournament gripped me. I sat down to watch one England game, and the next thing I knew I wanted to watch every single game... And haven't stopped watching football since. I was a late bloomer, what with my being 15 and all.
Where am I going with this? Well, I'm going to Wembley—though not literally, and that's the point.
No Wembley For Me
I'm not physically going to Wembley because I don't have enough Royalty Points. "Plastic!" I hear you scream again. Calm down. I don't have enough Royalty Points because, at 15, I didn't have the money and my parents weren't interested in taking (nor paying for) me. Then I got a job at Woolworth's—we all know what happened next. Redundant.
Next up, university… Low on money, time and above all, desire. I'd rather spend my Saturday afternoons at the Student Union guzzling snakebite, ta very much.
Back to Reading with a bang, degree in hand and bar job at Wetherspoons to hopefully begin to replenish my bank account (spoiler: it didn't). Again, time and money were an issue but above all, desire was again very low.
Up to this point in this article has been an elaborate contextualisation of one very simple fact: I am not a season ticket holder, nor do I have enough Royalty Points to get a ticket to Wembley.
No Complaints, Fair Is Fair
You won't catch me b*tching and moaning though, oh no, because I'm aware of another simple fact: I don't deserve to go to Wembley.
That's right. For all the complaints about the ticketing system, I don't see an issue with it. They don't anticipate going on general sale, rightly so. Anyone that thinks otherwise isn't thinking straight.
This is one of the biggest games in the club's history, maybe the only semi-final at Wembley that many Reading fans will ever witness and one that only 'true' fans deserve to go to.
You may have noticed that up to this point I haven't referred to myself as a 'fan', but as a 'supporter'; the two words mean different things in my mind. A supporter is someone that watches from afar, keeps on top of the latest goings on, but doesn't often cough up cold hard cash to back their team. A fan is dedicated, passionate and spends more than is wise to back their team. Treks up north, splashing cash every other weekend or purchasing a costly season ticket, they are fans. The ones that make the journey to the Madejski Stadium at every opportunity, they are fans. The ones who watch highlights and read articles are supporters.
I'll hold my hands up and admit I've not been to the Madejski Stadium nearly as much as I should, could, or have (recently) wanted to. I've given reasons above, but I realise that even in those situations if I had cared enough at the time I could have gone to the Mad Stad.
Fans are the ones who deserve to go to Wembley.
If you don't have a season ticket, that's understandable given financial circumstances. If you don't have 300 Royalty Points (like me), then you should really look in the mirror and ask if you deserve to go to Wembley ahead of thousands of other people who have been to more games than you, spent more money than you and exhausted their voices more than you. Don't even look at me if you've not got a member card.
Some fans live far away, either in another country or more miles away than makes sense to travel; for those cases, I feel sorry for you. You would hope the club would have a contingency plan for circumstances like that but it may well just be too difficult with such high demand from so many other fans who fill the requirements of a ticket to Wembley.
I'm well aware that I may be gunned down for being so honest about my lack of appearances at the Madejski Stadium—it is something I'm hoping to resolve in the coming years—but to everyone that can go to Wembley, I have just one thing to say: kudos, and keep it up.