Reading fans who live in or near Reading are so lucky - they don't have far to go to see the team play. When you live in Toronto, Canada it takes a bit longer and costs more. But I am fortunate in being retired (so I have the time), and I have places to stay in the UK (reducing the cost), so a few times each season I fly over to see a few games.
I've just returned from such a visit, seeing the games at QPR (drew 1-1), against Aston Villa (lost 2-1) and at Rotherham (won 1-0). Others have commented far better than I can on the games themselves, so what follows is how I felt about seeing the games.
The first game at QPR was easy to get to since I was staying in West London. Do the visitors' seats at Loftus Road have the least legroom of any stadium in the UK? I have travelled on budget airlines with more room for my feet. And does the late afternoon sun ever cause the goalie at the Loftus Road end to have trouble seeing high balls coming from a south westerly direction? Anyway the away section was full so there was a good atmosphere. This was an enjoyable game to watch, but the passing around the back worried me and Ali Al Habsi's kicking wasn't his best.
At the Madejski stadium I was, of course, on familiar ground. I was impressed by the over 4,000 Aston Villa fans who filled the South Stand, despite their team being in the lower half of the table and, presumably, most of them having to get back to Birmingham later that night. They also acted very well during the minute of silence at the beginning of the game and the minute's applause during the game.
Reading's style frustrated me and, I think, other fans. I am beginning to think that possession percentage can be a misleading statistic. I would be more interested in comparing possession with the ball when you are in the opponent's half. A disappointing evening, mainly due to the late penalty goal by Villa.
I always enjoy going to games in the north of England (at least until the game starts!). I like the countryside in the north, and the train ride is an opportunity to relax and arrive in a mood of optimism.
The train from St. Pancras had a number of football shirts on display - Crystal Palace fans going to Leicester, and QPR fans going to Sheffield Wednesday. I didn't see any Reading shirts until I caught the local from Sheffield to Rotherham. I liked the stadium - close to the railway station, good legroom (QPR take note), friendly stewards and sensible prices for food outside the stadium. Surprisingly I could not see a clock from the visitors stand and, although scores in other games were updated regularly, there was no score for our game (not that it was hard to keep score...).
Compared to the 4,000 plus Aston Villa fans at Reading earlier in the week, 660 Reading fans seemed rather low. Anyway Ali Al Habsi kept us in the game with some great saves and finally, after a missed penalty, a shot that hit the crossbar, and a few missed chances, we finally scored. So it was a good trip back to London!
So three games and a draw, a loss, and a win. Obviously one always hopes for more, but any one of the games could have been a win, a draw or a loss. Why did I not stay for the game against Arsenal? Because I booked my plane ticket in August, long before anyone knew about the prospect of a game against Arsenal, and changing my ticket would have been too expensive.
I hope to be back in January for more!