Okay, to start with, Newcastle is really, really far away. I took the easy option and got a flight there and back, but hats off to everyone who was able to make the trip. We're all a tad crazy.
Eyebrows were raised when Jaap Stam started the same XI as the one who slumped to a deserved 2-0 defeat at Wolves at the weekend. However, the performance on display at St James' Park on Wednesday night was a stark contrast. The players looked much more confident with the formation for a start.
There were a few nervy passes between the back five in the opening minutes of the game, but they quickly settled into a team that looked like they were going to cause Newcastle problems. You could see the players thinking about every ball they played, whether it was defensive or attacking.
It was refreshing to see such effective organisation from a Reading team; something which was lacking from most of the second half of last season. And similarly to the Wolves game, the body language didn't change once Newcastle went in front. We had numerous opportunities to get level before Garath McCleary equalised through a penalty just before the break. The soft penalty decision for Newcastle early on in the second half also didn't stop the Royals from creating chances, but a great free kick and a couple of defensive errors gave Rafael Benitez's their third and fourth goals of the evening.
Yet again Reading dominated the match stats. We had 58% of the possession during the game, more shots, more corners and more completed passes than Newcastle; stats that won't be seen very often at St James' Park for the rest of the season.
During my time in the North East, I've not only watched the football but I've been doing a few cultural bits and bobs with my Mum. I knew a little bit about the wall up here, but I've learnt more in the last couple of days about the guys who built the thing. Bear with me as I give you a very brief history lesson, but I promise its going somewhere.
Emperor Hadrian (or Caesar Publius Aelius Traianus Hadrianus Augustus as he was known to his mates) decided to construct a wall to make a boundary at the northern end of the Roman Empire. In other words he wanted to keep the Scots out of Britannia. Over a period of six years, Hadrian managed to get an army of men together to build the 76 mile divide. It started as a basic wall but reforcements were added to make the wall safe and secure.
Six years is a long time to build a wall, but Hadrian's army stuck at it and they got there, with the wall playing a significant part in Roman Britain for over 300 years.
Now, I'm not saying that Stam's style of football is going to last for centuries. My point is that it's probably going to take some time before we get the results we want to see. We have a strong leader who has a very clear vision of what he wants to see on the field, just like Hadrian and his wall.
I also believe we have the basic foundations for something very good. Wednesday night was the first time for a while that I've 100% enjoyed watching Reading play. Okay, maybe 95% because we lost, but the improvement in half a week was impressive. I can't remember the last time I walked away from a game feeling hard done by that we'd lost rather than frustrated that we didn't give it a go.
Ultimately I do believe the better team won but I don't feel the scoreline was a true reflexion of how well Reading played. Now we've just got to keep adding to the foundations and good things will come, I'm sure of it.