In part one of Brian Davis’ story, he told us why supporting Reading has lost the magic it used to have. In this piece, he explains why more of us should follow a non-league club.
After looking around in August 2013 near my new abode in Wiltshire, I had a number of local good standard non-league options available to me. As a Reading fan, supporting Swindon Town or even just going there when Reading weren’t playing simply wasn’t an option. It wasn’t for me. Never.
Swindon Supermarine four miles away, Highworth Town five miles, Cirencester Town 11 miles, Fairford Town 11 miles. Hungerford seemed too far at 24 miles. I was looking for something that didn’t take that much effort, call me lazy, but over 30 years of driving (and being driven) up and down the M4 for football is more than enough for anybody!
I went to them all. Supermarine first, which on a nice day is walkable through country roads and tracks and after a couple of times getting lost, eventually I found a shortcut that worked!
Cirencester, Highworth and Fairford were fairly nice clubs and in 2016/17 Fairford were running a £25 season ticket offer, probably the cheapest ST in England at the time for that level of football, but the pull was always back to Supermarine. I didn’t get the same vibe and feel elsewhere as I did at Supermarine and in the four seasons I’ve got to know a few guys there including the club photographer, Chairman and some of the players Dad’s as well as a number of regular fans.
I can enjoy a couple of pints if I walk, stand up where I want and be treated like an adult. Everybody knows each other and plays their own little part in making it all come together on a Saturday or Tuesday night under the floodlights. We averaged an attendance of 216 last season.
If I drive, then if I want to, I can leave the house at 2.45, park for free, be in the ground with a £1 brew before kick-off and I’m home as the “Sports Report” music is usually playing! An afternoon’s entertainment for as little as a tenner!
The real tell for me that I care more about football at this level is that we were 2-0 up versus Paulton Rovers in the FA Cup 3rd Qualifying round a few weeks ago and we lost 3-2 and I came out of that game annoyed and disappointed more than I have any Reading game in a long, long time.
I’ll always be a Royal
I’ve thought and been asked, what if the two teams met in the FA Cup - well I don’t ever see Reading winning the FA Cup. We’ve had a semi-final heartbreaker at Wembley and in reality, another big day out in a final, would likely result in getting hammered by a Chelsea or Man Utd, so it would have to be a Supermarine victory and setting themselves up for many seasons to come and having their own piece of FA Cup romance. And anyway, Reading would probably bore them off the park given the current style of football.
Which is another reason why I’m enjoying what I do now. We’re a good young team, who like to play football and attack! Reading are a team that keep the ball for 75% of the game and lose 1-0! At the Bristol City game I attended earlier this season, it was about 10 minutes into the game before I started checking my phone to see how Supermarine were doing, which was another pointer to where my head is at football wise. I’ve seen some absolutely dreadful teams in the last 30 years, but I don’t ever recall a team being as boring to watch as the last two to three years have been under Jaap Stam, Brian McDermott Mk2 and Steve Clarke.
Don’t get me wrong, Reading will always be my team and this isn’t a Reading or Football bashing exercise or kick them whilst they are down because I only went to about six or seven games last season in a playoff campaign, it’s just my personal experience of growing up a football fan. I will always be a Reading supporter and I’ll still go back to three or four games a season, a floater if you will.
I’ve been going for 31 years now after all, so have a streak to maintain, and if you’ve read this far, fair play! But I just get more enjoyment out of being somebody who can do something for a club. It’s not about feeling or needing to be wanted either. By me going to Supermarine, spending money on raffles and half time draws, seats for the season, sponsoring the match ball, doing away trips, a bit of merchandise here and there and probably more importantly, volunteering my services where required, now gives me more satisfaction than paying £39 (that’s six and a half home games at Supermarine and it’s admirable that Reading are implementing the £20’s plenty campaign and I hope that many clubs follow suit) to go to Leeds in October or to a home game on a cold Tuesday night in February against Derby.
I get a sense that I am actually doing something positive for a club and contributing to them existing. I look forward to games now. I’ve found a desire and passion for the game again and for a club, a club that I feel part of and proud to be a supporter of. At Reading and every other top flight, Championship and most Football League clubs now, I and we are just a number. Maybe that will come back at some point with Reading? I certainly wouldn’t rule it out, but it’s hard to see right now with the money and business the game has become.
At Supermarine the bar is open to the fans, players, chairman and directors before and after the game and for some away games the fans can travel on the same bus as them all and they make you feel a part of it and welcome. Clearly I’m not wanting or expecting this at Reading, but I do know that the players at least used to go into the Royals Rendevous after games at Elm Park when I was a lad and that times have changed since then and those days will likely never return.
Although “Non-League Day” was a little while back, I would still encourage anybody who lives local to a decent level Non-League team to check them out, particularly when Reading are away and you’re not going or don’t have a game at all. If you take away any preconception you have about what you’re going to see, then I think you will enjoy it.
Sure, you’re not going to see Harry Kane or Cristiano Ronaldo or a game or team as good as that Reading FC 2005/06 team, but at the same time, you’re not going to see eleven overweight, hungover guys who smoke at half time, running round kicking each other. There’s some really good football in steps one to five and below of Non-League and it’s probably a lot closer to you than you might think.
I’ve had some of the best and worst days of my life supporting Reading and met some wonderful people along the way and have very close friends and even a fiancee because of Reading Football Club. They have helped shape my life and make me part of who I am today and I will be forever thankful, and although it’s not moving on, it’s just not what it was and that genuinely makes me feel sad.
Perhaps Reading FC and I need relationship counselling!
Are you a tad unenthused by modern football, and have started following a non-league side?
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