My first ever experience of heartbreak came at the hands of Scott Sinclair, Brendan Rodgers and Swansea City on a bank holiday Monday in May 2011.
After a reasonably sluggish start to his first full season in charge and selling academy graduate Gylfi Sigurdsson to Hoffenheim, Brian McDermott managed to guide his Royals team to fifth in the Championship table.
The position we finished in meant that we would play Cardiff City in the semi-final. They were a team at the time led by Dave Jones and had been favourites for a reasonable amount of time to reach the Premier League. Losing in the play-off final the previous season and with the likes of Craig Bellamy, Jay Bothroyd and Peter Whittingham regularly starting for them, Cardiff really were a force to be reckoned with.
The first leg at the Madejski finished 0-0, but was one of those exciting goalless draws. Reading really battled hard to keep Cardiff out, and the loss of Craig Bellamy early on for the Welsh side proved to be catastrophic for them going into the second leg.
The away leg in Cardiff was pretty special. Matt Mills had stated after the game that we could easily go there and get a result, which is exactly what we did.
With the pressure still very much on Cardiff, Reading started brightly, and were rewarded with their efforts in the 28th minute when Shane Long chipped a nice little ball over the top of Stephen Bywater and into the Cardiff goal. The Irishman then doubled our lead just on the stroke of half time with a coolly taken penalty after Mills was brought down in the area.
That Jobi McAnuff goal to make the tie 3-0 in the second half is definitely in my top five favourite Reading goals. Just that run and finish; amazing.
Sadly, we were brought crashing back to Earth with a bang when we met Swansea City at Wembley just a couple of weeks later. Swansea had finished third in the league after a good few seasons under Martinez and Sousa, and were now being led by former Reading manager Brendan Rodgers.
So, what went wrong?
Pretty much everything. It just genuinely wasn’t meant to be Reading’s day.
Woeful defending from Reading (in which Zurab Khizanishvilli was lucky not to get himself sent off), arguments in the tunnel leading to the sending off of Nigel Gibbs and substitute Jay Tabb, a Scott Sinclair hat-trick and that Jem Karacan deflected shot onto the post…
Being 3-0 down at half time was never how anyone expected the game to go, but even after a valiant attempt at a comeback, the final ended 4-2 in Swansea’s favour.
The emotions I felt that night in Cardiff were some of the most incredible feelings I've had as a football fan. To be the proper underdog and convincingly go and beat the favourites in their own back yard was something pretty special. The pride and passion shown by the players that night was just truly overwhelming for those of us who had travelled to South Wales.
Fast forward a few weeks and the heartache of losing at Wembley was almost unbearable. When I think back to that day the overriding memory is of the players' reactions when Jem hit the post which would have made it 3-3. What would've happened for the rest of the game had we managed to pull off our own magical comeback. The emotional turmoil of that game was enough, but had we lost after getting it back to 3-3 I think that would have been even harder to take.
I’m a big believer in things happening for a reason to pave the way for something better. I’d say that’s what the 2010/11 play-off campaign was, we just didn’t realise it at the time. Winning the play-offs would have been special, but nothing beats being Champions.
2016/17 Team vs 2010/11 Team
Ali Al-Habsi v Adam Federici
I like Al Habsi a lot, but Federici never gave me as many heart-in-mouth situations as Al-Habsi does.
Chris Gunter v Andy Griffin
Adds more of an effective attacking option compared to Griffin. Plus his defending against Swansea was unforgivable.
Paul McShane v Matt Mills
That Moore/McShane partnership has been great this season when there hasn’t been injuries/suspensions, I’d like to see it continue.
Liam Moore v Zurab Khizanishvili
I’ve been really impressed with Moore this season; I can’t think of a Reading team I wouldn’t stick him in.
Tyler Blackett v Ian Harte
He may have been at the latter end of his career when he played for Reading, but Ian Harte could almost certainly still defend and definitely had a hell of a left foot on him.
Jordan Obita v Jobi McAnuff
In a 4-4-2 formation, I’d love to see McAnuff in this line up. I was a big fan of his whilst he was with Reading.
Liam Kelly v Jem Karacan
Jem Karacan was great for us before his injuries, and I was glad to see him back in English football with Bolton at the end of this season. I think Kelly still has some learning to do but has had a great season on the whole.
John Swift v Mikele Leigertwood
I just couldn’t get enough of that Karacan/Leigertwood partnership in midfield. It was key for our success in 2011/12.
Roy Beerens v Jimmy Kebe
Sorry, Roy. An in form Jimmy Kebe would win this one for me.
Garath McCleary v Noel Hunt
Both great players, but I think McCleary edges it in terms of pace and skill.
Yann Kermorgant v Shane Long
A really difficult one, but I think Kermorgant adds so much to the team regardless of whether he's scoring goals.