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Hunty's Column: Enjoyable World Cup Brings Back The Feel Good Factor

Our resident columnist returns with his take on the goings-on at club and international level.

England v Croatia: Semi Final - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Bye bye World Cup for another year! I actually really enjoyed this tournament, and loved seeing the usual suspects like Germany, Portugal, Spain and Argentina depart early. Despite my reservations in this column prior to the tournament starting, I was happily proved wrong.

The feel good factor about our national football team is back. The positive impact on our country - bar a few idiots’ behaviour - took us back to the days of Italia ‘90 and Euro ‘96. OK, we didn’t win! Do we ever? Does it matter? No not really.

Watching school teacher Gareth Southgate take his class of young talent on the best summer camp ever was just incredible. No egos, no focus on WAGS or on players’ injuries or haircuts. OK there was the garbage about Sterling’ s tattoo. However, this soon stopped when Gareth gave the journalists detention. This was followed by giving them 500 lines:

“I must be nice, not a scumbag journalist”.

Problem solved.

Watching untried talent go about their first World Cup with swagger and confidence, but without the BS, was heaven. Jordan Pickford, Kieran Trippier and Harry Maguire among others looked like they wanted to be there and loved the experience. Unlike in prior tournaments a new gang is on the scene and will be there for the foreseeable future. We have a lot of talent coming through, including that young bloke from Fulham everyone goes on about.

We do miss that creative flair in midfield but how many teams at club or international level have that? Not many! However, I loved watching Luka Modric control a game - it was a masterclass. That is the benchmark of what Liam Kelly has to aim for if he wants to play at the highest levels.

Football certainly came home even here in Ireland! I have never seen so many Irish/Croatians wanting a team to beat England. The next day though they were Irish again - now that’s tragic.

The Royals’ pre-season moves to Austria

So, early days at Reading and off to Austria. Pre-season results haven’t been great, but there was a better showing at Fulham on Saturday.

David Meyler will have a big impact on the team this season, and I hope he will give Kelly and John Swift the freedom to show what they can do. Andy Yiadom will keep Chris Gunter on his toes, something the Welshman has needed for years. John O’Shea brings the knowledge and calm head, whilst Marc McNulty sounds a bit of a character from some of his social media postings.

Also, if we can find a way to get Sone Aluko to be as effective as Modou Barrow, then things are looking up.

Maybe it’s bye bye to Joey Van den berg if someone can afford to pay him. He’s a likeable guy but limited in what he can do for the team. George Evans is also possibly on his way which is a real shame. I like him as a player but he doesn’t quite seem to fit the Reading team.

The mystery striker on its way will hopefully add the firepower we need but, as one comes in, another leaves. I was really sad to see super Yann Kermorgant go as the last time I had man love for a Reading player was when Shane Long was here.

Yann couldn’t follow on fron his superb play-off season, when he was simply amazing - in the end, age and injury finally caught up with him. No-one had a bad work to say about him and he was always so friendly.

Merci beaucoup Yann, and enjoy your retirement.

So, not long to go until the season starts, let’s enjoy the sun and hopefully a fairly injury-free summer. Finally, a big shout out to the Club 1871 gang who are getting the fans together behind the South Stand goal.

It’s a brilliant idea and great to see something so positive. I will be joining in when I come over, so it’ll be great to see you there as well.