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The Love Is Starting To Return

Jose Gomes is changing the mood at the Mad Stad.

Queens Park Rangers v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

I still haven’t properly gotten over that win. The desperation for three points, the elation of John Swift’s goal, the agony of a seemingly inevitable equaliser - which eventually came, the sheer delirium of Nelson Oliveira’s wondergoal, the nerve-shredding finish… and the pure relief of the full-time whistle.

It was a true rollercoaster of emotions - one which only football can provide - and reminiscent of days seemingly long gone. Reading always used to have a knack for a dramatic game, particularly in the entertaining days of Brian McDermott’s first spell, but recent years have been tame in comparison.

Wednesday night’s win though was a proper throwback to the good ol’ days when the players never knew they were beaten - and neither did the fans. Whether at 0-0, 1-0, 1-1 or 2-1, the home support got right behind the team and pushed them over the line. It may have been those on the pitch that got the result, but those in the crowd more than played their part.

That’s happened on plenty of occasions in recent years, but for me it’s often felt a little forced, as if backing the side has been more of a chore than a source of pleasure. The growing disconnect between team and fans since relegation from the Premier League has been evident not only in dwindling attendance figures, but also in the lack of an emotional bond - the kind that we perhaps took for granted in the glory days of Coppell and McDermott.

In short, the love just hasn’t been there. But, on Wednesday night, you could tell that it’s starting to return.

Jose Gomes has done a fine job since his arrival of forging a bond with the supporters, both with his refreshing optimism in interviews and improving the side. Against Blackburn Rovers though, it was another man’s turn.

It’s rare that a Reading player is substituted off to rapturous applause, but that’s exactly what happened to match-winning hero Oliveira. I’m not just talking about the goal, impressive enough in its own right, but also the circumstances in which it came. This is a man who suffered a vicious injury for the club - one that very nearly blinded him, let alone ending his career. To bounce back from that in such ridiculously emphatic fashion was simply sublime.

Nelson Oliveira, I love you.