Reading had a choice ahead of Thursday’s press conference: move on from Tyrone Mings’ apparent stamp on Nelson Oliveira, or address it full on. In the end they not only chose the latter, but went in to the hilt, putting the incident front and centre.
The stamp has of course been big news all week - it’s not every day you see something that’s happened in a Reading game being discussed at national level, but that’s exactly what happened in the days following the 0-0 draw with Aston Villa. Pundits, players, journalists and fans have had their say on whether or not Mings’ action was intentional.
In the end it didn’t matter; the FA washing their hands of any responsibility for Oliveira’s safety by insisting they weren’t able to take the matter further. The referee had seen the incident and not punished Mings, so their hands were tied.
On a completely unrelated note, Wilfried Zaha has been given a one-match ban and £10,000 fine after sarcastically clapping referee Andre Marriner, who showed the player a red card at the time. Perhaps Marriner sent Zaha off without seeing the incident?
Five days down the line, with Jose Gomes and a player set to face the media, Reading could have turned their attention to Saturday’s trip to Sheffield Wednesday. It’s sure to be a vital match in our fight against relegation, so the club could very well have put their focus on that fixture. As for the stamp, they’d already made their position clear - that they were powerless to take the matter further.
“As a club, we ensured that the referee & the FA were fully aware of an incident during Saturday’s match which caused injury to our striker, Nélson Oliveira. But as the incident was seen by the ref at the time, we understand no retrospective action can or will be taken by the FA.”
Perhaps the easy thing to do would have been to keep Gomes on the leash when the media visited Hogwood Park. We’re frustrated by the injury, but we wish Nelson well, and so on. Keeping their composure would probably have been the easy choice.
Instead, they went to town on it, making the ballsy move of putting Nelson himself up to talk to the press. The striker, sporting a thick bandage over a nose that had been broken in four places, didn’t hold back.
“What makes me a bit angry is that it is something that could be avoided. If I did that to a player and I know I could avoid it, excuse my language but I would feel like sh*t. That was putting my life in danger, I could be blind now. I would not just have to stop playing football but even for my life it would be really bad.”
And then there’s the interview with Jose Gomes. You’d be forgiven for not noticing there’s a game on Saturday, with all four minutes of the video (which you can see below) focussing on Nelson Oliveira - not even a bit on the game at Hillsborough. Watching the footage, Gomes’ frustration is clear, as is his view that Tyrone Mings’ stamp was deliberate.
“After, when I looked to the pictures, I have no doubt at all it was intentional - the Mings movement. Because you can see in the pictures before he stepped, he looked down, so he could avoid the zone when he stepped, where he stepped. Everybody that is working in football and play football knows that it was a completely intentional action.”
The club set those quotes on a video against a new angle of the incident, which you can see from 55 seconds into this footage:
Reading have played a blinder
Any one of those three actions - putting Oliveira up to the media, letting Gomes go in on Mings, and releasing a new angle of the stamp - could in isolation simply be seen as the club standing up for their own. Although that’s certainly true, it’s the combination of all three that I find fascinating.
Reading have taken full advantage of what’s been a source of outright rage for the manager, players and supporters. Milking the incident for all its worth, as well as the subsequent weak response from the FA, is a great way of creating a siege mentality at a club fighting against relegation.
The idea that ‘one of our own players has been deliberately injured, and we’re not getting any justice out of the FA’ doesn’t have to be said directly, but the club have done well to give it a subtle push. That kind of narrative is one heck of a way to give fans and players alike unity and motivation - we’ll need plenty of both if we’re to be a Championship side next season.