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Hunty’s Column: A Rollercoaster Season

Reading went through some rough times in 2018/19, but got to safety in the end.

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

Well that was another season of bipolar football. Back in August, for the first game live on the box while relaxing in some hotel in rural Ireland, would it be a case of new start, new signings, new order?

Jon Dadi puts us ahead against Frank Lampard’s Derby County on his own personal Sky Sports channel... this looks good. Then we let in two goals in the second half, causing a remote control to take an early bath and the Sky lovefest for Frank to begin. This lack of fight would be a familiar pattern for a long while.

My first trip over was for the Bolton Wanderers game, a 1-0 defeat that summed up everything wrong with Reading at the time - atmosphere flat, no fight, and no passion.

Club 1871 tried to changed that by creating something different and were ridiculed. In truth though, the whole club didn’t feel right; fans bitching at each other, silence from the owners and the fat controller slowly ruining the club we love. To be fair, Paul Clement was doing his best.

Reading v Stoke City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images

My next trip was for home game against Millwall and my first sighting of the new Yak. What an impression he made that day: two goals and here we go. Would it be an upturn in form, will we be all right?

There were rumblings of discontent behind the scenes and then the CEO and manager, aka Steptoe and Son, were gone. With the team now in the bottom four, who have we got lined up?

Who is this Portuguese good-looking cool dude? He sounds very nice, and got a decent away draw and clean sheet against QPR in his second game - renewed optimism? No, we got spanked at home by Swansea City. Wow, this really is a Joy Division.

Now transfer window time - let’s say a prayer for the morning after... but wait a minute. Jose did a Tommy Burns and barred a few kids from the playground; in rode a famous five not seen since Five Go Mad in Dorset.

A goalie who played in a 7-5 defeat which I’m still traumatised about, a bloke who couldn’t get a game for Leeds United and another who had the same problem at Rangers, an American centre back (well, the last one I heard of was Alexis Lalas, the big ginger fella back in the 90s), and then there was the crazy Portuguese fella at Norwich City who just seemed to be very angry all the time.

Wait a minute... Tommy Burns brought in the deadline-day seven that helped us get relegated in our last season at Elm Park. Surely this is so crazy it can’t work! But it did - battling performances, a good couple of wins and all of a sudden we were harder to beat. Finally, signs of life and improvement.

The next game for me was Aston Villa at home and a mental health awareness walk from the centre of town to the Madejski Stadium. Sadly, Tyrone Mings went too far and tested Nelson’s mental health by stamping on his head in that battling draw. There was absolute uproar from Jose afterwards.

Three absolute games of madness then set the tone for the rest of the season. Zorro’s winner against Blackburn Rovers started it while Mo Barrow’s late great strike at Ipswich Town sent the fans and players into delirium - together as one, when was the last time we saw that?

Then the Wigan Athletic game; what can I say? It was amazing to be there! The fans and players kept going despite being 1-0 down, then 2-1 down with only minutes to go, then bang! 2-2, the place went bonkers! And in the 97th minute, Yakou Meite sent us all into delirium.

That win brought everyone even closer together and gave us genuine belief that we could stay up. Another one followed against Preston North End, then a rearguard action at Norwich City. It was Meite again - 1-0, can we hang on? Two late goals, no way! Then up popped our player of the season, Andy Rinomhota, and a deserved point.

Next game for me was Brentford at home and, by then, the whole club had changed. The atmosphere was brilliant, with Club 1871 getting bigger each game and fans keeping the faith. We went 2-0 up thanks to Yak. Martinez, an absolute star so far, auditioned for Kajagoogoo, and golden locks was too shy, hush hush eye to eye, and it was 2-1.

This new Reading didn’t know when they were beaten though. There was a massive away following at Brizzle and a decent draw, followed up by another one with West Brom. Bloody oath, the Royals are staying up!

There was a brilliant send-off for John O’Shea on the final day, not to mention a glimpse of the future with some real talent on show in the shape of Josh Barrett, Danny Loader, Michael Olise and Teddy Howe.

A proper lap of honour this time too; so thoroughly deserved for everyone involved over these past few months. Club 1871 had completely sold out - such an achievement but it was great to see all fans joined together. Compare that to the lap of honour against Ipswich Town - what looked like a guest list to Ron Gourlay’s birthday party.

Reading v Ipswich Town - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images

Now, some familiar faces will move on and the famous five will go back to their own clubs, but wow, what an impact they all made. Plus, the young Royals like Loader, Rino and Elise give us real hope for the future. Jose and Nigel are to thank for being the glue to make it all work. The players are happy and having fun and so are we! It’s going to be an interesting summer isn’t it....

Finally, one man who sums up everything that our great club is all about is Simon Rossiter, who helped unify us in so many ways. You have an amazing family and your smile lit up a room - thank you for being a friend and a true inspiration.

Rest In Peace Bro xxx