This guest piece comes from Reading fan Sam Mansfield. If you’d like to have your article published on TTE, our info’s at the bottom.
A season ticket holder between 2005/06 and 2017/18, I decided to hop on a plane and make a move down under last year, spending twelve months in Australia. It wasn’t just the downturn in Reading’s form that led me to move halfway across the world - I’d always wanted to check out what it had to offer and felt the time was right.
It was going to be a void in my life. A regular routine of going to every home game, rain or shine, and the occasional away match with my dad. He’d need to find someone new to go with!
My last game at the Mad Stad was a 2-0 defeat to Millwall. From there, I watched the 17/18 season peter out. Due to the 11-hour time difference, 3pm kick-offs were on 2am on a Sunday morning. Occasionally I’d be out on a night out and drunkenly check the result which was most of the time a defeat, but if not going out, I’d just wake up to an angry text from my old man.
Evening games were a bit easier to follow but the Sky Sports app had nothing on being at a live game. In truth though, I was slightly happy that I was on the other side of the world and not having to endure the shambles on the pitch.
On a separate note, I was gutted to have missed the wild English summer of 2018. Seeing videos from back home of crazy pub gardens and the country being on such a high while working in a rural Australia farm was extremely tough. It was nice to have a bit of positivity in my football life.
The 18/19 season didn’t start any better and I was becoming even more disconnected with the team like many other fans. A quick scroll through Twitter and you could see all the problems that were going on.
Football - or soccer as they refer it - is definitely growing in Oz. The A-League has ten teams in it at the moment from across the country and will be expanding to twelve in the coming years. I was able to get my football fix by attending a Brisbane Roar game and a few Melbourne Victory matches.
One of the Victory games was against rivals Sydney who name a certain Adam Le Fondre on their teamsheet. ‘Alf’ has fired his team to the A-League Grand Final this weekend but, when I saw him play, Melbourne came out 2-1 winners. He is still a fox in the box though on the other side of the world. There are a few other former Reading players in the A-League; Jem Karacan features for Central Coast Mariners while former Reading youth player Jamie Young plays in goal for Brisbane Roar.
A Reading shirt was one of the first things I’d packed into my backpack; the special 2005/06 top to be precise. It got a few comments when worn - a lot of young Brits are over in Australia and recognised the colours with conversation/banter often ensuing.
A common icebreaker when meeting other travellers, especially from Europe, is “what football team do you support?” I’d explain that my team was Reading. Some would know of us from our time in the Premier League or if they played FIFA but, quite often, I’d get the response that they’d never heard of us.
They would then say, ‘what Premier League team do you follow?” I’ve been brought up to follow one team through thick and thin, so I then ensued to attempt to explain that which they mostly didn’t get! “So not Man Utd, Chelsea or Arsenal?” No mate, just Reading!
Amazingly, I met other Reading fans while travelling; a guy in Laos and a girl in Perth, Western Australia. It’s nice to reminisce about Mikele Leigertwood’s promotion-winning goal and the 106-point team with someone once in a while.
Towards the end of my stay in Australia, Jose Gomes took control and I started staying awake to follow games. What a breath of fresh air it has been to see results, passion and unity back at the Mad Stad. I for one am excited to be back with a pint and curry pie for 19/20!
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