I would have given anything to have gone to watch live football, in the flesh. Anything. I tweeted as much actually. Honestly, the first international break is always naff anyway, but it was even worse having not been able to attend any football, then be denied the chance to watch our promotion juggernaut carry on careering down the Championship motorway to Premiership junction for 14 days.
I’d spent the last two weeks like anyone else would have in the absence of club football: looking at the table every day, watching professional wrestling from the late 90s/early 00s and thanking my parents for not allowing me to be born, educated or homed in the north of England. Indeed, the north was the destination of Pauno’s football machine for the match, but I was determined to recreate the spirit of match day in Upper Tilehurst, just as I would for any match day at the Mad Stad.
In order to do this, I ticked off a list in my head (so basically mentally) of all the things that would replicate a game day:
✅ Good coffee.
✅ A purchase of some Reading FC clothing (not every game - I’m not Scrooge McDuck from ‘Ducktales’).
✅ Some high-class snacks.
✅ Me wearing the blue and white scarf.
I began with the coffee. I headed into town and strolled right along to Anonymous Coffee. It was 9.32am and I was thirsty for some black liquid. To my chagrin, they were shut. Pooh bums! “Chill out!” I told myself (again in my head). I moved to the Reading FC apparel. John Lewis no longer stock any form of Reading merchandise and I actually needed some work shirts, so thought it would make sense to just mimic the RFC stuff with items I actually needed.
I got back in the car and headed to Reading’s premium Next store (the one at Calcot - it’s the biggest anyway). Obviously they had no shirts that met my tailoring and aesthetic needs - why would they? As I trudged back to the car, I thought about the next component to match day: snacks. I remembered I’d bought some well-known American confectionery that contained peanut butter in the week, so that was all gravy. I just needed to remember to wear my scarf come kick off.
The morning had been a complete and utter waste of time and I hoped that the afternoon wouldn’t be, praying (not literally) that I’d be dining at the table of victory come 5pm, not eating out of the polystyrene takeaway box of dejection and loss. As the clock quickly approached 3pm, I gathered my senses, put my irritating first part of the day to one side, laid out my scarf on the bed and went downstairs to begin another footballing odyssey with the Royals.
It was an absolute delight to hear Jem Karacan on the co-commentary instead of Gooding. Sadly, it gave Dellor the opportunity to patronise him like a year 10 student on work experience, but it’s always nice to have someone who’s played the game this century talking about the action in front of him (or her, if you work on Sky Sports). The lineup was the strongest it could have been and I was glad that Holmes was the given the chance to keep his place after an impressive showing against Watford.
In the early stages (and throughout the game), Dellor seemed intent on praising Neil Warnock and reminding everyone listening that it was cold up north. We know Tim, that’s why we don’t live there.
Around the 26-minute mark, we started to take control and really force proceedings. Boro were leaving gaps and Reading were exploiting them well, especially in midfield, but were lacking any quality up front. Defensively, we were as solid as one of my mum’s cakes, giving away very little in both position and flavour (that’s the cake metaphor). At half time, I tweeted how good Thomas (Tom) Holmes was (I was ON the tweets, trust me).
The break allowed me to take a toilet break (without pushing past loads of chaps and dodging hot pies), grab another stick of Heine-mite (0%) and jump back into the hot seat/breakfast bar stool. On 61 minutes, Ovie saw a thunder shot whistle just past the post, which for all the world looked like it would prove to be the breakthrough. Boro became more compact, sticking four in midfield and Reading found them hard to break down. Semedo came on for his debut and did ok, whilst Ejaria had another go at goal around the 80-minute indicator.
The game saw itself out (as most games do) and both teams shut the door on an entertaining, if not spectacular, 0-0. I was personally disappointed with the lack of quality up top but was pleased with the performance overall. Holmes was lovely, as was Moore (side note: where was this player at the end of last year, by the way? I mean, genuinely, he’s like a new signing).
Barnsley proved that they actually do love us by equalising in the 102nd minute (or something) to keep us joint top of the league and we were left to celebrate, in a muted way, another clean sheet and another point on the road to the promised 107 points tally that we’d get this year.
I went back upstairs after the game and realised I’d left my bloody scarf on the bloody bed, whereby the bloody cat had sat himself down on it. Maybe I’ll just leave match day to the Mad Stad and try my best not to let the fact that I can’t be there overshadow my enjoyment of the games. After all, when you are second in the league, who really cares what match day looks like?
Until next time.