I’m on a week-long holiday this week, a week which has been/will be dominated by “sorting stuff out”. You know those annoying little jobs that you just put to one side because you can’t be bothered to deal with them? Painting, sorting paperwork, cleaning the car etc. The sort of jobs that can be quite time consuming but are also reasonably satisfying in terms of ticking them off a list marked ‘to do’.
In previous years, one of the club’s jobs around this time would be to find a new manager, such has been our penchant for removing managers after a less-than-positive start to the season. It began to feel like once the clocks went back, we felt the need to clear out the dugout and start again.
Not so this time. Pauno has overseen the best start to a Reading league season for 35 years, has cemented us at the top of the table with a lovely cushion of points and is making everyone, from opposition teams, pundits, LBC radio show hosts and the players themselves, to friends and family who say to me “oh, Reading are doing well aren’t they?” sit up and take notice of what is happening at the South Reading Bowl.
I could give you a rundown of my day leading up to the game, but I won’t because it was boring and tedious and filled with those aforementioned jobs. What I did do, however, was eat my first mince pie. As a rule, I only eat these delicacies between October and December. Any that are left in the house on January 1 are thrown into the bin and the long countdown to the later months of the year begin.
I won’t go on about it, but it was a well-formed pie, with a light dusting of sugar on the top and a nice bite to the pastry. The filling was evenly spread and had a pleasant aftertaste to it. What was even more delightful was that the pie didn’t completely collapse on the first bite, as some pies tend to do. I felt there was an ample amount of mincemeat and the make up of it was evenly distributed. Overall score: 8/10 and not a bad start to the season at all.
We were back on the red button for the game, meaning another £10 was saved on iFollow. There has been absolute furore around the pricing of pay per view for the Premier League games recently (side note: might do an article on it, actually) and I have very, very strong views on the whole thing (with what I believe to be a sensible, well-balanced argument that even Gary Neville couldn’t whinge at).
Either way, no money was spent on watching this game (apart from the price of the Sky subscription, obviously). I tuned in in good time to hear Club Anthems 2020 smashing out in the empty stadium. As the players made their way on to the pitch, I really hoped we’d be able to start well and take the game to them.
Of course, after nine seconds we were 1-0 up. I still don’t really know what happened and how it happened. I feel like it might have been a long ball, which hit a defender’s leg and then Joao collected it and passed it to Yakou who essentially rolled the ball into an empty net? Would that be right?
In my excitement I shouted, out loud, “OH MY GOODNESS” like I was an England Rugby fan at Twickers, or worse, an upper-middle-class 60 year-old lady at Wimbledon applauding a vicious back hand from Roger Federer whilst spilling her Pimms. I was in shock at the early start and as I tried to rewind it (YOU CAN’T DO THAT ON THE RED BUTTON BEN!) and then check Twitter for the video of the goal, Blackburn scored. It was the sort of carnage you’d currently expect to see in a Welsh supermarket.
Still reeling from this early start, I decided to lie on the floor and calm both myself and my blood pressure (when I say blood pressure, it’s in good nick, so don’t be worried). With the goal conceded, I still felt we had enough to shut them down like Windows 95. Lo and behold, Olise popped up on 14 minutes to retake the lead and Laurent, with his first goal for the club, made it 3-1. Oh my god. We were quickly becoming a football dynasty.
At this point, with my mind filled with statistics, questions and superlatives, I swiftly and effectively googled “statistics of the best football teams ever”. Google gave me the information on the 1962 Green Bay Packers. In my haste, I’d just hit one of those pre-filled search results, so I edited my search to find the result:
It doesn’t matter what the answer is because the Reading Football Team of the 2020/2021 season are about to smash up and burn every piece of a statistical information on great football (soccer) teams ever.
I’m not being dramatic when I say this, but watching the rest of the half was like a dream. It didn’t matter that Blackburn were a little bit better than us or that we just sat back a bit. It didn’t matter that I had begun googling (again) the price of making up custom t-shirts and mugs with various slogans on, like:
- Pauno’s a really good coach
- Josh Laurent is splendid at football
- Mr Dai is great
- Champions 2020/2021
- Let’s all go down the Purple Turtle and have a beer
You know, stuff like that. Half time arrived and I just needed to lie down again. I turned the lights down (we have a dimmer switch in the living room) and just soaked up the pride and excitement and the fact that we were already promoted. I toyed with the idea of eating another mince pie, but didn’t in the end.
The second half began and, again, I can’t really tell you how we played because I couldn’t believe what was happening. We weren’t sitting on a one-goal lead, we weren’t shutting up shop, we weren’t scared, we weren’t being rubbish: we were just playing football. Actual, bloody football.
Armstrong scored again on 66 minutes to make it 3-2, but even then we didn’t seem to care. It was always likely that we would concede. Joao then put the sugar coating on a baked good by knocking a fine effort in and the game ended 4-2.
There are just so many elements to this team that are so pleasing to watch and analyse. We’ve talked about them to death in terms of what’s different and how and why. The bottom line is every single person connected with the club, and I do mean everyone, deserves a massive pat on the back and a king-sized Snickers (or Mars bar if nuts are a problem).
The start has been quite phenomenal and no one, and I mean no one, would ever have expected us to be where we are right now: seven points clear at the top of the Championship. Oh my.
Next on that jobs list for the club must surely be to work out how to socially distance a promotion party.
Until next time.