You can see where this is going (play offs) can’t you? It had to happen, surely? Let’s all find out together, but not fully answer the question yet (that’s in part four), as we look at the next two games...
After the draw against Charlton Athletic, Reading were back at the Berkshire Stadium to take on lowly Middlesbrough. As per stringent club rules, social media was flooded with re-runs, highlights and worded tit-bits from ‘that’ game, ensuring everyone (well, Royals fans) turned up to a sun-baked seated bowl with nostalgic tears in their eyes. Boro were safe and so began the well-worn tradition of fielding ‘experimental teams’ that clubs tend to do when there is nothing to play for.
As a result, their matchday 11 was made of youth players and out-of-contract misfits that were still trying earn a new deal in the dying embers of the season. They were no match for Bowen’s Blue and White monsters (a nickname which had slowly crept into fans’ dialect over the last few weeks but had been met with fierce criticism on Twitter for being “too American”). Goals from John Swift, Matt Miazga and Sam Baldock saw the three points nestled safely in the bag and left the team just one point off the play-off positions.
Things were getting tense in the Royal County, so tense that Sir John rolled himself out of media retirement and began giving interviews to anyone who would listen. Of course, he was glowing about the team’s upsurge in results since Mid-March, reminding everyone how expensive running a football club was/is and that Rafael was his favourite player because he had “really big shoulders”.
Regardless of the erratic content of his interviews and his slightly slurred speech in the interviews held later in the day, it was wonderful to hear from a man who had poured literally millions of pounds into the club. Indeed, in the wake of the interviews, an online petition began to ask the council to create a statue of a true Berkshire servant, which was to be positioned next to the lion in Forbury Gardens. When it was revealed that Sir John himself created the petition, the poll was pulled and he was forced to apologise publicly.
Media storm over, Reading travelled to Blackburn Rovers for their final regulation away game of the season. The Rovers, who had once been a very (and I mean very) dark horse for the playoffs had found their nesting spot in mid (and I mean very mid) table and as such, had nothing to play for. Reading on the other hand knew that a win against Blackburn and a loss for Bristol City against *absolutely no idea who they were supposed to be playing* would mean that the Royals would catapult themselves into sixth place.
Would this unlikely and impossible scenario of results come to pass? Would Reading head into the last game of the season against an old foe with their play-off destiny in their own hands? Would Bowen sport his usual formal attire or go for something lighter and more breathable to cope with the scorching late April weather (17 degrees). The answers are as follows...
- Yes it did. Reading won (don’t know the score) and Bristol lost to (insert team here). Reading were now in sixth place.
- Yes it was. Destiny was with Mark Bowen and to be decided by Reading themselves. Win = play-offs. Draw = maybe play-offs depending on other results. Loss = don’t go there.
- He actually went for his formal attire, but with a twist! The modern cashmere v-neck was tossed away like a teenager throwing some Hubba Bubba gum into a rubbish receptacle. Instead, a crisp white shirt (possible from TM Lewin) was deployed, with the top two buttons undone and the button down collar firmly buttoned down. Down south, a tan coloured belt was paired with tan brogues and lightly checked blue trousers completed the deal. The second half saw the long sleeves smartly folded up to bicep height, and the whole image smacked of a man who wanted to spend his late May bank holiday in and around the Wembley area, coaching his team in the final of the Championship play-offs.
The real question is, would the team get there?