Thank you for joining me on another edition of View (Not) From The Dolan.
The following article will be split into two parts. Part A was written before the game. Part B was written after the game. Hopefully the narrative style stays the same, but the mindsets shifts slightly.
I’ve calmed down a bit now. I was absolutely seething after Tuesday. Not because we lost, but because of the manner of the defeat. I felt for Mark Bowen too. He’s in a situation where he seemingly can’t trust the players around him and, like me, he’s desperately hoping the players he does have are able to scrape through these last six games. If he was listening/reading/acknowledging this column, I’d want him to know these things:
- I like you.
- Sell Swift, but get at least £5 million for him (although I do really like Swift)
- Sell Moore. Couldn’t care less about him.
- As sad as it is, let Gunter and GMac go.
- Build the team around the players who care. Morrison, McIntyre, Meite for example.
- Finally, make Rino captain.
With the welcome/unwelcome news about Wigan Athletic this week, we should be ok. I would say we have a big summer ahead of us, but because of some airborne virus, we are currently in it. Bowen needs to do what other managers have failed to do and make some big, sensible choices about the players he has at the club.
Clearing out 12 under-23s means the club will probably follow suit with letting most (if not all) of the out-of-contract players go when this godawful season eventually ends. What I would say is there is some benefit to keeping Gabriel Osho as back up to Andy Yiadom and Tyler Blackett as potentially the first-choice left back, although we have yet to see both since the restart.
The biggest thing for this game was the team selection. I felt that it was the biggest decision of Bowen’s managerial career thus far. So much so that I tweeted it to the world (which on my Twitter feed mainly consists of Reading FC fans).
It’s the biggest team selection of Bowen’s managerial career so far today. Has to get it right @TheTilehurstEnd— Ben Thomas (@mrblthomas) July 4, 2020
Indeed, Bowen shuffled his pack with five changes. Question marks remained over the formation, but I guessed it would still be one up front. Bringing Blackett, Osho and McIntyre in from the football wilderness was a big, big gamble but signalled his intent to not allow sloppiness to creep into the team. Just needed a win.
I deliberately joined the feed at 2.57pm. Really couldn’t be bothered with the post-mortem of Tuesday and the dissection of the team selection. I gathered my snacks (Club Biscuit (orange flavour), a banana and a coffee) and settled down. I chortled in a morbid sort of way when Tim Dellor announced there would be a minute’s silence, only for the players and everyone else to carry out a minute’s applause! His face must have been an absolute picture!
Reading started straight out of the blocks. Meite had a fine chance on nine minutes which was turned away by the Luton defence. It seemed easier to score and I said out loud “here we go again”. I said it to no one, as my wife and children were out and both cats were in the garden. Luton hit the crossbar pretty much straight after and I’m ashamed to say I let out an expletive. I didn’t need an excuse to rant at the team and this had given me a chance to have a whinge almost immediately.
And things just went mental from there. Meite made amends by slotting home the first goal on 17 minutes. Then he doubled the lead a minute later. At this point, I stood up, walked out of the living into the kitchen, did a lap of the island breakfast bar and sat back down. No, I was not dreaming. To check this was actually happening, I looked at the Championship table. We were 13th. Good God.
At this point, I Whatsapped everyone I knew to urge them to sign up to iFollow because we were playing like Barcelona did between 2008-2012. Those that didn’t have WhatsApp got a traditional text message. I received no replies, but I didn’t care. On 35 minutes we went 3-0 up, Yak with a first-half hat trick. What was this? Had Thanos (from the Avengers film) actually taken over the world and created an alternative timeline (like he threatened to do/sort of did in the Avengers film)? Side note: if you are massive fan of Marvel/The Avengers, don’t @ me because what I’ve said isn’t quite correct. You get the gist.
Questions tumbled around my head like a plastic bag in a park on a windy day. Was this improved performance down to the changes in personnel? Was it because Bowen had ditched his trackie Bs, instead opting for a smart/casual wardrobe? Was it because I’d changed my morning routine slightly (I used my Reading FC mug, the one with all the old badges on it)? Was it because, actually, there was a bit of pride left in the team? I stopped. I didn’t need the answers. I just needed to enjoy it.
At half time, I helped myself to a beer. It was a cheeky can of Applause from the good folks at Double Barrelled. I won’t give you a complete review because I’ve got bigger fish to fry, but it was great and received a 9/10 from me.
The interval also allowed me to check the group bet. To my absolute perverse pleasure, I remembered that the QPhahahahahahaha fan among us, by the name of Jawad, had bet on Luton to win. Well, he got an absolute tongue lashing! Although he had destroyed our chances of winning £612 (between 6 of us) if I’m ever to lose a bet, I’d wholeheartedly welcome it to be when we are winning at the expense of a QPhahahahahahahahaha fan’s failed attempt at slighting us. Especially when said QPhahahahahahahaha fan (Jawad) had been giving it the Charlie big potatoes in the morning on the chat. So yes, I was happy and delighted and I didn’t want the game to ever end.
The second half commenced with aplomb and we showed no signs of abating our attacking prowess. On 57 minutes, Puscas scored a fourth and at that point, it threatened to get out of hand. Meite added another just past the hour mark. 5-0. I began crying tears of actual joy. I may have tweeted that we were going to get promoted. I may have begun thinking about getting a tattoo of Mark Bowen’s face.
Meite was subbed shortly after and I gave him a standing ovation from the comfort of my living room. He deserved it. John Swift, El Capitan for the day, was doing whatever he wanted, like an unemployed chap with a penchant for Fosters who’d just been released into a Wetherspoons pub for the afternoon. He really was causing a great deal of havoc and enjoying it too.
The game wound down slowly like a community fete which had long since run out of cakes. I poured over the sheer joy on Twitter from the Reading fans. It was lovely to see and bought the first real piece of joy for the fan base since that magical period over Jesus’ birthday.
The game ended 5-0 and pushed us up to 13th in the table, dangerously close to mid table. The only negative is that we’ve got to wait until Tuesday to see the team play again. A greater contrast from the last game you could not have. Bowen and the players who played had made their point and, in doing so, picked up three to help us up the table. It left me with a warm and fuzzy feeling that usually only comes from eating delicious Indian food. For the first time in a long time, Saturday would be extra special. 5-0. Wow.
Football: it’s good for the soul.
Until next time.