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View (Not) From The Dolan End: Football’s A Funny Old Game

Ben unpacks a match that, putting it kindly, would be described as one for the purists.

Football is a funny old game. Take last week as a small microcosm of this: utterly humiliated on Tuesday night to then go and do the same to a completely different team on Saturday afternoon.

I have to say that the wait for the game against Huddersfield was truly agonising after the sublime nature of the win against Luton. I couldn’t wait to see the team smash up another basement-dwelling squad, particularly as the Terriers (terrible nickname) had had such a tumultuous season. Whilst I respect the Cowleys immensely, I have to say watching those horrid little northerners toiling away towards the foot of the table all season has given me immense pleasure, as I’m still not quite over “that” game yet.

As the team news filtered in to social media on a drizzly evening in the Royal County, the only enforced change was that Ovie was out. Obita was drafted in and this raised eyebrows (not mine) as the absence of Timbe was questioned. Not sure why: Our Saviour Mark Bowen clearly doesn’t rate him and he clearly won’t stay with us next year. It made sense to give Obita a go in an albeit unfamiliar position. Other than that, the team picked itself and it jolly well should do after the tear jerking fluidity of the performance on Saturday. At the very least, I expected a clean sheet for us.

Reading v Huddersfield Town - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Richard Martin-Roberts - CameraSport/Getty Images

The early kick off yet again caught me off guard. I dined alone on a leftover dish of pasta. Simple twists were covered with a rich tomato based sauce which had a nice after kick of garlic, although not too much as to ward off a vampire invasion. This was interspersed with some Italian sausage and the whole thing was pretty enjoyable. To drink: a pint of chilled water.

My daughter joined me for the first five minutes of the game before heading upstairs for her bath. In that five minutes, I was able to glean that she thought the grass was looking “ok” and that she liked the pink “other team’s” shirts. She also remembered that my five-a-side team had recently started training again, which led to this conversation:

Daughter: Daddy, did you play here (the Mad Stad) on Saturday?

Me: No, remember I play at the university.

Daughter: Why don’t you play here though?

Me: Because this is where the players who are paid money to play football play.

Daughter: So you don’t get paid?

Me: Not to play, no.

Daughter: So when you play, it’s not real?

Me: It is, it’s just not at this level.

Daughter: So you aren’t good then?

Me: I can’t answer that really.

Daughter: It’s a shame you don’t play real football.

And with that, she was summoned upstairs.

Early in the first half, we were alerted to Norwich scoring against Watford. Normally, I’d dismiss this as utterly pointless information, but a sickening thought surged through me like a penguin travelling through icy cold waters towards the shoreline: I’d forgotten to do my fantasy team! FFS! These kick offs were really bamboozling me and I vowed there and then to never, ever, ever let that happen again.

As the pasta settled inside me, a bizarre conversation between Dellor and Gooding regarding team sheets ensued. Tim was complaining (shock!) that he hadn’t had a team sheet. In my head, I chuckled. And then I actually chuckled. Anyone who had a brain, perseverance and the know how would be able to get a team sheet, in PDF form, for the match and print it. It was so easy to do, as my handy guide below shows:

  • Go to Facebook and look on the Reading page.
  • If not there, go to instagram and look on the Reading page.
  • If not there, go to Twitter and look on the Reading page.
  • If not there, go to the Reading website (not the app).
  • Click on ‘latest news’.
  • Scroll down to the team news for the game required (as long as it’s a home game).
  • Click on the ‘download a pdf version of the team sheet here’ tab.
  • Download the pdf.
  • Take a screenshot of the team sheet and accompanying ‘manager notes’ page.
  • Go to your photos.
  • Resize and crop the pdf, so you have two individual pages.
  • Send them via your personal email account to your work email account as the printer at home doesn’t work/doesn’t exist.
  • Get to work the next morning and realise your desktop doesn’t connect to the nearest printer.
  • Email them to a colleague to print.
  • Collect both sheets from the printer.
  • Staple both sheets together.
  • Put in the programme box and never read them again.

See? So simple. And yet, these paid commentators couldn’t be bothered to do it. Ridiculous.

Nothing really happened football-wise in the first half. There were a few shots. Some tackles were made. The referee got tackled. Dellor made some bizarre reference to the film ‘Schindler’s List’ and talked about a sparrow hawk. He also suggested that drinks breaks were for advertising purposes, but this is a man who clearly has no concept of how iFollow works and indeed the fact that there probably wasn’t a massive global audience for our game.

Reading v Huddersfield Town - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Richard Martin-Roberts - CameraSport/Getty Images

Half time arrived, which allowed me to stretch my legs to the snack cupboard. I settled on a Cadbury’s Flake (the sort of fun-sized one, not the full ‘newsagent size’ version). The crumbly chocolate went everywhere, which deeply irritated me and left my mouth dry, so I downed another pint of chilled water.

Sadly, the players decided to come back out for the second half, which was disappointing as it meant we’d have another 45 minutes of this slug fest. Again, very little happened. The ball went out of play a lot. I googled what a sparrow hawk looked like (they are pretty savage birds according to Wikipedia).

I read some of the Tilehurst Directory (a fabulous publication which advertises and showcases the best of local tradesmen and businesses - and it’s free too!) as I need an electrician/someone who deals with kitchen appliances. On 71 minutes I put the heating on in the living room on as it was chilly. Some subs were made. The game ended.

Really, it was instantly forgettable and I felt genuinely sorry for those people who’d paid £10 to watch it. On the plus side, it was another point that all but guarantees our survival (earlier than last year - whoop whoop!).

McIntyre, Osho and Morrison were very good and Pele showed his class again. Boye came on and looked alright. Negatives were that we should have been more attacking and the attendance was low. Before everyone goes “is he serious?”, I mean to say that there seemed to be fewer cardboard cutouts than the last home game. Either way, we’ve all now missed the deadline to “attend” any more home games which means that the attendance will only get worse. For me, I won’t be getting any more Flake bars in anytime soon and the KO timings don’t get any easier: 12.30 on Saturday, anyone?

Football is indeed a funny old game.

Until next time.