I can’t start this article without talking about the main issue of the last few days. It’s been a turbulent week at the club and it’s important to address the issue that’s been on every Reading fan’s heart and mind: selling what are essentially the most boring biscuits in the world for £10 is an outrage. Honestly, who wants shortbread and “crumbly oaties” (no idea what they are) for that price? I’m all for a 150th anniversary tie-in merchandise item, but that? Nope. I think I saw something about signing a household name and a points deduction this week too but I‘ve got bigger fish to fry than that. £10! Honestly.
It seems like a while now since a chap called Jahmari burst onto the scene in a dull Midlands city to net two goals and win us the game. But sure enough, the games roll around once again and the Championship wheel keeps turning. I was up early for this one (6am to be precise) to talk to TalkSport (DON’T GO ON ABOUT IT!) about all things Reading.
Once the booking was confirmed and the appearance money confirmed, I was told it would be through FaceTime. Of course, I just assumed they were going to livestream my face as well as my audio. After all, it was FaceTime, right?! I spent a while perfecting my face in the mirror and pulling it around a bit so I didn’t look like a melted candle. As the phone went, I put on my loveliest “media” smile, only to realise that they were just using the audio. FFS! What is the point of looking your best for Tony Cascarino if he’s not even going to look at you?
Appearance done and I still had a van full of hours to kill before KO. I went to the bottle bank (love recycling, me), went up the big Tesco’s for a “weekend shop”, read the paper and faffed about a bit. Regular readers will know I’ve started taking my son to games, sticking to once a month to ease him in. I’ve never asked him to come or suggested it; I wanted him to find it in his own time and he’s really fallen in deep now. This was one of those games I’d earmarked for him to attend.
In the car up to the stadium, he was asking about how dark it would get. I wasn’t sure if this was some sort of metaphor for the clouds hovering above the club (metaphorically) or if he meant physically dark as in the time of the day. Sure enough, it was the latter, so we had a fat chat about the flood lights and how they’d help the players score goals. I made some joke about the lights not making a difference to some of the players, but it fell on deaf ears and he just carried on messing around with Waze (and before someone smart chirps up, I don’t need a sat nav to get to the ground thank you, but he likes to look at the map of the journey).
We made our way up the concrete slope of dreams and had a little glance in the mega shop so I could get a proper look at these biscuits. Not worth a tenner, no way. The tin is nice but will get dented easily (just like our dreams) and the biscuits just looked bang average. We did walk out with a pair of RFC-branded sunglasses which were part of the Black Friday mega sale. Not for me, obvs, but for a six-year-old they are quite a big deal.
Upon arrival at the hotel, we met my friend Milan who was waiting with two chilled pints of European lager and an orange juice (I was driving after all - wahey!) and we watched the end of the Chelsea game. It was comforting to see Brendan Rodgers look miserable, a man so smug I’m convinced that if he were made of chocolate, he’d eat himself. During this time, Milan was able to convince Toby that Andy Carroll’s legs were made of glass, which allowed me to bring out the “he was available for 40 of the 45 games last season” stat.
As we walked through the concourse and into the stadium, I was greeted with the most outrageous lie I’ve ever seen from an advert. It was up there, glistening on the video screen like a massive neon... well, lie. What was this advert? A claim from West Berks Brewery stating that their beer was brewed “just down the road”. Yattendon is not “just down the road”, mate! Yeah, same county, but “down the road”? Shouldn’t think so! 34 minutes by car is not local. I mean, crikey, it would take at least, I dunno, 5 hours and 57 minutes to walk there from the stadium. Down the road!
The shirts on Forest were dreadful. Fluorescent yellow and fluorescent orange don’t go and if you don’t agree, I’ll fight you. Moreover, the visiting fans who were wearing the replica of this in the stand just looked like stewards and in my book, that’s basically, at best, imposter syndrome and at worst, fraud. Awful shirt. In keeping with the spirit of the time currently surrounding the club, we were able to give away a goal within four minutes. An ugly start to end an ugly week.
We grew into the game after this and showed some good endeavour. Tom Holmes, back in the side again, was having a solid performance and Dann looked composed. I couldn’t shake the feeling that we needed more and should have been in control of the game much more than we were showing. Half time rolled around, the snacks were opened and I answered plenty of questions about various aspects of the Mad Stad and the pitch, some of which I could answer, some I had to refer to my good friend Mr Google.
You could sense the crowd bubbling like a frothy pot filled with some northern food on a hot stove. This bubbling would only be satisfied by one thing: Andrew Carroll. Sure enough, on the hour mark, the big man arrived to a hearty reception. I imagined he looked like a haunted pencil standing on the sideline, wondering how on earth his career path had bought him to the leafy greens of Berkshire. The atmosphere was febrile as he was ready to enter the fray with men, women and children all around him chanting his name and clapping their hands with glee.
His arrival turned the game and we equalised shortly after through Scott Dann. It was a well-deserved goal and one that had been coming. With two up front, we had a new impetus but failed to make it count into something relevant like another goal. Forest had their chances too, but the game rode itself into the sunset like a forlorn horse without a stable to go to, and allowed both teams to collect a single point.
For me, it was two points dropped rather than one earned. After the game, Dai Yongge took part in an on-pitch running race with some of his advisors. You could look at that as either elite trolling of both the EFL and our fanbase or a genuine release of joy to have the points deduction confirmed and a clear plan in place to move forward. I’ll let you chose which one it is, but either way it probably wasn’t the game to do it in.
Another home game awaits us on Tuesday night to close out our month in Berkshire before the carnage of December really kicks in. On paper, it looks winnable, but are any games in this league truly in that category? We will have to fight for every single point moving forward, just like I’ll have to fight myself to buy (or not buy) these biscuits. If we are able to clear the points deduction by the time Father Christmas comes calling, I might have to seal the deal and hand over a crisp tenner to the shop staff.
Until next time.