Another midweek game, another evening on the r*d button. All the news pre-game was about dear old Pauno catching the Covid and then it wasn’t because the team selection came out. And by gawd what a team selection! Sprinkled in amongst the senior chaps was a debut for Ashcroft (which is odd as I’ve been listening to Richard Ashcroft’s new album on repeat for a week) and the return of Thomas Holmes.
Of course, this provoked the usual “thick air syndrome” on Twitter, as those very people who whinged about no changes were, unsurprisingly, now whinging about the changes. I’m pretty sure these people don’t let their toast cool down before applying the butter (or another base spread of their choice) and causing the bread to rip. I’m also convinced they park just slightly over the parking bay line in a national supermarket chain’s car park. Irritants, the lot of them.
In the lead-up to the game I was tweeting furiously. Well, not furiously: I wasn’t furious. Just had loads to say, innit. I was gutted for Pauno but pleased for Marko, wanted Drinkwater to play but I didn’t, knew who Kelvin Abrefa was but had no idea - it was one of those nights. I had also thought very hard about heading up to Millwall as I hadn’t been there for a while and wanted to remind myself of what an awful place it was (and support the team obvs). I still have an awkward cough that makes people flinch when they hear it and didn’t think it would have been the best choice to go (#millwallflu). Of course, upon flicking on the button of death (the red button) I was greeted with zero sound and I just literally rolled my eyes at that point.
Of course, had I known that the commentator would pronounce 90% of our players’ names wrong, I’d have settled for silence. Add that to the fact that within the first 20 minutes he mentioned Pauno had Covid twice, talked about Puscas’ awful goal famine and stated that most of our squad was out of contract in the summer, and I was ready to listen to the radio instead…
To be fair, the game was pretty open and not massively dull like normal midweek affairs. Both teams ebbed and flowed like a stagnant river and the pace was consistent and speedy. Around the 22 mark, Southwood made a save and then stayed down. At that point, a fully formed expletive fell out of my mouth and into the warm air around me. Luckily, he recovered but not before I began behaving like Darth Vader, repeatedly calling his first name out loud.
As the half wore on, I felt we were the better team, certainly in terms of chances created. To treat myself, I gathered a snack bowl (basically some Coop Wotsits in a bowl so I wouldn’t eat them all), a non-alcoholic lager and a medium pint of water. At half time, I tweeted some more, wiped the fake Wotsit dust from my T-shirt and went to feed the guinea pigs in the garage. I had a nervous energy fizzing inside of me like I was filled with a big carbonated soda or something and as result, was eager to get the second half going. At that moment, I felt we had enough to win the football game.
Of course, feelings can lead you astray like a suggestively wrapped Christmas present. We sat back, invited pressure and didn’t push them in the way we did in the first half. The goal had been coming for about 20 minutes before it actually happened, a simple tap-in opening the scoring in what was a fairly even and open contest at half time.
The commentator then bought up the age of the bench as if it was a surprise to any Reading fans watching. There’s something quite soul-destroying about a D-list football media type trawling over our current misery like a farmer raking a field over and over again.
But things were to get far worse as news of the points deduction came out, albeit through unconfirmed reports. We knew it was coming, but a bit like a car service that’s due, you just put it to the back of your mind until you actually need to deal with it.
However much it’s deserved or undeserved or whatever, we have broken the rules, plain and simple. And however I can try to rationalise it in my head, it’s still a painful thing to deal with. Embarrassing, concerning, unpleasant… supporting a team that has just been handed a points deduction is no laughing matter. The news breaking instantly put the result and performance to the back of my mind and all I could think about was, rightly or wrongly, if we could do enough to stay in the league.
I’ve chopped and changed my ambitions for this team over the past few months, but with the basis that it’s going to be nine points, our current form and the players we don’t have available, I’m currently in the “just stay up” camp. I’m hoping that’s me being negative, but right now, I don’t think it is. I went to bed with a heavy heart after the game and I hope that the coming days will bring more clarity on our long-term situation. The sooner the better really, so we can all get on with it.
Until next time.