We are into the dog days of the season now. The weather is getting warmer, table positions are beginning to be crystallised and questions are answered. And yet, there is more uncertainty around this Reading team than ever before. Midweek results couldn’t have gone much worse for us. We are now out of the top six for the first time in (*checks notes*)... erm, ages.
In theory, even if we won all of our remaining games, it still might not be enough. To put the icing on a very bitter, foul-tasting baked good, our financial results were released this week and they ain’t pretty. Unless you’ve been living under a piece of discarded tarpaulin like a domestic frog, you’ll know that we are losing money to the the tune of around £836k a week. So if ever we needed a game to perk us all up, it was this one.
With all the other distractions out of the way (my birthday, Euro 2020 sticker album completed and both sheds tidied and sorted) I was able to fully plan the next few weeks as a Reading fan legally not allowed to attend any games in what could be the most decisive, potentially thrilling/downright devastating end to a season since the Paul Clement era (but for grossly different reasons).
Earlier in the day, I made the short journey (made longer by roadworks) to the Mad Stad shop to take advantage of the stellar savings on offer on this season’s attire. In truth, I’m never going to wear the stuff I bought, but with 50% off (oh, if you don’t like modern maths, that’s roughly 1/2 price) you can’t whinge and besides, my spending helps our weekly deficit of £836k, doesn’t it?
The stadium and the surrounding area was strange. The only thing I can compare it to, and bear with me because this is quite far-fetched, is that if a virus attacked a human being’s nervous system, but then mutated inside them to basically make them half alive, half dead, with all the physical functions of a person but none of the emotional attachment and effectively then affected all humans bar a handful and then certain areas were designated as ‘no go areas’ where these half human entities lived, well that’s what the stadium was like. Quiet and barren and devoid of bustling human life. I’d call these sort of beings something, like give them a catchy name, but I don’t think anyone has ever even dreamt of something so far-fetched before, so I can’t.
At around 5.46pm, my iCalendar popped up reminding me that the game was upcoming. Thanks, I’d forgotten (insert straight-mouthed face emoji here). I didn’t watch the build-up on Sky (no point, mate) as I couldn’t bear another outing of *that* Joao miss at bloody Barnsley.
As I settled down into (onto) the sofa, I realised I hadn’t popped my replica shirt on. Luckily, a minute’s silence was held which allowed me to charge upstairs like a male cow in a delicate goods shop and slip on the hoops. I’m not disrespectful: I’ll watch parts of the funeral tomorrow, but I’d like to think that minute was Prince P’s last (or first) gift to me, allowing myself to get organised into my uniform.
The game kicked off. And then it was half time. The pitch looked mighty fine, Cardiff were dressed in what I’d call ‘Valencia Orange’ and that was literally all I could say about that first 45 (+1). Half time arrived and I watched easily the most baffling advert I’d ever seen advertising cider. I mean, I’d love to know what was going on in the media department at Thatchers for them to chuck that 30 seconds out. Michael Morrison was in the studio sporting, what I’d call, a ‘step’ haircut. It’s the sort of trim I had back in 1996 and thought I looked quite decent with it.
Second half we were marginally better without taking any clear-cut chances. Cardiff got a penalty late on and scored. We equalised late and salvaged a point. But it’s not enough really. If it was difficult before this game, it’s basically impossible now. Which leads me nicely to the section titled ‘rant’.....
There is literally no point in me dissecting this game because it falls into the category that so many others have this season. We’ve flattered to deceive so many times this year, when we’ve looked great but have lacked the basic application to win games. We haven’t taken our chances and the biggest one of all is disappearing quicker than any remaining faith that the R numbers in this country are accurate.
It’s clear our start gave everyone a false sense of security and, since Christmas, we’ve been as average as a potato. Too many players have dined out on the media adoration that has been lavished upon them and not seen that through with consistent performances. The goals have dried up, the clean sheets have dried up, our confidence has dried up, and now the chance of a play-off spot is all but gone. And we only have ourselves to blame. And I’m so pissed off right now.
Until next time.