After a weekend of football of biblical proportions, I’m genuinely considering taking up a different hobby, like fishing. Can you support a fisherman (and I don’t mean in the same way that you support British farmers because I’m pretty sure people who catch fish for a living aren’t called fishermen)? You know, like “oh yeah, he’s my favourite competitive fisherman and he will defo win the Fish Cup (or whatever) this season”. Because I’m not sure I can take another six games of this crap. And I don’t mean crap in the conventional sense, but just the highs and lows and the tension and the mischief that comes with supporting an actual football team in the hunt for a play off spot.
Take this game against Wayne Rooney’s Derby (they’ve legally changed their name from Derby County to this, trust me). By the end of the first half, I’d run out of Lindt bunnies to chew the heads off. The worst thing? I wasn’t even eating the bodies - I just left them on the plate (see, I do have decorum) whilst their chocolatey noggins bounced around my mouth, like I was that large child in the book ‘Willy Wonka And Don’t Eat All The Chocolate, Large Child’.
This mass murder of confectionary woodland creatures began before the team news was even released. When it arrived, I took a sharp intake of breath, placed my right hand over my eyes, peeked through my fingers and opened Twitter with my left hand, took another intake of breath, and squinted to see that Lucas Joao had been dropped.
I felt this was brutal and brave. “Brutal and brave!” I said to literally no one out loud. Look, should he have been dropped? Yeah. If you want to know why, listen to the current TTE podcast (out now on all major streaming platforms - please check data coverage as fees may apply). Puscas was in and that was that and I felt good and happy but also sad and sticky (the bunnies were proving tricky to digest and clean up after).
Luckily for me, I’d put some non-alcoholic Heinekens in the fridge earlier (as a general rule, I don’t like drinking over Easter because I’m pretty sure that’s not what Jesus would have wanted. I’m not a Christian, but I do believe in respect) and so uncorked (they didn’t have a cork) one pretty speedily into the first half. Typically, it had been Arctic weather conditions in Upper Tilehurst until 2.58pm, when of course the sun rose/slunk out from behind the clouds as if it had been nursing a hangover from the day before and shone warming rays down on the whole town.
Derby weren’t very good but we felt the need to perform our own Easter miracle by making them look like the Blackburn team of 1995. They hit the post, they made Rafa make some saves and were playing so deep they were actually in the service yard of B&Q (observing all social distancing rules, of course). Puscas was being nice and direct and, on the stroke of half time (plus three minutes) Olise pulled his own rabbit out of the hat with a thunder-thwack that sailed into the top side of the net. I jumped for joy like an American student who’d just been accepted into the college of his (or her) choice and celebrated with another non-alcoholic Heineken.
After a quick interval of soaking up the rays in the back garden, I was back in the house to begin my viewing of the second half. We were much, much better and had the bull (no! A ram!) by the horns. A second was surely not long in the making and when Puscas popped up to bag a poacher’s goal, it really was Crufts and goodnight.
But of course, we can’t just enjoy our Bank Holiday Monday football, can we? Reading were denied a stone-concrete wall of a penalty and in the commotion of the waving of arms and swear words and misery, everyone except Tom Lawrence switched off and he was able to launch a rocket into the top corner from, I don’t know, at least 600 yards out. At least.
Tim Dellor then went full ‘Alan Partridge’ by questioning himself as to why Laurent was booked. He suggested (to himself) that Laurent had suggested to the referee that he’d finally got a decision right. Tim explained that he agreed with Laurent’s supposed remark, but then backtracked by saying “of course, I don’t condone rudeness”.
Well I roared with laughter, so much so that some liquid chocolate fell out of my mouth (forgot to say, I’d found another stash of the bunnies). Directly after this, Joao (who’d come on) knocked in number three. Every man, woman and child on the pitch (in Reading colours) joined him for the celebration and I began weeping quietly and with dignity as the final minutes played out. A lovely scene that would have made a tremendous watercolour picture.
Of course, we now have some absolute monsters of games coming up, beginning with Watford, one of the league’s form teams, on Friday. We’re still in there, we’re still giving it a go and we haven’t quite collapsed like a warm Easter egg just yet. And I better start researching the best fisherman to attach my allegiances to, because by the end of this season I might just need a change of pace.
Until next time.