When Reading FC fans return to the Madejski Stadium for a home league match without any capacity restrictions on Saturday, it will have been 532 days since we were last allowed such a luxury.
With the world a very different place from then to now, many will be trekking up the hill, passing through the turnstile, and taking up their usual seats for the first time in a long time. Many of us will see the familiar faces we often see at games - be they family, friends or relative strangers who just happen to sit around us at our football team’s stadium.
Yet, as we settle down and take a glance around the Mad Stad, not everyone that we’re used to seeing will be there. So many of us will be without a loved one or a friendly face, for the exact same reason that we have been without this matchday ritual for over 500 days.
The question is: How best to remember the Reading fans who we have lost over the pandemic?
Let’s do a simple minute’s applause, as the clock hits 13:00 during our first unrestricted capacity home league game back.
Why the 13th minute? Football clubs hold some peculiar traditions and, without wishing to incite any one team by giving examples, there are plenty that - out of context - would seem rather odd. Reading FC having the No13 shirt reserved for ‘Reading Fans Everywhere’ has often raised an eyebrow or a sarcastic tweet.
But, so what? It’s our thing. Just like Sweet Caroline, Jimmy Kebe pulling his socks up, and a chant about a points record that - let’s face it - opposition teams don’t really care about (mainly because they don’t own it, of course). We do them because they bring us together and because they give us an identity, not because we’re trying to impress random rival fans on Twitter.
So let’s, for one moment at least, reignite this peculiar tradition, stand as one like we haven’t been able to do for far too long, and remember those who cannot be with us to share in our joyous return to the Saturday 3pm home game.
Let’s reclaim the No.13 - for Reading Fans Everywhere.