Three words: what a day. It’s an overused cliche, but on Friday night I’m sure the Reading faithful felt like kids on Christmas Eve. 17 months of waiting to have fans properly back at the Mad Stad (sorry, but it'll always be the Mad Stad) for a league game and boy did the players make it worth the wait.
The goosebumps when the players walked out for kick off, the bouncing atmosphere, an academy player on the scoresheet, a beautifully worked winning goal, Rafael wonder saves and a special, special moment with Pauno at the full time whistle. It was everything I wanted Saturday to be.
Most importantly we managed to get that first win of the season - and don’t underestimate how vital it is to get those first three points under the belt as quickly as you possibly can.
Beyond the result though, it was just so special to be in the company of more than 1,999 fans at a home league match again. The atmosphere was electric and the scenes when both goals went in were sensational.
Here's how the fans reacted to some of the key talking points to come from the game...
Fans are back
Obviously we had the first game of the season at Stoke last Saturday and the cup game at home to Swansea in midweek, but this one, the first league game of the season at home, had a very special feel to it.
It’s what we’ve been waiting for ever since we went into lockdown circa 17 months or so ago, and it was definitely worth the wait. We have our football back ladies and gents, never take it for granted again.
The fans were certainly buzzing to be back at it, and who can blame them?
How good was it to be back!? Loved my afternoon - think we deserved the win, Swifty and McIntyre were superb, Azeez looks decent. Great moment between Pauno and the fans after the game. Up The Ding! #readingfc #REAPNE pic.twitter.com/HXdDMzlv8x— Steven Hansell (@steveyroyal) August 14, 2021
Back in my seat after 18 months. Amongst friends, family and those you speak to every week but whose names you’ll never know. Watching nervously as #ReadingFC somehow defend a slender lead. 4:45pm today was everything I’d been waiting for. Football as it should be.— Matt Williams (@mattwilliams100) August 14, 2021
I really didn't think I missed football that much until today. Part of me was a bit reluctant to even go... but wow, it really reminded me how much I have missed it. Even if we had drawn/lost I still would have said this. Great to have fans back and be back #readingfc— Roberto Dawson (@Rob_Dawson93) August 14, 2021
Today has been a proper normal Saturday. #readingfc game and a win, Newbury pubs rammed after the races and everyone having a great time. Back to normality and long may it continue.— Rob Molloy (@Dobchecks) August 14, 2021
I’ve said it countless times before and I’ll keep saying it until I’m Royal Blue in the face, when he’s fully fit, there are few better in this league than John Swift.
He has started this season in imperious form, beginning with a goal and an assist last weekend and adding another goal this time out against Preston, which was a beautifully worked team goal that he was unsurprisingly at the heart of.
We are very lucky to have him, and if he keeps continuing to perform at this level, he will be some player for us this season - the player we all know he can be.
Here’s how the fans reacted to his star showing...
Swift is feeling like a brand new signing. He stays fit and we’ll do well this year #readingfc— Elliott (@u_elliott_) August 14, 2021
Swift looks like he’s bulked up over the summer, got to pray he stays fit after that performance - ran the game completely #readingfc— Luke (@gibbsey517) August 14, 2021
I WILL REPEAT IT AGAIN FOR EVERYONE!!— Reading FC Blue And White Wall (@bluewhitewall) August 14, 2021
SWIFT IS THE BEST PLAYER IN THE LEAGUE!!!
THIS IS WHY I PREFERRED OLISE GOING NOT SWIFT.#READINGFC
John Swift is the best football player in the world, I’m talking facts here. I don’t do ifs, buts and maybes, I do absolutes #readingfc— Nick Houlton (@Houlton11) August 14, 2021
John Swift’s the best player in the division, I tell no lies #readingfc— KizzleRicks (@KieranBarrett66) August 14, 2021
Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce to you the next gem to come from the Reading academy: Femi Azeez.
After an impressive pre-season, the youngster has certainly carried that form into the new campaign. Whereas you may not always get the quality straightaway from players graduating from the academy, you will always get the fight, tenacity and hard work - of which Azeez has shown in abundance so far.
He is direct, full of pace and on Saturday he was a constant thorn in Preston’s side. Obviously, he managed to get on the scoresheet too, which triggered some sensational scenes in front of Club 1871. He is showing some really promising fans, which is making the fans stand up and take notice...
Azeez is a beast. Give him a 4 year deal now and make it snappy or we riot #readingfc— Joel (@skoel_rfc) August 14, 2021
I’m not getting ahead of myself when I say Azeez will be better than Olise. #readingfc— Micah (@1871M1C4H) August 14, 2021
Femi Azeez is fantastic and needs a long-term contract ASAP. Runs hard, good player, pace & will score goals. He’s only going to get better #readingfc— Nick Houlton (@Houlton11) August 14, 2021
Special mention for Azeez as well. His movement off the ball is exactly what we need. Exciting talent whose contract needs renewing ASAP #readingfc— Jacob Potter (@pott95) August 14, 2021
Azeez erupted when he scored today, so good to see, can see how much it meant to him #readingfc— finn (@FinnC77) August 14, 2021
I could have picked six or seven different talking points for this game. Swift, Azeez, fans being back, Rafael saves, that winning goal, the moment with Pauno at full time - it was just a really special day and a day that we’ve waited far, far too long for.
But now all eyes will be on Tuesday night as Bristol City come to town. We all know that momentum is key in this league, and all eyes will be firmly set on trying to start some of that with another win.