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View From The Dolan: Ending With A Whimper

A dull game, defeat and lacklustre lap of appreciation - Saturday was a neat encapsulation of Reading's 2021/22 season.

PA Images via Getty Images

I'll preface this by saying that the game itself was one of the most boring games I’ve seen in a while. As a result, whatever I write from now on will be infinitely more interesting. You know, I could tell you about the gestation period of a harbour seal (it’s between nine and 11 months, FYI), or how many times your heart beats a day (approximately 100,000) or the fact that the earliest known oil painting dates back to the 14th century. Literally anything could be said here and you’d feel it was a better use of your of time.

On a personal note, it was a big one for me. I met with the club earlier in the week having pitched mine and the ideas of others who kindly responded to my tweet a few weeks ago about half time. Small steps I know, not life-changing, but something that could be done at low cost to mix up the 15-minute gap we have every single home game. And as I’ve said repeatedly, the people I speak to regularly at the club were absolutely first class. We talked through a range of ideas (remember these are busy people and I’m just, well, me) and in the end settled on “corner flag chaos”, which I was to host. More on that later.

As a result, I woke up on the day of the game fizzing with excitement like a giant alka seltzer in a swimming pool. I flipped between excitement, nervousness and fear on a repeated basis. Things began to hit home when I took my daughter to Tesco's in the morning and saw two people wearing Reading shirts - stuff like that is when it becomes more real, I guess.

I had to get to the ground around 1pm to meet the people I’d link up with pitchside and talk to the control room. The view from up there is incredible and with the amount of monitors on display, you wouldn’t miss anything. It’s just a different way of looking at it all I guess, but it was interesting to be on “the other side” for a game.

Once all the checks and the timings were complete, I headed back to collect my pass and then into the hotel to begin my pre-match run through. I settled on an orange juice (couldn’t drink on the job, could I?) and realised that the attendance would be pretty low - you can always tell by how busy the upstairs bar isn’t and gauge attendance accordingly.

After that, it was into the stand to catch the final warm-ups and pore over the team sheets. Three of the starting 11 are under contract next year with a further four on the bench. This was baffling - consider that WBA didn’t include Andy Carroll in their squad after telling him he’d be leaving.

So, it begs the question: why not load the team with players who would potentially be here? I might be being naive to the mechanics of football, but it was a nothing game in every aspect. I will fight any Reading fan who thought the performance and result was important yesterday (well, not fight) - just play the players who will likely (key word) be here next year.

Reading v West Bromwich Albion - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Adam Fradgley/West Bromwich Albion FC via Getty Images

Of course, the first half was literally death to the eyeballs. I actually don’t think anything happened of any great merit. There might have been some throw-ins, probably a corner. It was just trash, basically.

I nipped down for a tinkle and then it was showtime! I had lots of stuff planned - I wanted to read the half-time scores off my phone as well, but I don’t think the club were too keen on that. It was pointless to push it, after all it was my first go, but if invited back to do it again/regularly, there are lots of ideas I’d like to try out.

The pitch was like a carpet - so soft and immaculate and just as good as it looks. Matt, who I will be forever grateful to, repped the Dolan with class and his son joined him too which was brilliant. The West Brom fan just popped him to win the food and beverage vouchers, but ultimately it was just good to get it done and hopefully some of the fans enjoyed it.

The second half was just as bad as the first. In a way, West Brom scoring meant that it felt like an actual football game had taken place, but the 90 minutes itself was forgettable, which I suppose was to be expected. Maybe the mental and physical strain had taken its toll on the team, maybe they were just going through the motions, maybe they know they won’t play next week as the younger fringe players will take their places - either way, it summed up the current state of the club off the pitch perfectly.

There was a lap of appreciation but if I’m honest, it was pretty lacklustre from most of the players. More fans stayed than I thought would but it was just a nonsense really. Ultimately the only people connected with the club who haven’t underperformed are the fans and really, it would have been nice to have some sort of incentive in terms of ticketing for the game at the very least.

I started this column by talking about it prefacing. Effectively, this game is a preface to the summer. What happens in the next few days (and I do mean days, even though there is still one game to play) will define not only the summer, but our immediate future in this league. If Paul Ince can’t make the top office see the continuing error of their ways, it doesn’t matter who sits in the dugout or who’s on the pitch. As long as the current “model” is in place, the rot will continue and we’ll be relegated next season. It really is as simple as that.

This is the last one of these for me this season, so if you've read it, liked it, retweeted it, commented on it and generally been aware of the column, thank you. It’s been a horrible season to write a matchday column on, but I’m hopeful it’s made you smile or keep you interested on at least one occasion.

Providing Sim can sort my contract out for next season, I’ll be back again. Have a great summer and take care.

Until next time.