I can’t say I've been involved in too many 150th anniversaries, but I’m pretty sure few would come close to how miserable Reading’s year of ‘celebration’ has been.
You don’t need me to recall what an emotionally draining season it has been – because of the psychopath that he is, Sim has already done that here. Everyone is also well aware that next season is unlikely to be much better.
But for one gloriously sunny Saturday, we could put that to one side. As legends from our two Championship-winning sides came together for one last dance on the Madejski Stadium pitch, we were spared from Orjan Nyland’s horrendous error against Luton being the final memory of this 150th year.
This was the perfect antidote to the last nine months and almost a reward for enduring it all. There was no better way to forget the present than to hark back to the two most successful eras the club has ever seen.
And it truly was like stepping back in time. Kyocera and Waitrose emblazoned across the shirts. Iconic goal music. Chants of M-U-R-T-Y ringing around the stadium. Steve Coppell and Brian McDermott had literally not aged a single day.
There was only one player who was involved in both squads: Brynjar Gunnarsson, who was sadly unable to make the game as he has just accepted the managerial role at Swedish side Orgryte. So the 05/06 side and 11/12 side largely exist in our conscience as two separate entities. But as they went head to head on the pitch – Graeme Murty versus Jobi McAnuff, Leroy Lita versus Kaspars Gorkss, Glen Little versus Jem Karacan – it was like the perfect fantasy had been created. It felt like a dream.
This was the very best of Reading FC. Players, managers, staff – and not forgetting a chairman and owner who arguably got the best reception of the whole afternoon – who made this club great. People who put this club on the map and allowed it to compete at the very highest level of English football.
Think of Reading FC and you think of those individuals there on Saturday, on and off the pitch. It was the purest form of nostalgia and I can’t express how warm it made my heart feel. A personal highlight of the afternoon was Kevin Doyle’s sensational strike, when I genuinely forgot where I was for a second and celebrated like I was at Leicester.
Granted, there were a few faces missing, but with players flying in from Senegal, Miami and Seattle, this was not an easy reunion to organise and one we are unlikely to ever see again. A huge congratulations and thank you to everyone who allowed it to happen.
I was sat behind an elderly lady who explained to me before the game that she had left her glasses at home and couldn’t really work out who each player was. Throughout the match, she turned around to me to identify a few and ask who had just scored or who had just come on.
Scarcely believing that I was seeing these players again in a Reading shirt myself, I gladly assisted. That’s Ivar Ingimarsson. That’s Jimmy Kebe. That’s Jason Roberts. A gleeful smile spread across her face every time. These players mean so much to every Reading fan. They brought joy and happiness to all who watched them. They gave us memories to last a lifetime.
For that, all I can say to them is thank you. Thank you for some of the best days of my life and thank you for coming back to remind us how special this football club is. We needed that.