A week is a long time in football. In the space of that time we won 9-0 with a display that genuinely was one of the best cutthroat, devastating, clinical displays that the club has ever witnessed, and then to an abject, torrid away performance at Blackpool that we’re used to on the road these days. We’re pretty much used to such swings of highs and lows when supporting our club. Off the field, these swings of emotion among the fans almost go hand-in-hand nowadays also.
Earlier this week, while probably still in the post-away-day-hammering funk, I pushed out a series of tweets that were pretty sombre in tone about the state of our club. How, yet again, we looked likely to fail in paying the wages of the players and staff, and the reported failure to pay tax to HMRC again. That this was another nail in the coffin for the club. Safe to say I was a wee bit angry that morning.
I didn’t have any particular motive for my tweets; I merely woke up, felt pissed off and wanted to write about it. To put it in words, to write it down, that is walking on hallowed ground. (Bonus points for anyone that gets that lyric!) I always feel better after writing my “Five Things” for The Tilehurst End so, I guess, without thinking about it, I thought I’d do the same thing but just as immediate tweets.
What I did not expect was a wave of support and empathy from fellow fans. No doubt what I feel or felt was not unique: we all have a shared set of emotions regarding the future of our club. What followed throughout the course of the day were other tweets that were in a similar vein to mine (but on a black page, as a nod to the upcoming protest where fans are asked to wear black instead of team colours; I wish I’d thought of that!)
Fans relayed their tales of their own history and what our club means to them. The same strands of stories continued throughout the day, the weighted fabric of what we all have witnessed, experienced and felt over many decades of support. All these unique tales that could all be for nothing should we suffer the ultimate heartbreak of losing our club.
It was a humbling experience to see something that I had inadvertently brought into existence, that I had somehow influenced. Usually, I don’t think that what I write or tweet bears any merit or anything more than a passing of the time of day; I don’t expect any kind of traction to result from it. But on this day these stories just kept on flowing on my timeline.
Most were from fans I am aware of, even if I have never met them in person. They don’t know me personally, we just share an affiliation with Reading FC and of who I am on Twitter. So to have had some kind of influence in this outpouring of love and emotion was a feeling that I doubt I could ever replicate.
Every tale was different, had a different aspect or angle to it; all very different to mine. Many had commented on their family ties that brought them naturally to be a Reading fan. It’s a rare thing to end up following Reading by accident! We’re not Arsenal, Chelsea or Manchester United; there’s no obvious glorified reason for supporting the club if you didn’t live here or didn’t have some familial tie to the town.
And that’s what was so encouraging about reading all of the stories (and I think I read them all!) is that we’re a family club and not just in the sense that we aim to foster the support of mums or dads who bring their kids to matches; we are coming together much like a family would when you need it the most. Everyone is rallying around to ensure that we still have a club to follow for years to come.
What was also brought into focus, and what is becoming more and more apparent these days, is that we’re not afraid to wear our hearts on our sleeves now. A lot of the emotion surrounding football is usually based on those matchday highs and lows, but rarely how a club can make you cry out of sheer helplessness. Fans are a lot more ready to show how much this club means to them, what the strength of that emotion is, what we would lose if we didn’t have that bond anymore. The heart on the sleeve is more akin to a genuine love than a Stone Island badge of dishonour.
When reading the Reading rites of passage, it made me feel proud: proud that I’m a fan of this great club that has a proud history behind it. It made me think and feel that I wasn’t alone in feeling so deeply connected even though I was never born here, my relatives aren’t from here, but I was born to follow Reading FC. I feel that bond just as much as anyone who was born locally. My own acute real-life imposter syndrome was nowhere to be seen.
In such trying times when we hope and pray for a swift resolution to this sorry story, it’s been great to see fans becoming more prominent, proud and poised to do everything we can to save our club. From the moment we met Ruben Selles at the Purple Turtle, we could feel a resurgence being almost touchable. Only for it all to be whisked away with further deductions and discord from our absent CEO and highly negligent owner. We’re still here, fighting for what is right. Hoping that this never-ending nightmare can actually end once and for all.
Hopefully that glorious day is not so far away, but we all hope and pray that Dai Yongge does not take our Reading away. As I have learned this week, It means so much more than we’ll ever know.