I remember in the autumn of the 2019/20 season I was weaving my way through the fellow fans on the terraces at Griffin Park to get a good vantage point for our last-ever trip to Brentford’s old stadium (still one of my favourite grounds).
As I leant against the railings, a few fans started bursting into song about Tom McIntyre (something about him having a big head and drinking alcohol), which I was thought was odd considering he was injured and unavailable for the game.
I turned to my left and, lo and behold, there he was. Stood there with his mum and dad. Chatting to fans about when he’d be back, and reciprocating the Loyal Royals asking him to start a song. For which he did the entirety of the game.
We all know Tom was, is and always will be a Royal. The term ‘one of our own’ is thrown about a lot really, but it is not wasted on him.
And now he’s off for (reportedly) a mere £75,000. But I'm not going to go into detail about the shambles that is our club - this transfer is yet another fine example of that. God knows I could. I want instead to focus on his time in a Reading shirt.
From his debut against Rotherham United in December 2018, up until his last appearance off the bench on Saturday when he was fittingly passed the captain’s armband by Tom Holmes, McIntyre never, ever gave less than everything he had.
I think that actually understates how much he cared to be honest, because every player - no matter who they support or what academy they came through - should give absolutely everything every time they step on the pitch. But of course it’s always different with players like McIntyre, who was with us since he was six years old.
Unluckily for him, his time in the first team coincided with some of the worst years in the club’s long history. Of course he played a part in that - he has ultimately been part of some of our worst-ever teams, and the squad that got relegated last season.
But to have players like McIntyre through that time, when relations between fans and club have been so awful, has been a small ray of light. And, within that time, he has given us some of the greatest moments I’ve ever had following this football club.
That Easter weekend in 2022 will live long in the memory. First the last-gasp winner at Sheffield United, a moment that genuinely made all of the hardship of that season (the 7-0 against Fulham, the early FA Cup exit to Kidderminster Harriers etc) worth it. And then to follow that up by popping up late on against Swansea City to make it 4-4 was the stuff of dreams.
And that’s what makes it so different with McIntyre. Most players would dream of scoring a last-minute winner in the World Cup final for England, but he would genuinely have dreamt about scoring for Reading. Like we used to. Like we still do.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here trying to say McIntyre is one of our greatest-ever players just because he’s a fan and came through the academy. He has never reached his full potential and, like pretty much every other player who has pulled on a Reading shirt in the last few years, he has on the whole performed under par for too long.
But he is one of us. He’s someone we could live our dreams through vicariously.
So of course that begs the question: ‘Why would he leave in our most difficult period?’ Or does it? He’s a young man with his career ahead of him, who has just started a family, and needs security. I for one do not blame any player, regardless of whether they support Reading or not, for trying to get a move out of here. We’re a graveyard.
He’s also a player who has overcome some serious injuries, including a fractured skull on his debut against the Millers, and someone who has more often than not been the one asked to cover unfamiliar positions. Whether it be left-back, left-wing-back, centre-back or even at the base of midfield, he’s always been happy to fill in and usually done so to a decent level.
Even when you take the emotion out of all this (which is pretty hard to do) and look at it practically, the versatility, experience and commitment that McIntyre offers is going to be a huge miss for us for the rest of this season.
It’s just another sad day in a long, long, long line of them under the regime of Dai Yongge particularly in the last month or so. That’s Nelson Abbey, Tom Holmes and Tom McIntyre all moving on to pastures new this month (albeit with Holmes getting loaned back for the rest of the season).
That really hurts. Three Reading lads all being sold because of an utterly incompetent owner who seems hellbent on killing this club slowly and painfully.
McIntyre hasn’t become the player we all hoped he would. But he’s an impressive young man, a good egg who is one of us. If he hadn’t made it as a footballer, it wouldn’t just have been Griffin Park where I saw him among the fans. But he did.
So instead he was in front of us all, on the pitch, donning the blue and white hoops. And losing a player like that is always, always sad.