|Away Day Report: Reading|
Written by BlueBloke on Saturday, 28th Apr 2018 23:28
I wake up at 5.30am. I’d like to say it was in anticipation of watching the Town. Sadly, it owes rather a greater deal to an abhorrently early alarm on Tuesday morning and a very late night on Thursday. Still, now that I’m conscious I may as well start thinking about the day ahead.
Like most football supporters, I envisage how I want the day to pan out. As is customary, I WhatsApp my predicted scoreline to my Dad, predicting (optimistically) a 0-3 win. Since his scarcely believable, yet accurate, prediction that we’d beat Barnsley 1-0 with a Jonas Knudsen header, I should probably bow to his keen eye. His message reads: I’m going for 0-2, Waggy and Sears (I know Fred is going to get one).
A keen eye, indeed, you might think. However, he’s been predicting Fred to score in just about every game for the last two months, so it’s actually more the law of averages (sorry, Dad) that our No 20 ended up on the scoresheet.
After consuming my scrambled eggs, banana and toast, reading a few pages of Jonathan Wilson’s engrossing Angels With Dirty Faces: A History of Argentinian Football, I don my 1970s retro shirt and make tracks for Hounslow train station.
If the trains were running as usual, it’d be a quick walk down the road to Twickenham station and a clean run through to Reading. The railwaymen have, alas, conspired against me, meaning a not insignificant jaunt down to Hounslow to catch the 10.46 is in order.
I meet my sister, a fairweather patron it must be said, on the train. She makes a bizarre assertion (of which she is prone to many) that I “don’t read books” and says my retro top looks like a “pyjama shirt”. False accusations out of the way, we arrive in Reading and head for a steak sandwich and chips.
We board the bus to the Madejski, situated three miles from the city centre, and stroll along to the South Stand. Having made the decision to come at the last minute, she purchases her ticket on the gate and the kind lady in the ticket booth manages to get her as close to my seat as possible.
We head on inside and my sister wonders why a large contingent of Town fans are gathering around one of the televisions. You’d think there was some breaking news of earth-shaking proportions being played out on the screen. I explain to her that instead it’s highlights of our 2007/08 run that almost culminated in a play-off spot. I tell her this was a great season. She doesn’t care. I allow her a moment of ignorance and we head to our seats.
As it turns out, we’re able to sit together despite being officially 10 seats apart. She asks me if any standout names are playing. I tell her about the significance of there being so many academy grads in the team. I’m eager to see Ben Folami and Luke Woolfenden in person for the first time and hope to see Barry Cotter emerge from Bryan Klug’s bench.
The game starts. It’s typical Championship football; a few moments of quality, the occasional punt forward and a whole lot of scrapping. 0-0 at the break.
The second half is more of the same. Sears has replaced Mustapha Carayol by this point and he shows his usual flashes of tricky play. With 20 minutes to go, Waghorn has the ball in the net. I look across at the linesman expecting to see a raised flag. It’s not forthcoming. We wonder what Waghorn’s celebration is all about. It’s a jig of some sort. I think later that Waggy is the right size to tackle to Kuqi swan dive. Maybe if Shefki returns, he’ll teach him the proper technique. If that’s not a reason to bring our favourite Finn back, I don’t know what is.
Things get better. Jordan Spence slams one through Vito Mannone’s legs. Again, our goalscorer jigs in front of us and, again, we laugh maniacally. I don’t know whether Spence’s routine is actually any good or whether we’re just so darn pleased to have done what we didn’t do at Forest and kill the game.
By this point, I lose my composure and start waving goodbye to the departing Reading fans. The usual favourites come out from the 1,300 Town fans’ repertoire – “Cheerio” and “Is there a fire drill?”. Classic.
Then the moment of the day arrives. Fred charges down Mannone, the ball balloons off him and bounces towards goal. He nods it into an empty net and what follows is possibly my favourite moment of the season. Every Town player, Bialkowski included, run to celebrate with him. God loves a trier and Fred Sears is certainly that.
Callum Connolly coolly slots home a fourth and now we’re really celebrating. The Madejski empties, but our end stays to soak in a magical afternoon in Berkshire. Mad Dog fills in for our missing captain, fist pumping to vociferous roars at the full-time whistle.
After we’ve left the stadium, caught the bus back to town and boarded the 17.42, I slip into reflection mode.
This is what it’s all about, isn’t it? We travel a long way in a season. Some fans make every away trip, from Hull to Bolton to every other far flung corner of the Championship. Others, like myself who live far from Ipswich, make do with what we can; the odd home game and several away matches.
There’s a reason we rose at a stupid hour the day before Christmas Eve to catch a train down to London to make another train which would take us into Wolverhampton, despite railway strikes compromising our original plans to get to Molineux.
There’s a reason we drove to Barnsley in early August, negotiating the tight, winding roads that seemed more akin to Hobbiton than Yorkshire.
There’s a reason we stood in freezing temperatures in west London in early January, already with nothing to play for and expecting a royal slapping courtesy of the boys from the Cottage.
There’s also a reason that a slightly inconvenient detour to Reading, via Hounslow, didn’t stop me wanting to go to this weekend’s match.
Those who don’t follow football might not understand it and I’ll be damned if I can verbalise exactly why I, and so many others throughout the world, do it. What I do know is that I’ll keep doing it for the rest of my life, or at least what the rest of my life allows me to.
Not every afternoon is like this, mind you. But still, even if the new man in charge isn’t up to much, we’ll always have days like today.
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