This game was originally scheduled for New Years day. I have no idea why it was changed. Sky hadn’t claimed it as one of their own. It wasn’t a high risk game. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be any reason for the change at all. Also, why do Reading kick off at 8 o’clock? Surely the rush hour traffic will have subsided way before the mass pilgrimage to the out of town monstrosity that is the Madjeski stadium or whoever it’s sponsored by. That extra fifteen minutes, makes it a tight squeeze as to whether you’ll make the last train. It put Steve off. Had I not committed to doing every game, I probably wouldn’t have done it either. It meant that my Sister and her hubby, had to put up with me descending on them again. Though they could’ve pretended that they’d be out of the country at the time of my proposed visit. Joking apart, I always feel guilty for only seeming to visit them when there’s a match involved. They don’t make me feel that way obviously, it’s just me feeling guilty for not visiting them more often. Same as the rest of my family really. Trouble is, time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana. Whether a whole bunch of Great Western Railway drivers had decided to throw a sicky on the first full day back at work for most, or the tin pot firm they work for haven’t actually hired enough drivers, I don’t know, but two out of three trains on the line from Paddington to Didcot via Reading and vice versa, were being cancelled. The booking office had been shut when I eventually got the train to Reading, so I’d had to get my ticket when I touched down. Least I didn’t get stuck behind a confusing Irish woman. Judging by the size of the puddles in the centre of Reading, (You could have floated a medium sized dinghy on some, quite easily) I’d managed to miss getting drenched. I headed a little out of the centre towards where Elm Park used to be, (Walking distance, by the way) to The Nags Head. This place is class. It really is a pick up and take with you pub. Not only is it a great pub, but it’s got a great range of ales, they’re well kept and it’s cheap.
A different way of displaying the pump clips
They don’t sell these lampshades in those mind numbing furnishing shops.
I headed back to another favourite Reading pub of mine, in the shape of The Ale House. It’s got a small open plan seating area round the small bar, but it’s through the back that I like, it’s got these hideaway all wooden snugs. If you wanted to avoid someone, this is the place where you could probably do it.
From here, I headed back towards the train station and to a total contrast from the Ale House, called Greyfriars. It’s got a modern, airy feel to the place. It is a handily placed boozer though. Great for the station but also for the special buses they put on to get you the forty miles to where the ground seems to be. The best thing, no Carling, so you don’t get the brigade traipsing in. Did I mention that it is actually a good pub too? No? Well it is. Good range, well kept. I got talking to a couple who were going to the game. They tried escaping away from me by heading on to one of the special buses outside. Unfortunately for them, they didn’t get their timing right, and I caught up with them on the same bus. Amongst other football related topics, we got on to links between the two clubs. Martin Hicks was mentioned. Turned out, for a period of time, they lived in the same Warwickshire village, as Martin’s parents pub. Being proud parents, they had something of a shrine to him in their pub.
Reading had thoughtfully provided us traveling Blues fans with the A to Z of Blues DVD playing on a loop on some of the concourse TVs. However, it just pointing to how bad we were this season. I wasn’t the only one that was sighing way too often for comfort. The more we watched, the more we became even more despondent about our current plight. Watching great player after great player, doing great things in the royal blue (And assorted away colours), wasn’t doing our mental well being any good at all. I dried my eyes and waded through the mixture of tears that had started to flood the place. Thanks Reading, you sadistic bunch of Bar stewards.
Coming to you live from a half empty stadium.
The game kicked off and I started counting down to Blues conceding the first goal. Reading cut through the middle, like we were traffic cones only there was no end product. The rain lashed it down, the wind took hold and swirled the stuff round and round. It wasn’t to settle down until just before the end of the game. Luckily for the departing crowd, it did. It didn’t look fun to be in, or out in. Either way, you’d have become extremely waterlogged, very quickly. Something strange happened in the first half. . . . we scored. Another rebound smashed in by the “Prolific” Maghoma. 1:0 to Blues. Half time and I went downstairs to see who I could see. I saw Daz. He’d driven down. Being registered disabled, he was able to park right outside the away end. Good job really, as after having both knees replaced, it wasn’t like he could run to the car. Second half and we made a couple of chances. One of them was a through ball from Boga to Gallagher, who buried it. 2:0 Blues. I pinched myself. It hurt. I pinched myself again. It still hurt. There wasn’t just shock, elation and relief in the away end. You could see it in the players. The confidence the second goal gave them, coursed through the team. They looked an inch taller, a yard faster. (A metre faster, just doesn’t sound right) They were on their toes and not their heels. Everyone wanted the ball. A third wouldn’t have flattered them. They even had one cleared off the line. I did expect Reading to pull one back. Just because we’re Blues and doing things the hard way is what Blues do. I left just after the fourth official displayed the added time. There was only one train back to my Sister’s due to cancellations and I wasn’t going to miss it. First away win of the season. Back to back wins. Not a goal conceded. Biggest league win of the season. What’s going on? I was pretty sure that I was the only Blues fan on the bus back to town. Everyone else was whingeing and moaning. We’d managed back to back wins and were still second from bottom of the league. I reckon you’re safe boys and girls. No need to press the eject button just yet. Turned the corner? Us? Do me a favour.
I got off the bus and checked they hadn’t cancelled the train on me. I noted that I could’ve caught the last train back to Brum but it just wasn’t worth taking the chance. Besides, I wouldn’t have spent time with my Sister and hubby. Although I’m not sure what they’ve done wrong to deserve me as a brother/brother in law. I had enough time to head back to Greyfriars for a pint, and that’s what I did. I muscled in on a conversation two lads that had obviously been to the game, were having. I was drawn to the despondency that was emanating from one of them if I’m honest. Not in a gloating kind of way, though it was actually nice to be in a position to be able to if I wanted. It was more of a kindred spirit kind of thing. His mate, I was to find out, was a Q.P.R. fan. It explained why he didn’t look anywhere near as depressed. They were both season ticket holders at their chosen clubs. I could’ve easily spent a couple of hours talking football with these two but there really was no chance I was going to miss the train and find myself stranded in Reading. This had been my sixth game in ten days. I have no idea how many miles I’d covered but you won’t hear me complaining that there’s too much football over Christmas. Must be really hard, staying in luxury hotels and traveling on luxury coaches. Getting paid exorbitant wages for a ridiculously small amount of work. Must be really hard. How do they cope? Poor little lambs. I was just thankful that I hadn’t had a soaking.