Originally I wasn’t going to bother doing the last game of the season at Reading, as Sky now controls our domestic game at the top level, all championship games are played on a Sunday with a 12:30 kick off, that way, they can take their circus to any ground they deem worthy of an interested television audience, without effecting the main event, The Premier League. Course they don’t care about the paying attendance, we’re just extras, there just to help create something that appeals to the captive subscription mules. That was until, away at Norwich, yet another fixture wrecked by the schedule planners at Sky, I was informed that Reading Beer Festival, coincided with the game. Now, I could do what what turned out, to be a good festival, the game, and also spend some time with Val and John. I was rather lucky to have been born a good 10 years after all the rest of my siblings, and thus, get slightly spoilt, something I could, but don’t take, advantage of. Val offered, or more to the point, wouldn’t take no for an answer, to get up and do me a full English breakfast, to be honest, I didn’t protest too vigorously, as her full English is gorgeous. Regardless of how often I see my siblings, conversation always flows, time speeds by, I had to put a little speed on, on the way to the station, and in fact, took the opportunity to jump a passing bus, the one stop to the station, giving myself more time to get my train ticket. Touching down in Reading, I put my head round the door at the Three Guineas, but was told that they weren’t serving until 10o’clock, so carried on to join Darrell in the Hop Lane Wetherspoons, being relieved to see that both he and his mate from work, had got pints. Darrell introduced me to his work colleague, and I preceded to do what I always do, and immediately forgot the poor blokes name, it was because of this, I felt I couldn’t correct him, as he spent the rest of the day calling me Steve. After Darrell (No doubt I spell that wrong) had finished his breakfast, we made use of the Nags Heads special early opening time.
“possibly Readings best pub”
We were joined by Spoons and Jude, though Jude wasn’t going to be joining us for the game. Talk was of the festival, and also Spoons record purchases, before we made to the Greyfriars, where Ian, Steve, Colin, Jinksy, Russell and Nick were. The subject of playoffs surfaced again, but mainly the non-league ones, although when asked by someone, who playing darts in the pub with his mates, on the rules concerning the oche, we confused him, by stating opposite accounts. We got one of the special buses laid on, conveniently located outside the pub, to the ground, sharing a can of craft ale, Steve had had the sense to bring for the journey. Getting off the bus at the ground, I went to the programme kiosk, I’d spotted. Bizarrely, Reading had produced a choice of coloured covers, I chose one in a sickly mustard.
Whether the kick-off fairies had a special routine for the last game of the season, I don’t know, as I contrived to miss it, I sat in an unoccupied seat next to Dave and Justin, whilst Seeley had already been bored to sleep, on Stephs lap. If the previous weeks game v Wigan, was a comatose rubber, the rubber on this game, was extinct, a Dodo, healthy and doing quite nicely compared. The only thing that happened of note in the whole game, Lee Camp unfurled his best save of the season. I even mistook Isaac Vassel for David Davis, such was the lack of attacking urgency, Reading weren’t much better. Off the pitch, in the home end, a Villa fan had decided to sport his colours, make it known to the travelling Blues support, he was rightly pounced on by the stewards and ejected. It wasn’t the fact that he’d tried to antagonize the Blues contingent, or that it was actually incitement, it was that if Blues fans could travel on the train from Birmingham to Reading, and make the game, why hadn’t the idiot gone up to Villa Park, as they were at home to Norwich, kicking off at exactly the same time? To quote Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, ‘Never ever underestimate, the consistency of stupidity’. I managed until five minutes before the end of normal time, before going in search of a bus back in to town, leaving the Carling Brigade massing at the bottom of the away end, to it.
I hadn’t been the only one to call time as the season, most of the bus heading back into town seemed to have been commandeered by us ale trailers.
“Well it was never going to be Villa”
Although I’ve been to Reading many times, I’d never been to the Castle Tap, I have no idea why I hadn’t, it’s a great little pub. Jude was already in there as we poured through the door. I’m being dragged into technology bit by bit, there’s a WhatsApp group going between us ale trailers, Jinksy kindly helped me join, as it was the only way I was going to, as I wouldn’t have had a clue otherwise, in all honesty, I’m too apprehensive about pressing the wrong thing. Regardless of the result, we spend the after math, (Or after match, delete where applicable) laughing and joking, much as we love football, I’m not sure we’d do as much as we do, if the social aspect wasn’t first class, we trouped back into the centre, and the Ale House, a favourite haunt of us trailers, somewhere that if you’re visiting Reading, is well worth the experience.
“Told you, surrounded by them”
I did think about asking if I could have the clip for Val, when they’d finished. (They are regular clients of Churchend, so I know Spoons would’ve picked it up for me, if I’d asked nicely)
“A spot for it somewhere”
We stood outside, and I entered a conversation with Darrell’s mate (I was still in the Steve club, messers Jinks and Whaley belong to) and a Thatcham shirted barman, about the virtues of non-league football. There really is a dissension amongst the proper match going fraternity, we’re being turned off by the razzamatazz of the Premier League, in our droves. Finishing my pint, I took my new moniker back to the Greyfriars for one last pint of the Blues season, checking with dismay on the Chorley result, the game had gone to penalties, and the Beeb had reported that the Mags had lost, a text off Dave my Nephew, refuted the wrong information, I rang him up to confirm, Chorley had actually won on penalties, not lost. I’d gone from despondency to elation within seconds, without seeing a ball being kicked, it made that final pint before heading back to West Drayton and Val’s roast Lamb, all that sweeter.