9/4/16 Reading v Blues, Following The Script Without Falling Asleep.

Life got interesting. The 90 minutes watching Blues wasn’t. I had pestered Trev to get me a job where he worked. He was always extolling the benefits of working there, and I was sold on the place. The company where I worked, had moved to a purposefully built premises and I had been given someone to work with me. In truth, my job was a two person job and I’d been doing it on my own for 6 months. It wasn’t because I didn’t get on with my new workmate, far from it. He was actually a joy to work with, but basically, the company treated its employees like kids, and I had grown tired of it. Eventually, I managed to get an interview where Trev worked as a position had become available, and I was successful. As for my love life, I’m not going to mention names, or even any details, as although the ‘fling’ was almost over before it had even started, I don’t want to muddy anybody’s water. Just to say that it was a tangled web and I still see and am friendly with too many that could repeat the wrong things in the wrong place. I believe, people connected, read this rubbish and the ‘fling’ is a rather juicy ‘fling’. Definitely a storyline for a book from the top shelf in Waterstones. Jilly Cooper and Jackie Collins eat your heart out. Blues on the other hand, had become boring to watch. Sure, they were picking up points, definitely more than enough to not have to worry about relegation, but after a brief dalliance with the playoff positions, they had slipped to upper mid-table. That actually wasn’t the boring thing. The boring thing was the style of football itself. Call me finicky if you want, but I like to be entertained. Yeah, I know it’s not like going to watch a film at the cinema, or a show at the theatre. It’s not like discovering and learning about things in a museum or admiring art in a gallery, it’s sport, it’s watching people performing to the best of their abilities whilst striving for the best results. A win is a win right? Never mind the quality, feel the width. Wrong. I love watching skill. Whether that’s individual skill that absolutely bamboozles an opponent, an intricate passing move that splits a defence open, or even a sublime chip over a stranded goalkeeper into the net. These are the things that actually attract you to the game in the first place. Not tackles, not a clearance into the stands. Nobody actually remembers those things. Yeah we appreciate them, but they don’t cause your mouth to drop open in awe. They don’t give you that strange fuzzy feeling when you watch them again. I wrote in my last post about Blues being defensively well disciplined and drilled against Wolves in Rowett’s first game. We still were. It was our attacking nouce that was the problem. We were formulated, there was no imagination, no guile. Absolutely fine if a win is all you wanted, but I wanted to remember something that would get me through the whine and grind of the working week, gave me something to look forward to the Saturday after with an exited anticipation. In the interests of doing this post, I looked over my personal records for games I went to during this particular season, the choice of highlights was virtually nonexistent. I was virtually an ever-present too. I’m not the biggest fan of Reading. That’s the place, not the book thing. It’s not the pubs, they’re actually pretty good, it’s the rigmarole of getting to and from the ground. I was well into ale trailing now, and although I enjoyed hanging around with the other Blues ale trailers I’d grown to know, I wasn’t joined at the hip with them. I had learnt that advanced train tickets were a lot cheaper than normal ‘walk up’ tickets, and I was putting that knowledge to use. I was now a member of CAMRA, and one of the benefits of that was the link up with Wetherspoons. CAMRA members were given Wetherspoons vouchers. Advanced tickets tend to be cheaper at off-peak times. Wetherspoons of course, open early. Touching down in a town or city earlier than when all the good pubs opened, at least enabled me to get a cheap pint of guest ale and a breakfast before getting to the first proper pub just as it was opening. I hit Reading, and after finding out that although the Three Guineas on the station was open for breakfast, it wasn’t serving alcohol until 11 o’clock. So Wetherspoons it was then. The Back of Beyond pretty much says it all. It was a typical, standard Wetherspoons. Nothing special, but it was a start to the day. I got to the Ale House just after it opened. It’s a place that has lots of nooks and crannies. You could plan to meet someone in there, you could both turn up at slightly different times, and spend hours missing each other. I almost, but didn’t miss Spoons. Spoons has a style that is not easily missed. After joining the rest, we walked up to Great Expectations, a brew pub whose decor is based on a Dickensian shopping mall. The rest had other pubs they were going to visit, I was determined to do the Hop Leaf, the brewery tap for Hopback Brewery. It’s on the same road, albeit a fair walk from Great Expectations. My phone made its presence known. I looked to see who was calling me. It was Les. Trouble is with me and Les, we get so engrossed in the conversation, we struggle to concentrate on anything else. I totally missed seeing the pub and just carried on walking until it came apparent I must’ve gone passed it somehow. Anyone who has had the displeasure of getting lost with me (And it’s far too many for it not to be personally embarrassing to admit to) will know that I don’t need distractions at the best of times. Once I’d realised and had told Les of my mistake, he apologised. He didn’t need to of course. I’m not going to blame him as I’m useless enough anyway. His help or hindrance was irrelevant. I traced my steps back, found the pub and bid farewell to Les. Time unsurprisingly was moving on. My enthusiasm for watching another boring Blues game had waned so much, that I wasn’t even sure if I could be bothered with the rigmarole of travelling out to the ground or not. The metronomic style of football had been something I’d been moaning about to Les. He’s exactly the same mindset as me with football. I’d even admitted to Les that I wasn’t entirely sure whether I’d go to the game or not. Here I was, I’d bought a ticket for the game, travelled all the way to Reading, yet the thought of enduring another 90 minutes ‘grey’ football just wasn’t appealing. I drank my pint whilst flicking through old editions of the GBG. I walked back from the pub to the centre of Reading, still undecided. It was only when I heard ‘Keep Right On’ being sung somewhere near the station and saw some Reading fans waiting at a bus stop, that my mind was made up for me. I caught the next bus with the Reading fans, getting off, we walked passed the queue of traffic, including supporters shuttle busses packed with Blues fans, the short distance to the ground.

I spotted Andy and Scholy when I was looking for somewhere to watch the game from. I was fully expecting the usual methodical rubbish from Blues and I couldn’t help myself but moan about it to the other two. Blues almost immediately took the lead after the kickoff. Now you would think that a club would ride the crest of this wave. Not Rowett’s Blues. We shrank. I stood there predicting Blues attacking (Or lack of it) movement. I even predicted our second goal. Don’t get me wrong, I was pleased that we were winning, but as I stated to the other two, we could’ve gone home after the second goal had gone in. I spent the whole of the second half convincing the other two that Blues were flattering to deceive. If I’m being honest, it was just out of frustration. I was feeling short changed. I felt the football under Rowett was cowardly. It was safety first, second and third. We weren’t proactive enough to get in the playoffs, let alone get promoted. I could see that Rowett was just happy to tread water, why couldn’t anyone else? I hate negative football. I hate the exponents of it. If you’re going to lose, then at least go down fighting. Attack is the best form of defence. When a team has the ball, they can do whatever they want with it. The team without it can only try to guess what that is.

So we won 2;0. I was at best, nonplussed. I caught one of the shuttle buses into town, meeting Spoons and the other ale trailers on it. Getting off, we holed up in the Greyfriar. Ian Allen had his Dad with him. A rare treat for him due to the poor health that comes with age. The great man is no longer with us now, but at the time, it was fantastic to spend time and chat about old Blues games and players with him. The rest were captivated by the Grand National. I’d never been a big fan, so wasn’t interested. I caught my scheduled train back home to Brum. At least I hadn’t got bored of knowing I now lived in Birmingham.

FOOTNOTE:- I actually left the last game of the season at Cardiff at halftime. Such was the way I felt about the football Rowett had got us playing. It was 1;1. I knew as soon as the equaliser went in, that would be the end of anything worth watching. I was able to say farewell for the summer to everyone I wanted to, and even had to get the Ol Bill to let me out. The final score? 1:1 of course.

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