Reading in the Play-Off Final!!!

Posted on May 19, 2011
Against the odds and certainly against my expectations Reading FC reached the Championship Play-Off final at Wembley on Tuesday night. For me and thousands of other Reading fans it is, perhaps, the chance to finally put to bed this misery we suffered in 2001 at the Millennium Stadium and even more importantly the utter dejection at Wembley in 1995 when we missed a penalty when 2-0 up and went on to lose 4-3 in extra time. We followed these defeats with further horror stories against Wolves and Burnley in recent years leaving us with a play off record that is the envy of no one.

1995 was the worst, there is something hideously cruel about having a game that you are controlling, gleefully whipped from underneath you by the opposition. We led that game 2-0 after 75 minutes but when Bolton got back to 2-1 a gut wrenching end was always on the cards. Along with the England v West Germany penalty disaster at Italia ’90 I have never felt worse watching a sporting occasion. I had a VHS video of that Play-Off match for years, but it remained unwatched and I only watched the West Germany game for the first time last summer. Despite knowing what was coming I still flew out of my chair and called Thomas Berthold a cheating cunt after he collapsed like he had been shot under a tackle from Paul Gascoigne. Football does that to you like no other sport.

But even that England game didn’t compare to walking up Wembley Way on my way watch the team I had supported for years playing at the grandest stadium of all. Reading, the provincial town of my birth were at last heading for the big time for the first time since they were founded in 1871. Well at least they were for 75 minutes before Bolton Wanderers came and fucked the party up…………..big time. Of course much has changed since then, Reading have a state of the art stadium, the fan base has increased from a core of five thousand to about fifteen thousand and they have of course tasted the big time for two seasons, though such was the rampant nature of their 105 point Championship winning promotion in 2006, it somehow, like their manager at the time, lacked real drama, it was done and dusted by February.

The footballing pervert in me wants to go up with a late extra time winner or a penalty shoot out with my back turned to the goal in dread of a Shane Long penalty sailing over the bar. I want a bit of drama to go my way for a in a big game for a change, I want to feel like a Bolton fan in 1995 or a West Germany fan in 1990, surely this is my time. However knowing my luck my heart won’t be able to take the pressure of five pints of beer, a bag of chips, and Jimmy Kebe volley hitting the underside of the bar and I will be well on my way to Royal Brompton hospital attached to a defibrillator by the time Matt Mills lifts the trophy above his head. Perhaps I will never experience the hedonistic feeling of my little club making not just British but European headlines in the richest game of them all.

Maybe I am just not cut out for that ultimate high, I remember reading about a cricketer once (his name escapes me) who in the 1960’s hit a six of such perfection that it left the ground at such a rate that it went over the rooftops of the nearby houses as well. The poor bastard spend the next 15 years of his life trying to replicate the feeling of ecstasy it gave him before eventually committing suicide. If England had beaten Germany in 1990 and Reading had staved off a Bolton come back in 1995 what would I have had to aspire to, maybe I would have become a heroin addict as I searched something to surpass these great moments. Perhaps nearly tasting glory and never having it is a healthy thing, what for instance, do Manchester United fans get off on?

Whatever happens, I will be there in Block 130 with my eldest son George who was in his mother’s tummy in the 1995 final. He has experienced plenty of  moderately good times as a Reading fan in recent years, but he is either just about to discover a high that I have never experienced before, or he is going to find out what it is really like being a fan of the Royals or any other wannabee football club. Bloody painful. I am off on a walking trip along the Dorset coast path this weekend with my friends Richard and Steve, it will do me some good to get away from it all as the hype and expectation builds to levels only SKY TV are capable of, it will be unbearable by next weekend.

If I fall off a cliff somewhere near Lulworth Cove could someone take my ashes to the game and put them on my seat, then if I am not there in body, I am at least there in soul.

Come on Reading FC you can do it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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