I had been a football fan for as long as I could remember, and I was a bit of a plastic at that stage it has to be said (being as this was the late 70s perhaps Nylon would be more appropriate?). Following Liverpool because they wore red, and Manchester City (no I’ve no idea either, they weren’t doing much in the late 70s). There were two real turning points for me after that, mistakenly allowing myself to be conned into taking a bet that West Ham would win the 1980 FA Cup final by an Arsenal fan (it’s a good job no one had mobile phones to take full kit w*nk*r photos in the 1980s!!!), and being converted from a plastic West Ham & Reading fan, to an actual Reading fan. Like many people, I listened to the old 210 broadcasts during the week and weekends, and even got to meet Ian Branfoot’s squad when they came to my school so it was no surprise that I was ripe for converting.I don’t remember my first game, although I actually do. Well, nearly everything except the game itself. I went with my Brother-In-Law. Boxing Day 1994, Reading v Luton. The game itself was dire and awful, nothing happened for 88 minutes then each side had a chance (Stuart Lovell perhaps?) but it finished goalless. We parked in Prospect Park, then joined the throng as we made our way to the Tilehurst End terrace. I am pretty certain this is the only time I actually stood there. It was freezing, boring and pointless (ok I accept we did get a point for the draw!) but I loved it. Then joining the herd to leave and walk back to the car, and the queue to get out of the car park. Some things don’t change even as time passes I guess.
As that season progressed, I thought about going again but some strange (stupid??) thing stopped me. Wouldn’t I be a little bit plastic if I turned up just as it looked like Reading would get promoted to the Premier League? My friend was a ST holder and he tried to persuade me to go, but I agreed I would buy a ST for next season whatever happened (shhhh, Darryl, don’t mention the play-off!). I was a ST holder for the next ten years, and what a rollercoaster that turned out to be. I was there when Lovell scored twice against Mark McGhee’s Wolves, with the winner coming in injury time accrued from Mick Gooding trying to launch Michael Gilkes into the Norfolk Road stand. Then there for the 6-1 home pummelling by Palace which led to a pitch invasion and Uri Gellar entertaining (I’ll let you decide that!) the protesters. Terry Bullivant arrived with the extremely positive note that he could return to taxi driving if things didn’t work out. The huge anti-climax of relegation the season before we moved to the Madstad, the last home game at Elm Park ending in a 2-0 defeat to Norwich if memory served. The miserable, sparse, first years at the Madejski with not a lot to show for the time and money. Pants for pants day a turning point perhaps? Chanting ‘what a waste of petrol’ at Oldham fans who’d driven down during the petrol strikes, only to see a tonking. The excitement of the Butler and Cureton partnership, and feeling the Madstad bounce as we celebrated the win against Wigan before the heartbreak of another play-off defeat. Promotion would not be denied, and came the next season, albeit with a huge stutter at the end, ten draws out of the last thirteen games made things a lot harder than they really should have been. A thought that also applied to trying to put ketchup on your Rollover hot dog, what was the technique??
The first seasons in the Championship were good to watch, wins against Crystal Palace always took centre stage, as my in-laws always came to this game and invariably we would win them, Leroy’s fabulous overhead kick, Steve Brown’s thumping free kick and James Harper’s last minute winner (both goals scored right in front of our little party!!!). This is where the club I had come to love and I would part ways. Days were good and we were looking good but as with everything else things change. Different considerations now came to the fore, and the ST was reluctantly relinquished and I haven’t been that often since.
This was meant to be a little piece about my first game, but then I remembered my first game was ****! However, in writing a few lines I realised how many memories I do have from being there, and how many didn’t make it into this piece. Regrets? I have a few to misquote Frank, but allowing myself to be swayed into following Reading FC has never been one of them.
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