Who Are These Jobbers?
Regular readers of this column (both of you) will know that this is the section where I eviscerate the latest bunch of mugs that are unfortunate enough to face the might of Sunderland Association Football Club. Whether it be a humourous point in their history, the state of their badge, the fact that one of their former managers got caught up in an alleged sex tape scandal (pouring one out for you Paul Jewell, love yer big man) or their commitment to creating their own banter era.
Alas, I cannot do that with Reading. They are a team so nondescript that even a talented weaver of prose such as myself cannot squeeze anything even slightly noteworthy out of them. I really hate to disappoint my loyal readers (again, thanks you two, you really make it worth getting out of bed) but I cannot summon the strength to write about the football equivalent of a plain omelette.
I have let you all down, I know that. Please, don’t blame me, direct your ire to Reading Football Club for being really dull.
How Do I Get There?
I really, really want to dress this trip to Reading up as being an exciting experience and worth every minute you spend on the road, rail or boat. Unfortunately, I can’t. Reading is so utterly, utterly boring there is no silver lining to this voyage save for the fact that we might actually win, so I apologise that I cannot give the usual enthusiasm you come to this column for.
Alas, here we go. God bless, every single one of you that is planning to rise at 6am, get in the car and hit the open highways of this land. Hit the A1 until junction 35 at Doncaster before taking the M1 and then exiting at junction 15A for the A34. Follow this to the M40 and leave at junction 9 for the M4 heading into Reading and follow the signs for the Madejski Complex (lol) from junction 11.
There are a handful of car parks around this meccano stadium costing £8.
You know what I really love more than anything in the world? I really, really love towns that put their football stadium three miles away from the railway station. Kudos Reading, you really know how to lay down the red carpet for weary travellers. There is an always the fun ‘Football Special’ bus that leaves from Reading railway station with a return fare costing £2.
If you don’t want to consider standing on a packed bus caught up in a traffic jam on some dual carriageway in the middle of Berkshire then you should probably get a taxi.
A Love Supreme coaches leave the Stadium of Light at 7am with fares priced at £40 return. Book your place here.
Where Can I Get The Sesh Started?
Hey, you know what else I really love? Queuing for an eternity trying to get a pint in a Holiday Inn on an industrial park next to a football stadium. If this scenario gets you all hot under the collar then you lucky pups are going to LOVE trying to find liquid refreshment next to the Madejski Stadium.
Should you have the luxury of arriving in the town centre then you do have slightly more options available to satisfy your unquenchable thirst. Attached to Reading train station is The Three Guineas, a delightful CAMRA pub with a host of railway memorabilia, real ale and probably an excellent selection of crisps.
If you like your pubs with a sense of homeliness and - I’d guess - a Staffordshire bull terrier wandering around and looking longingly at your pork scratchings then swing by The Allied Arms on St Mary’s Butts (lol, great name). Opposite is the slightly more trendy The Pavlov’s Dog where you can choose the jukebox music from an app on your phone - that’s pretty cool, right?
For all you beer snobs - sorry, connoisseurs - then you can bore your mates to death by explaining the fermentation process of hops or some other shit at Zerodegrees Brewery on Bridge Street, they also do a range of some pretty boss looking pizzas. And if you want to supercharge your away day then slurp a few cocktails in The Purple Turtle on Gun Street.
Of course, for all you complete reprobates there is a Walkabout, Wetherspoons, Yates and O’Neill’s all within spitting distance of each other on Friar Street.
I’m Staying Owa, Is There Owt To Do?
It was in the wild summer of 2011 that I made my first venture to Reading. Eyes brimming with hope that only youth can bring and with my latest beau by my side, we navigated replacement bus services and sweltering temperatures to reach this town where we thought anything was possible.
What we found was a town resembling a railway station waiting room with a population that all seemed to work in London. Alas, don’t let that put you off because on Saturday and Sunday you could be at Newbury Showground for the All About Dogs Shows. I mean, what could be better to cheer you up than an entire field of frolicking dogs?
If that doesn’t get your tail wagging then how about Mo-Sound Sisters at Grosvenor Casino Reading South? Join the girls as they take you on a magic carpet ride through the wonderful genre of motown and soul? Tickets are £10 but stretch to £20 and have yourself a Luxury Buffet, yummy!
If not, get a train to London. They run all night.
What’s The Ground Like?
We often take the Stadium of Light granted. Yes, it is not as full as it used to be and, yes, it is starting to look a bit dated (please, please, please someone replace those pink seats) and it can be a bit of a hassle getting a pint at half time. However, as I finish my last pint in the city centre at half two and take the leisurely stroll across the bridge in time for kick-off I thank my lucky stars that the powers that be didn’t choose the Nissan site when relocating from Roker Park.
Imagine how utterly miserable matchdays were if you’d have file on to a ‘Football Special’ bus and travel three miles into the middle of nowhere to watch Queens Park Rangers take the piss out of you? And then when you just want to leave and do something productive with the remainder of your day, you are confronted with the choice of joining a massive queue or walking three miles back to town.
This is the reality of life watching Reading. The Madejski Stadium (or ‘Mad Stad’ as TalkSport insists on nauseatingly calling it) was among the nineties craze of mid-ranking second tier clubs building almost identical stadiums. So, in 1998, The Royals joined Derby County and Middlesbrough to build a totally non-descript stadium miles away from anything.
I mean what says glamour, heritage and ready for Premier League than being on the site of a former household waste dump and surrounded by methane vests? Mmmmmmm.
It’s big, vacuous and utterly boring but you’ll probably have a decent view of the pitch as Reading push us closer to League One. Sunderland supporters are housed in the South Stand, so enjoy this terrible awayday as best you can. It’s almost over.