by Bob Lethaby

Every football fan will tell when their team loses a two goal lead that it is typical of them or that their team always has to do it the hard way or that their fans are more passionate or fickle than others. The truth is, we are all the same breed and we all carry the same passion towards our teams and the ups, downs and dramas that seem attached to our own clubs and no one else’s.

Ask a Man City fan the feeling of joy after finally emerging from a series cataclysmic tragedies or perhaps a Portsmouth fan who is taking perverse pleasure in riding the wave of humiliation as they knock on the door of oblivion. Being a football fan is about the winning of course but it is also an attachment that lasts longer than most marriages, so it is mainly about the taking part. Whilst most football teams we support will never win the major prizes in our lifetime, all of them will have calamitous periods, even Manchester United. In that aspect, no team is different.

Except Reading!

Since 2006 I have seen my little club involved in three games that have all been touted as some of the best or at least most dramatic games witnessed in the modern era. The results in these games have been 7-4, 6-4 and 7-5 against Portsmouth, Tottenham and Arsenal respectively. All very exciting stuff I hear you cry…Not if you are a Reading fan it isn’t, we lost all of them; there is no pleasure in being headline news when you are on the wrong end of a rugby score. I have spent the last two days avoiding Sky Sports through fear of vomiting over my living room floor hearing all the patronising plaudits saying how Reading should be proud to have contributed to such a great game. Utter bo***cks!

After all, this was Arsenal reserves and whilst the games against Pompey and Spurs (where we  led twice) were goal for goal games that eventually ended in defeat, this was a game where Reading were cantering at 4-0 after half an hour and were still 4-2 ahead in the last minute. Sky pundit Niall Quinn rattled on afterwards about how proud the Royals should be for contributing to one of the most exciting games ever witnessed but he is not telling the truth and he knows it. The team, the manager and the supporters of Reading FC suffered utter humiliation on Tuesday and the fall-out from this event is what may well turn the Royals into relegation certainties rather than relegation candidates.

Anyone who listens to Brian McDermott (the Reading manager) being interviewed on a regular basis, will agree that he is a likable and positive character who instils a huge amount of belief in his team that lack any real talent but make up for it with unique spirit. On Tuesday night, Arsenal opened up Reading’s rib cage, tore out its heart and stamped all over it with hobnail boots; I don’t care about the gushing compliments coming from the likes of Niall Quinn, the glazed shock on Brian McDermott’s face said everything you need to know. Losing a lead will now be known as doing a Reading, what supporter wants to associated with that dubious honour?

To ascertain where Reading go from here is hard to judge, somehow they have to emerge from the debris of Tuesday night and lift themselves for a televised trip to QPR on Sunday, a game previously of no interest to the neutral but now one that will have everyone waiting and salivating at the prospect of another disaster. They may not be disappointed either, I was concerned about our defence before the start of the season and I have no reason to change my opinion, they are looking like a toddler thrown in the deep end of the public baths.

If Reading do galvanise themselves and come back from this, it will be a perfect example that hard word and spirit is stronger than any other aspect of the beautiful game, it will be a remarkable achievement but I fear that it is an unlikely one given the recent circumstances.

As for Brian McDermott, a decent man who has achieved so much, over his left shoulder is an impatient Russian billionaire whilst sixty miles down the motorway a certain Harry Redknapp is patiently walking his dogs on the sandy beaches of Poole Harbour.

Things could soon get very ugly!