by Bob Lethaby

Whilst travelling to Reading yesterday I was wondering, as I sometimes do, what on earth I was doing going out in the driving sleet and temperatures nudging three degrees. I even questioned myself on my Facebook page, wondering whether, as Orwell predicted, football and stale beer were merely designed to distract the proletarian masses from revolting. It is fair to say that apathy was striking me with telling blows and winning without a fight.

I was temporarily buoyed by seeing my friends for the first time in 2013 and we discussed and laughed about the various Christmas activities and my on-going disasters with relationships and general life as a singleton; it is somewhat heart-warming that my all-round hopelessness can be such a source of amusement to my friends who I hold most dearly. If a man cannot laugh at his own failings, he is not a man.

As always, at one minute to three, we simultaneously quaffed back our fizzy keg bitter and left the 10 square foot territory of concourse that we fiercely protect from predators every other Saturday. Then, via the toilets, we entered the stadium, warmly greeting those around us with Happy New Year handshakes before the alleged “real entertainment” got under way.

At Reading this season, it is at this point when the fun generally stops and today appeared to be no exception. After a few flurries of activity, the opponents, West Brom, began to take control, with the brilliant Lukaku looking like he was in the mood to cause widespread damage. It was a bitterly cold and unforgiving easterly that was blowing through the Madejski yesterday and it felt like the cold wind of relegation as the Reading fans tried to muster a response to “You’re going down with the Villa.” It is hard to respond to the truth sometimes.

It was as predictable as wet bank holiday when Lukaku scored effortlessly to make it one nil and the only surprise was how long it took him to score his second after having one disallowed for offside and two thudding of the woodwork during a devastating display of skill, desire and youthful exuberance. At just 19, Lukaku has the potential to be a wonderful footballer, it was bordering on pleasurable watching him play yesterday.

With nine minutes remaining the game was up with Reading appearing almost content at not suffering a good hiding as West Brom went through the motions of running the clock down; the only noise was coming from the buoyant baggies and the clacking of plastic seats as Reading fans exited the stadium to derisory chants of “Is there a fire drill?”. Defeat in such a deflating manner is hard to take and I considered leaving, just as I did when 0-4 down against Arsenal but something wouldn’t let me.

Then, from nowhere on 82 minutes, a Kebe consolation goal that made the score and imminent defeat more respectable. Suddenly however, the WBA players had faces that said “Oh no…we are going to cock this up.” Then Kebe broke into the box and got flattened…Penalty…surely? Yessssss! Adam Le Fondre as cool as the winter wind, wrong footed the Ben Foster and delirium filled the stadium as the fans who had stayed on celebrated the most unlikely of draws.

Then, inexplicably, one last chance, a cross, a knock down by Pearce…POGBREYNAKKKKKKKKKKK!!!!

Utter pandemonium ensued, fans were falling down the steps, leaping into the arms strangers, grabbing and kissing the heads of anyone nearby and generally losing any sense of self-control. It was quite an extraordinary set of circumstances and took me back to a 4-3 defeat of Plymouth in 1985 when 3-0 down with twenty odd minutes left. As I said earlier, football, in reality, is a proletarian sport to keep us masses distracted, but when something happens like that, all the investment, the misery, the false hope and delusion, seems worthwhile.

Bizarrely, when I sat at home last night, I suddenly got deflated and mildly depressed. It was as if though all my happy cells had been burnt out by eight minutes of utter ecstasy. It made me realise why all these Olympians, cricketers and footballers suffer depression after winning everything; when you have experienced a major high and it dawns on you it will probably never happen again, everything seems more daunting. However, I will keep the MOTD highlights forever!

As Alex Ferguson once said…”Football, Bloody hell…”