by Bob Lethaby

Supporting Reading in the last few games has been like going to a funeral that never ends. The certainty of relegation that has been hanging over supporters is almost surreal and I have to confess that my season ticket is now sat at the back of my wallet unused.

Some may call me disloyal, others may understand me, but from where I am sat, Reading’s brief flirtation back in the big time has, a few flurries apart, been an unmitigated disaster. Of course it is difficult to compete at the top level, but Southampton and West Ham have managed it, so any vitriol I receive will be battered back with simple facts.

Loyalty as football supporter is an oddity like no other, because unlike a disastrous relationship, you can’t just pack your bags and leave. This maybe slightly different in the modern games where support is more fickle, but anyone who started supporting a club in the 70’s and 80’s knows there is nowhere to go; you just have to grin and bear it.

Southampton is just five miles further away from me than Reading and as much as I would love to divorce the Royals and start supporting the Saints, a club on the rise, I will never be able to do it as it would be an unforgiveable act of deceit that would measure ten on the Richter scale. As football supporters we have to stick with what we are burdened with. All clubs have times like these; I know I am not unique.

Of course there is a tenuous link to the Saints coming from the employment of their deposed master of 1990’s positive rhetoric, Nigel Adkins. It is hard to dislike Adkins, but I have managed it, his patronising school masterly behaviour actually makes me feel quite nauseous, more so as he is apparently well suited to the “Reading Way”. For those of you who don’t know the “Reading Way” it is an ideology within the club to get relegated as cheaply as possible. Brilliant don’t you think?

Then there is Sir John Madejski, the saviour, the hero, the King of Reading who hobnobs with the more well-known Royals and demands that the nation should stand in silence for respect for the woman he wishes he had married, Margaret Thatcher. It was after that statement by him; backed by Dave Whelan of Wigan (did he break his leg in a cup final once?) when I could barely take anymore and I have not even looked for results recently.

How dare a bloke who got lucky with a car magazine (Autotrader) preach to the masses about how they should treat the death of someone who was in power during one of the most depressing periods in history for working class football fans. That is the problem with people like Whelan and the Madman from the Madstad, they think because they have had the entrepreneurial wit to make a fortune, it puts them on an intellectually higher plane.

In fairness to Whelan (didn’t he break his leg in a cup final once?) he has at least played the game; John Madejski knows about as much about football as the ant that has just pottered across my kitchen floor.  Yes he saved Reading from extinction, but he did it for self-serving purposes and the opportunity to climb up the ladder that allows him to fund and socialise with the elite who, more than likely, call him a commoner behind his back.

As a fan of Reading I would be spineless enough to forgive Madejski for all this crass behaviour (which in a return to Serfdom includes advertising for trainee staff to work for free!) but because Reading are only one standing joke behind QPR as the laughing stock of the Premier League, I can no longer cope. The mismanagement has been shocking, with a bit of ambition, Reading, a club, without debt (to give SJM some credit) and money pouring in from Sky, had an opportunity like none other in their history and they blew it.

But what is more pitiful than anything is that Madejski knows that idiots like me will be back next year, because we are creatures of bizarre habits and we just can’t let go of our little bit of territory in the West Stand concourse. That little window of Saturday afternoon opportunity to digress back in to laddism is just too much to resist. I mean who can ignore a pint of sick and a second hand Waitrose pie that has been heated on the surface of the sun?

To be a fan of any football club is a cruel business sometimes; it’s just that at the moment Reading seem more spiteful than the rest…

By the way..did Dave Whelan break his leg in a Cup final once?