7/4/23 Reading V Blues. Many Rivers To Cross.

The fixture Gods had decreed that we were to play Reading away on Good Friday. Ultimately, as long as I didn’t grab any sleep, I would’ve been able to finish work at 7 o’clock in the morning, race home have a quick sheep dip, and still make a train that would arrive in Reading with enough time for a decent ale trail. However, it was discovered that Egham was holding its beer festival. A festival raved about by a few different ale trailers. It was also discovered that the festival was opening its doors at 10 o’clock in the morning. A quick look at the train times, and attending both the beer festival and the game, revealed it to be viable. It did though, mean that to do both, I now needed to book the night off from work, as there would’ve been no way I would’ve been able to make an early enough train. I duly booked the night off. Now I’m going to go on a rant here, so if you want to skip the next few sentences, I wouldn’t be at all offended. Every year where I work, the holiday schedule is issued in January. Every year, the company shuts down for a week at Easter. Now this is my bone of contention. There’s two Bank Holidays at Easter. Easter Monday is ridged, the other is down to the individual company as to which day to use. A lot will close on Good Friday and reopen on Tuesday, the rest will instead be shut for Monday and Tuesday. It’s this floating day that the company I work for, uses to schedule a week’s shutdown. Thing is, the Muppets in charge at the company I work for, are so inept, that by Easter, they’re desperate for people to work the shutdown week, as they’re so far behind with production. The government needs to sort this floating day thing out. Either Friday or Tuesday, but pick one and stick to it. No doubt the Muppets in charge where I work, will be just as inadequate next year, and will be begging people to work the scheduled shutdown again. Ok, you can start reading again. In the week leading up to Good Friday, it was revealed that there would be emergency rail replacement transport in place on the line we were due to travel on.

“I’m no expert, but that doesn’t look safe to me.”

“Or from that angle either.”

I suppose I could go on another rant here. Say about lack of investment and misdirected budgets, but I won’t. One rant in a blog post is bad enough, but two is just going too far. My blog is boring enough as it is, without me making it even more so. The upshot was visiting the beer festival was now in doubt, as the rail replacement disruption would add time onto the journey. I suppose on the plus side, at least I’d managed to secure the night off from work and so I would be able to get to New Street early enough to find out what the latest situation was. Knowing that a lot of the travelling support usually go by train to Reading, Blues had even given out travel advice on their website. Of course, us ale trailers ignored the advice and turning up at New Street, headed down towards Reading on a different route to the Blues’ suggestion anyway. On the train to Oxford, the talk was of relegation and promotion. The sense that Blues were safe for another season at least, was clearly evident. The relegation and promotion talk was of who we’d like for away trips next season. It’s always about the away trips with us ale trailers. At Oxford, it was onto the awaiting coach. Believing we’d be on it for longer than we were, Ian went to sleep. Arriving at Didcot, we even had to wake him up from his dreams of Lorraine Kelly. I was just thankful we were back on a train. Touching down at Reading, it was a split on what to do. JK and Spoons were determined to do the beer festival still, but after finding out how much a return ticket was, (Even with a railcard), it was proving too expensive to vindicate for the rest of us. Plus, after the rail replacement disruption, we had even less time to spend there too. In the end, it was only JK and Spoons that went off to Egham. The rest of us chose to stay in Reading. On the way to The Back of Beyond, (No, that’s not a euphemism for where the ground is now, although it quite easily could be.) me and Steve mentioned about the river in Reading. Ian questioned as to whether there was one, as he didn’t think that one existed. As the conversation switched to beer festivals, I stated I’d been to the Reading one. Joining in, Ian confirmed he’d been to it too. Innocently, he then described it as being down by the river. Yep, that river he didn’t believe existed. We were to not let him forget his mistake, the rest of the day. The Back of Beyond is the better one of the two Wetherspoons’ branches in Reading. A little way out of the centre, it tends to be ignored by the usual Carling Brigade, and thus, is a lot quieter. After the B.O.B, we moved on to my favourite place in Reading. The Alehouse, I’ve waxed lyrical about before, and I have taken several pictures of it, for this blog. No more photos this time, and no more waxing lyrical either, but I really can’t state how great this pub is. I only wish I could pick it up and take it with me. After seeing and chatting to Jeff, John and Andy in there, we moved onto another place I wish I could pick up and take everywhere. Although not as quaint as the Alehouse, The Nag’s Head is just as good. It’s just not as aesthetically pleasing. I only wish that Reading still played at what was, the nearby Elm Park. Again, I didn’t take anymore photos for this blog, as I’ve probably taken enough already. Again, it is good though. These days, there’s only one place to end a pre-match trail in Reading at, and we headed there next. The Greyfriars maybe handily placed for the shuttle buses to the ground and also the station, but it’s also a good pub in its own right. Even if it wasn’t for the buses and the station, I could still see me going in there. Like I said though, it is ridiculously well placed for the buses, and you can judge perfectly, when to leave for the game. Not only were both Nat and Natalie in there already, but we were also rejoined by JK and Spoons. I’ve got to say here, although I’d enjoyed our time in Reading, I still would’ve liked to have done the festival at Egham. It was though, time to get one of the buses.

“I’m usually like that cow on a Sunday morning.”

Although Blues have been in the same division for over a decade now, and we’re pretty much going to the same grounds every season, there’s still things that change from year to year. Spotting Donny Karen, we latched onto her, believing she might know where she was going. She didn’t, but it was still good, saying hello.

During the week, Reading had been docked 6 points due to breaking EFL rules. It had left them dangerously close to the Championship trapdoor. A win for them was paramount from this game. A draw would’ve done us. Spotting Scholey and Andy, I stood next to them near the back, but with my eyes on Spoons and Ian several rows below, for when they left. It was Reading’s turn to take an early lead. A goal I actually wouldn’t have minded missing. His knees holding up for a change, Andy Carroll’s goal was a decent finish. The 6 point deduction may have dropped Reading into the mire, but in all honesty, they weren’t exactly great. That early opener was never going to be added to by the home side. It would be down to whether Blues could engineer a good enough chance or two, for the score to alter. Some things in life, you can rely on though. Day following night, taxes, and Lukas Jutkiewicz burying a header in the back of the net, from a half decent cross. Throughout my time watching Blues, the Juke is only slightly behind Mick Harford when it comes to heading ability. There will come a time in the future, when heading will be banned in football, and the art will disappear. The likes of Harford and Jutkiewicz will be nonexistent in football, and I for one do not wish to be alive when they’re not.

“Oh, I do love the smell of a smoke bomb.”

The Juke gets a lot of stick for his lack of mobility these days, but he’s tenacious, and gives his all. For that alone, I have nothing but respect for him. His knees might not be as strong as they were, and he does seem to get slower by the game, but with his heading ability, he’s still a potent threat. At some point in the near future, his time in and around the team will come to an end, but it’ll be a sad day when it happens. He’s been an excellent servant for Blues. After a poor first half, between two poor teams, we settled in for the second 45 minutes. Reading pushed as much as they could to get a winner in that second period, but in all honesty Blues never really looked in danger of conceding another. In fact, with the gaps in the Reading defence growing wider than the cracks in the Nuneham viaduct, it looked increasingly likely Blues were more liable to score a winner. With the added time announced, and seeing Spoons move for the exit, I followed.

Catching up with the rest, we managed to get the first shuttle bus back to the station. A 1:1 draw, meant a point closer to safety for Blues. With results elsewhere going against them, a point wasn’t enough to keep the home side out of the bottom 3. There is still a lot of football to be played yet, but if I were a Reading supporter, and thankfully I’m not, I’d be seriously concerned about the Royal’s plight. As a serial away fan, I’d like to see both Reading and QPR relegated. Neither away trips are ones I really look forward to, but then, it’s not up to me, and I’ve no luck anyway. We now needed to navigate the chaos of rail replacement coaches. Getting to Didcot was easy enough, and amazingly, the trip back to Oxford Station wasn’t too bad either, but it was still a relief to get back on a train though. Something that was made even more comfortable after being spotted by Alan Clements who fortunately, turned out to be the train manager on the service we were catching back to Brum. He beckoned us towards the front of the train, and First Class. We were to get to travel back in style. Sometimes it’s nice knowing who I do, the rest of the time, it’s brilliant. We arranged with Alan to meet him in the Colemore, as the train he was in charge of, just happened to be his last of the day. After a pint in the Colemore, Including the usual bit of banter with Jazz, I got the bus home.


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