I experienced every conceivable emotion last night as my home town club secured promotion among the elite once more. For only the second time in their 141-year history Reading FC will line up in the English Premier League. Congratulations to everyone associated with the club.
Having spent the best part of 12 years working at the club as part of the PA team, I was there to experience the euphoria around the first time in history they reached the top flight of English football in 2006. At that time, they walked away with the title amassing a record breaking 106 point and scoring 99 goals. They spent two seasons at the highest level before succumbing to the cruellest of relegations on the final day by goal difference.
This season however has been nothing short of sensational in such a different way. By January 2012 they were 11 points adrift of the challengers, but through grit and determination under the leadership of Brian McDermott they lost just once in 17 games to pick up 46 points from a possible 51 and surge to the top of the league. This is a great example of a team working and playing for each other both on and off the pitch. The same ethos that I saw in 2006 and is what makes this club one of the most respected and admired among its peers in how they conduct themselves. Huge credit to the Chairman and all the backroom staff at the club.
Last night I witnessed the second coming of my club in the relatively peaceful surroundings of the hills above Rome some 1,200 miles from my Mecca, the Madstad. I was a nervous wreck for most of the evening, only able to follow on Twitter and Sky Sports Radio on-line. It was very reminiscent to the early years of following your team on Ceefax waiting for the page to change!
As news came through that West Ham had only managed a 1-1 at Bristol City, it was clear then that Reading needed just the one goal to win and send the Berkshire faithful into raptures. It duly arrived nine minutes from time courtesy of a Mikele Leigertwood header. There was just a small scream heard in the Eternal City at that time, followed in the next minutes by the removal of all my fingernails!
I didn’t waste much time in sharing my joy with colleagues in the office, having arranged a ‘Royal Champagne breakfast’ this morning and adorning my desk with photos from a memorable night. Here in Rome, you’re either AS Roma or SS Lazio. Now though, there are a few more who can claim a small town west of London as their second team.
Congratulazioni Reading. Urrrzzzz!