06 April 2006

Man United, Reading and the meaning of love

The first time I went to watch Reading play was just after they'd been promoted from the second division (ie. the one below what we're currently in) and they lost 2-1 to Coventry on a stinking hot August day. I only went for the sake of a day out with some mates after we got our A-Level results. Unfortunately, that one recreational trip turned in to something of a love affair. For some reason, I couldn't get enough of the Madejski and kept coming back to see the team play. It actually took five visits until I saw Reading win for the first time (a 3-1 win against Ipswich who had just come down from the Premierhsip. Nicky Forster scored a hat-trick).

I don't know why I got so hooked. My friend Jamie was probably one reason. He's been a regular since he was a kid and I guess the enthusiasm just rubbed off. There was also the fact that tickets at the time were very cheap, espescially on a NUS card and it made it easier to watch live football close to home. It was a big change for me because as a self-confessed childhood Man United fan who has never visited Old Trafford, I was used to following my team on the tellly only.

I still support United. You can't kick things you start loving when you are a kid. The likes of Cantona, Keane, Giggs and Beckham were my heroes and I'll always have a strong feeling for the club for all the times they've made me feel happy...and indeed when they've made me sad. If you ask anyone who knew me from age 9-18 what they remember about me they'd probably all tell you how mad I was for Man United. In truth, it hasn't quite left my blood yet.

I actually thought about this during half-time while I was at Reading v Preston a few weeks ago. I thought about all the bad games I'd been to when we were rubbish and asked myself why I kept coming back. Why do these things stick to me? What makes me feel so strongly about these teams? How come that before this season Reading could dissapoint me so much but still have such a hold on me? Then it dawned on me...I realised for the first time in my life that I was in love.

Can you believe it? The time I realise I'm in love is when I'm sitting in a football ground freezing my nuts off surrounded by 23,000 other men. Seriously though, at that random moment I think I understood how to tell if you're in love. You love someone when you don't know why you do. They can piss you off to high heaven and make you cry yourself to sleep but you still care for them. That's exactly how I feel about Reading and United.

The big issue for me now is that the two teams I love are in the same league. They're actually going to play each other now. It's like bumping in to your mistress while you're out with your wife (although I must say I've never experienced what that's actually like. I bet it's crap). So answer me this (because I can't answer it myself): what happens if next May United play Reading on the last day of the season and have to win the match to win the title but Reading have to win to save themselves from relegation? I hope it never happens.

Love. Football. Bloody hell.


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