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Royals are hungry for taste of glory
Published 24/02/14

IF you make the regular pilgrimage to watch football each weekend you will experience the full gamut over the course of a season, whoever you support.

Reading have veered violently from the sublime to the ridiculous and back again this season.

At the irregular time of 3:30pm last Sunday Reading played Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road, producing a display suggesting they, rather than Harry Redknapp’s expensively-assembled team, are promotion bound.

It is quite possible neither of these two teams gets promoted come May, despite starting as the two favourites to reach the Premier League way back last August.

QPR are everything you don’t want as a manager of a promotion-chasing side. The players are all past their best, have played most of their careers at the top level, play in such a way as to suggest they have a divine right to win, and are a tad work shy.

The hunger has gone, and in some cases the legs have gone as well, yet the pay cheques are as fabulous as ever.

Despite being relegated last season, the vast majority of Reading’s players have spent most of their playing days in the second tier or below, and are consequently still hungry.

Over the last month they have been playing with an intensity and work rate that shows they really want promotion and Sunday’s game produced a couple of stellar moments.

Kevin Doyle is a man whose name is etched in Reading history. One of his 55 goals during his five year stay at the club secured promotion to the top flight for the first time ever.

He arrived for just £80,000 from Cork City, and left for £6.5 million for Wolves. On top of that he was a thoroughly decent and generous player, who never once flirted with any sort of controversy.

He is now plying his trade at QPR, and for the first time since leaving Reading in 2009, played against the team at which he made his name.

It took the 30 year old just 20 minutes to notch a goal. In truth he did little apart from score, but for all of us who wish him well it was good to see him enjoying some success.

The most stellar moment of all though was Gareth McCleary’s outrageous strike to make it 3-1 to Reading, and secure the win.

This will be the goal of the season winner for Reading, and it was, as footballers like to say “a worldy”. Having picked the ball up in his own half McCleary purred across the ground.

When 30 yards out and being closed down by QPR’s left back he decided to pull the trigger. The ball wobbled and swerved (apparently the footballers call this phenomena “swazz”), as it rocketed into the top corner.

I imagine this sort of goal is scored more regularly on FIFA Football, though I never waste time with computer games.

Anybody who ever kicked a ball in the local park has dreamt of scoring such a goal.

Top-corner net-busters from distance are as beautiful to watch as anything in sport. McCleary picked a crucial stage in a tight televised game to produce this belter.

Published 24/02/14

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