Sunday, 18 April 2021

We need another sprinkle of fortune

I WAS unable to enjoy the game at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday as much as usual.

We are now at the stage when the importance of the result outweighs the need to be entertained.

Reading are teetering precariously on the play-off precipice, with Bournemouth, Middlesbrough, Cardiff and Barnsley all trying to shove them plummeting downwards.

All season Reading have been in the top six places of the Championship. They looked most certain and assured in the first month but since then have steadily looked less convincing, month by month.

During the last year line graphs sloping down on the TV news have been one of life’s most heartening sights. Unfortunately, Reading’s form graph follows a similar wiggle.

The pressure is mounting and when we arrive at Oakwell on Good Friday it will reach a crescendo. Whoever wins the game between Barnsley and Reading will have taken a giant leap towards the end-of-season play-offs.

With so much at stake, it made it all the more surprising that I was so easily distracted during the 1-1 draw against Queen’s Park Rangers at the weekend.

The score line fairly reflected an incident-packed game full of chances at both ends, though Reading fans will point to an exhilarating 20-minute onslaught immediately after half time during which they ought to have put the game to bed.

I was too busy thinking what the life of QPR’s laundry lady/man must be like. The players turned up pre-match looking more like Stan Wawrinka than Stan Bowles, all dressed in natty bright white tracksuit tops.

During the warm-up they wore more appropriate dark and light blue tracksuit tops. Then to walk the 30 yards from their changing room to the touchline at the start of the game they wore red tracksuit tops, which were immediately removed and thrown into the kit man’s bag.

That’s a lot of laundry gathered during 90 minutes of doing not very much.

If that distracted me during the first half, a failing pitch sprinkler had the same effect in the second half. Seny Dieng, the QPR keeper, was doused by cold water in his penalty box from the sprinkler behind his goal, which was jammed on.

The groundsman had opted to water the whole pitch during the break. All the other sprinklers turned off as if by magic, but presumably through the flick of a switch remotely on some clever gadget, but the water kept on spraying in Dieng’s penalty box.

Sensibly, the ref delayed the restart. There was no sign of any groundsmen available to help out, so the former South Africa, Atletico Madrid and Manchester United star Quinton Fortune, who is now part of the coaching set up at Reading, took it upon himself to jog from the technical area all the way round the edge of the pitch to sort the sprinkler out.

Did Sir Alex Ferguson send Fortune on a plumbing course while he was at Old Trafford? Maybe gardens in Madrid need sprinklers, so Fortune backed himself to be the best qualified to sort the issue out.

Just as he had completed the lengthy jog and reached the offending sprinkler, it turned off. It would have been a highlight of the season had 24,000 been in the stadium.

What was Fortune thinking as he made that long jog round? From one of the world’s most sought-after midfielders to part-time plumber in south Reading.

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