Reading on the beach? City playing with no pressure? Either way, a chink of light at the end of the NCFC tunnelMon 10 Apr 17 by Martin Penney
I’ve mentioned my local newsagents and the football-based banter therein on these pages before, but please forgive me for doing so again.
On entering said premises to buy my usual Sunday red-top, I was greeted by Lowey the proprietor, resplendent in It Ain’t Half Hot Mum shorts and a pair of Bethlehem Bouncers. A chiropodist could have focused on the corns and bunions for hours. ‘It’s the hottest day of the year’ he said, as if that was a justifiable excuse for looking like a reject from the Chas and Dave battalion of the Desert Rats.
His wife shrugged her shoulders. ‘He always looks like that when he thinks it’s summer’ she said, with no hint of an indulgent smile.
There followed the recollection of the comments of a regular customer called Mike, who had left the shop a little while before my arrival.
‘I was up the shed with my new radio listening to the game. I kept tapping it and moving the aerial about every couple of minutes’, he had said. ‘I’m taking the bloody thing back to Argos because it doesn’t work. And it tells lies’.
I wasn’t up the shed, I was in the Barclay. And I struggled to believe it also.
Maybe Reading – and it looked like it – knew they were secure in the play-offs and didn’t want to risk anybody or anything.
But, even if that’s taken as a given, we had eleven players out there who cut them to ribbons. Alex Pritchard’s first strike was as sublime as Wes scoring while squirming around on his butt was ridiculous.
I’ve heard the “they’re playing for their jobs” line. I’m not sure. I’d like to think they just thoroughly enjoyed themselves now they know the season is over. Who exactly was on the beach: us or Reading?
The latter will have to return home via Sleazyjet or whoever for a play-off semi against (possibly) Leeds. Jaap Stam wrote the match off afterwards, but he’s got work to do for sure.
As to what Stuart Webber might make of it, hopefully he’ll treat it as the one-off it was but also realise what talent we have when the players can be bothered and the coach (in this case Alan Irvine) gives them free rein – as he obviously did.
Pritchard was magnificent and, at times, Wes took the proverbial juice.
If we fend off the rumoured approach from Brighton, we could – and probably should – build next season around him. Webber will have his own views on that but I hope he agrees with me.
Of course, we could have had double figures. Quite literally as El-Habsi made a couple of cracking saves in the second half.
So, what does this actually mean for the future?
Well, it shows that the starting eleven are interested. To a man.
Russell Martin has had so much stick – some warranted, some not – this season, but all of us in the Barclay could see how much his goal meant to him. I really feel we should retain him in some capacity; maybe as Press Officer if nothing else. Actually that is almost a serious comment – a Press Officer/trainee coach. Now that would be a first for football!
Of course, all the cynics were saying “too little, too late”. But I disagree.
Couple that performance yesterday with the Steve Stone-Stuart Webber axis and the new Head Coach to come in – increasingly likely to be Uwe Rosler, I’ve laid my neck on the block – plus the young talent that’s floating around at the club just slightly under the radar and I can see more than a bit of light at the end of the NCFC tunnel.
Of course, I’d love to end with a special mention of Lewis Grabban, but I think the Lower Barclay and the Snakepit did it for me.
And as for Mike’s radio: well, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.