United take on Reading this weekend with the aim of stopping the rot we had to endure last week. Getting knocked out of the Champions League by Real Madrid before blowing a 2-0 lead against Chelsea made for a pretty depressing couple of games. We need to turn it around tomorrow and you would imagine that relegation fodder, Reading, who have just sacked their manager, might be a good place to start to get us smiling again.
Greg Double, a lifelong Reading fan who was fortunate enough to live in Manchester during his university days, has shared his thoughts on his club’s current position.
Scott the Red: Firstly, care to explain the picture?
Greg Double: It’s me crying after Reading got relegated away to Derby, despite beating them 4-0 and approximately two hours after I declared “we better not have a load of crying pictures at the end of the game”. However, in that two hours a combination of approximately 6/7 pints of Stella had been seen off, in very hot weather. I’m an emotional sort at the best of times, but when intoxicated and very hot, I’m liable to fall apart. I was at University at the time and the tickets had sold out so quickly I’d bought one in the Derby end. After 80 minutes of silently celebrating what looked to be an epic survival story, word got around that Danny Murphy had scored a header to beat Portsmouth at Fratton Park, meaning we were down. I decided to leave my home end seat and walk around the stadium to see if I could find my Dad and mates for the last 10 minutes of our Premier League journey. I found my Dad and best mate (two chaps I’ve never seen cry) close to the pitch and very close to tears…that set me right off. What people don’t realise is that this was our first foray into the Premier League in 130 odd years, so many Reading fans had died without seeing us in the Premier League and now it was over in the worst possible way. I got thinking about how much joy this Reading side had brought and now how they would undoubtedly be broken up by Premier League clubs offering them top flight football. I know you shouldn’t care that much about football, but I can’t help it…then I saw the Sky Sports News camera. Cue a flurry of text messages that were so numerous they broke my phone. Cue the hours of repeat on Sky Sports News. Cue the Match of the Day footage. Cue the appearances on both ITV Meridian and BBC South Today. For about two months I was the face of Reading’s relegation. I’ve now had my legacy secured by being the end credits of Premier League Years. The best moment though by a mile was being in Sankey’s about a month later (I was at Manchester Uni) and this scary looking Manc coming over to me with a bottle of lager. Fearing an imminent bottling, I looked for an exit before he sat down, gave me the beer and said “Alriiiight kid. When Citeh went down, I got caught on North West Tonight blubbing. From one soppy cunt to another, have this.”
STR: Ha, brilliant! Not wanting to bring about more tears, but what do you make of McDermott’s sacking?
GD: Fairly devastating. It’s so rare to have a manager and set of players in this era who genuinely seem to care about the club and not the cheque they’re playing for. McDermott cared and he fostered that in the players. For all their obvious limitations this season, effort has never been an issue. I strongly believe that McDermott’s issue was winning promotion with a group of players who wouldn’t walk into most Championship teams, let alone hold their own in the Premier League. It meant that we’d need to replace about 8/9 first team players and that represented an intimidating investment that I don’t believe the board was prepared to meet. McDermott was overly loyal to some players, but he didn’t have the funds to act in any other way. He certainly wasn’t without his faults though. 4-4-2 has no place in modern football, our results instantly improved with a 5 man midfield but it came too late. Some of his team selections in recent weeks have also been odd to say the least. However, his achievements warranted better treatment. He deserved the chance to fight it out until the end, I’d have even let him have another crack at getting us back up, but Russian Billionaires aren’t famed for their sentimental side!
STR: Who do you want to get the job? How much do you want Di Canio not to get it?
GD: I honestly haven’t given it much thought because the move came out of the blue, but I can categorically say I will be really upset if Paolo Di Canio was made manager. He’s ex-Swindon, a current fascist and has a tattoo of another club (West Ham) on his body. I can’t see why he’d want the job for any other reason than to treat us as a career stepping stone – I want more than that for my club. Putting aside all his other prize bell end moments, Brendan Rodgers also released me when I was 14 years old from Reading Academy, so I’ve already had a half season of hating a Reading manager and it was thoroughly unenjoyable – so I don’t want to dislike a manager again! McDermott out-managed Adkins in the Championship so I’m not getting an erection over his possible appointment, so the best available for me would be Di Matteo. He’s already had (and been burned by) his dream job, he has a clear playing philosophy that promotes attractive football and I think he’s “name” enough, that Anton Zingarevich would back him financially, in the same way Brian McDermott was not “name” enough to get backed.
STR: How do you rate Readings chances of survival now?
GD: The same as I did with Brian McDermott in charge, nil to very slim. No manager in the world could keep this squad Premier League, if they did it would be an astonishing achievement.
STR: Putting aside the doom and gloom, what has been your favourite moment of the season so far?
GD: We had a great January. Realistically, it’s got to be the third goal to complete our three goals in 8 minutes come back against West Brom, but even that moment is a bit tainted. It looks likely to be a highlight of our poor season, when it deserves to be remembered as the symbol of our magnificent survival. Le Fondre’s equaliser against Chelsea was brilliant too…if only because my Chelsea supporting Mum had rung me from the away end singing “Champions of Europe” about 30 seconds before he volleyed home the equaliser.
STR: Who has been your most important player of the season?
GD: It’s got to be Adam Le Fondre, when he’s scored goals, we’ve won games. When he’s been fit, Jimmy Kebe has shown why I think he’s our only player who has genuine Premier League quality – but his injuries/fitness have meant for a large chunk of the season we’ve been without our best creative player.
STR: Which one United player would you most like in your squad?
GD: I would say Robin Van Persie, but there’s nobody in our team capable of passing him the ball. We’ll have Kagawa off you to provide some creativity flair through the middle.
STR: Who do you want to win the league?
GD: United without a doubt. I’m not quite a closet red, but having spent 3/4 years of the best years of my life in the city I love Manchester. The whole city breathes football and I quite like City too, but you can’t deny the history and class of United – they’ve been a great servant to English football. Also, my great Uncle was Brian Birch who was a Busby Babe or maybe more of a Busby Foetus, because he didn’t quite make it as some of the others did, but had a great football career. Seriously, if anyone reading this knows more about him, I’d be really interested to hear from you. I know he ended up at Wolves and managed Galatasary, but that’s about it.
STR: Finally, predictions for the weekend?
GD: Heart says 1-2 Reading. Le Fondre scores a last minute winner against his childhood team before unveiling a t-shirt reading “That’s for you Brian”. Head says 4-0 Man United. A full strength and well-rested United take out all their Champions League and FA Cup angst on little old Reading. Our Russian owner then sacks everyone.
Follow Greg on Twitter.