Ok, did that really say “Away Dressing Room”. It soon became apparent that it was, as I was confronted by the sight of the Reading players, all in various stages of dress or undress. To my left, I couldn’t help but noticed Steve Coppell in the toilets, peeing into a urinal, was this really happening?
For a few seconds it felt as though we were strangers, intruding into “their” world, a place where only they belonged, somewhere where we would only be tolerated for a few minutes. As it turned out, the players were all still buzzing from the result and gaining promotion, still in a celebratory mood. I began to take random pictures, nervously at first, but then encouraged and even confident enough to ask for a few poses. Then there was the group picture with Champagne sprayed around the dressing room.
The floor was strewn with discarded boots, grass, mud, shirts, socks and shorts, just like every dressing room after a game. It also brought it home to me no matter how famous players or teams become, at the end of the day they are still only 11 men who kick a ball around a field, and even professional players have to stand on the bench when getting dry so as not to get their feet dirty.
|Away Players Dressing Room at the Walkers Stadium|
Eventually, we retreated towards the exit and found ourselves once again banished to the outside world, a world full of wouldbe professional footballers all aspired to live the dream, a dream that the Reading players were living. We hung about just outside the door of the dressing room. Eventually the players and staff began to come out in dribs and drabs, heading for the coach ride home. For some strange reason, Glen Little decided to award me his players match day pass, and much like an Olympic medallist being presented with his medal, he hung it round my neck as he left the dressing room.
At the end of a very tiring and emotionally charged day, we arrived back at the Madejski Stadium still buzzing from our experience.