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Thursday, 5 April 2012

Promotion Celebrations (continued)

When he finally stopped outside a door some way inside the stand, I only had the briefest of chances to see where we were, before the door was opened and I was shoved through............

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

As things began to settle down at bit, I took the time to look around, and take in the scene. It struck me just how basic the facilities were, no better than some of the Sunday league facilities that you would find at your local sports field. I understand that most clubs do this for the Away dressing room, so as to make it as least comfortable and relaxing as possible for the visiting team, at least that’s what I was told on a White Hart Lane Stadium Tour. Having said that, I have been inside the Home dressing room at the Madejski, not exactly palatial, so heaven knows what the away teams get. I have to say that I much preferred the Home dressing room at Arsenal’s Highbury ground. Did I mention that I have been inside that one two?

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.

Bobby Convey relaxes after a tough game
James Harper sorting out his bling
A happy Steve Sidwell
Ibrahima Sonko shows off his six pack
Graeme Murty and Ibrahima Sonko happy to be Number 1
John Oster & Dave Kitson on the phone
Nicky Shorey still keeping his feet clean

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