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Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Promotion to the Premiership or not just yet?

I am not sure when it occurred to me, perhaps quite early on in the 2005/6 season, but it had felt for a very long time that this Reading team were destined to win promotion to the Premiership, if not as Champions, then as runners up.

Maybe it was the massive gap between Reading’s points total and third place, established relatively early in the season, or maybe it was the just way in which the team was playing that made them look like potential Champions. For me at least, it wasn’t just the fact that the Royals were winning games, it was the way in which they were being won. This team, these players, all seemed to gel all at once, all striking form at the same time, which perhaps is what happens in most championship winning sides. Every player seemed to play their part, making the team an almost unstoppable beast, very difficult to beat. Of course, there were some players that stood out, possibly the goal scorers, but then they always do don’t they, but you only have to look at the goals conceded total for the season to realise that the defenders played their part to.

Looking back now at the games individually, recounting how and when goals were scored and conceded, it struck me just how many times Reading would score a goal, and then another, sometimes with minutes, or very soon thereafter. A double punch if you like, knocking the stuffing and resistance out of the other side. A similar thing was also happening, on those occasions when Reading conceded a goal, they would go straight up the other end and score one themselves. In this way, the opposition had no chance to settle or take advantage of being a goal up, or getting back into a game in which they already trailed.

It was no surprise, therefore, that at some point in the season, a particular game, a result, would secure Reading’s promotion to the Premiership, the first time in 135 years.

As the 2005/6 Season was really my first experience of a prolonged stint behind a camera, everything was new to me. Prior to this season, I had covered a couple of league matches for the club, but I was basically a novice, with no experience of football or any sport photography, for that matter.

As such, each game was a bit of a learning experience, but great fun to. I was a football fan first, then a would-be sports photographer. Being a fan and a photographer at a game of football is quite a surreal experience, especially the first few times that you do it. You are not part of the crowd, in the stands, but neither are you part of what’s going on, on the pitch.  I know that the second part of that statement is a bit obvious, how could you be, but in many ways I felt that I was. In the first place, I had a position in “front” of the crowd, secondly in my minds eye I was transported onto the pitch through the lenses of the cameras that you need to cover a game, one long lens for distance, and a shorter lens for closer action. Add to this the smell of the grass, a really strong, pungent smell that you don’t get sitting in the stands, and I felt that I was part of the game.

Players that appear as outlines and distant shapes to people in the stands, I could see close-up, hear them when they shouted. Sometimes players would come very close to take a throw in, a corner or to celebrate a goal. I could feel their excitement and joy at scoring, how they soaked up the cheers and adulation of the crowd, just like a sponge soaks up water. This picture of Dave Kitson celebrating his second goal against West Ham in the 2-0 home win 2003/4, is a great example of what I mean.
Dave Kitson celebrates his second goal of the game

You can see from the look on his face, his posture, chest out, arms wide, he is the “man”, he has just scored and sent 20,000 Reading fans wild with delight, he is surrounded by his peers all trying to get close to him, to share in his glory. However, just for that moment, it is his goal, his glory, and no one is going to take that away from him, until he has soaked it up first.

Of course, there is another side to football, a much darker and sinister side, one that players presumably try and shut out, to ignore, but more of that maybe at another time.

to be continued...........

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