Wigan, Newport and a musical debate...Welsh international Chris Gunter continues his series of blogs for readingfc.co.uk - rounding up pre-season, reviewing our clashes with Wigan and Newport - whilst also revealing which Royals star had a sore head after his induction song...
Hello everybody, I thought my blogging days were over until the media team kept on at me to write another update now the season has started…so here we go.
Having had two trips away during pre-season we returned to the training ground in good spirits ready for the last few friendlies. We started at Wycombe where we produced a good performance and scored a couple of good goals. Game time was stepped up for a lot of the players and it was certainly a nice way to end before the substitutions by seeing Jakey score in front of the away fans. The supporters were in great voice all afternoon, so much so that as I came off and found a seat next to our physio Matt - he had the biggest smile on his face as he could hear them singing a rendition of The Lion King – The Lion Sleeps Tonight! Matt was part of a group at our Midlands training camp which actually sang that song, so he was convinced his efforts had started a new chant amongst the fans! In no uncertain terms he was told this was not the case and it must have been a huge coincidence. Nobody really had a clue what it was all about. If you was there that day maybe you could let us know how it came about?! Tweet me @chrisgunter16.
We then had a game away to Stevenage which gave many of us our first taste of 90 minutes. It was a physical match in which we lost Hal to an injury which was a big blow. We drew 0-0 and another clean sheet was very welcome amongst the squad. It did however prompt the first light hearted debate with staff in the changing room, over the choice of music before the game. We’re lucky as a group of players that we all generally enjoy the same type of music, other than a couple of staff members. Deano (Dean Wilkins) can’t get his head around why it has to be so loud, whilst some of the lyrics really aren’t the gaffer’s cup of tea! Andy Crosby keeps pretty quiet on the subject because I can tell deep down he actually enjoys it. It goes without saying the music stayed on, and I’m sure when they weren’t looking some of the boys turned it up even louder…
We finished our pre-season off with the defeat at home to Swansea. The result was not what we were looking for, but after the game in the changing room there was a sense of excitement that now the real thing was about to start. Come Monday morning we would be turning up for training preparing for a game where it really mattered, where points were up for grabs and the season could begin. And come Monday morning we did exactly that, we returned to training with a spring in our step knowing that our pre-season in terms of training and conditioning had gone as well as it possibly could have. Towards the end of the week we were lifted even further by the arrival of Simon Cox and Jamie Mackie; two very good players who I’m sure everybody would agree will fit right in with their attitude, work rate and quality. Anton Ferdinand has also joined the group. I’ve known him for a few years, he’s a top man and will add to the squad with his experience and quality. The other added bonus is that we have a bit of entertainment on our away trips as we look forward to the song every newcomer has to perform!
Come Friday it was as if we’d never been away, slipping into the usual routine for a footballer the day prior to an away game. Team meeting before training, a light session outside before lunch and onto the bus for the journey to the hotel. You can always bet on the first question a new player asks the minute he steps on the bus for the first time - ‘what seats are free?’ For some reason, seating arrangements on the bus are a big deal, you always sit in the same seat and as a new boy, you don’t want to upset anybody or pick the wrong one. Coxy ended up facing his Irish team mate Pearcey for six hours which came as a blow to him. Although as ever, the big centre back slept for five of them so it could have been worse! After dinner that evening Coxy pulled his chair to the middle of the room, and as he was about to stand on it, started to make a joke about how he shouldn’t be singing because he’d played for the club previously. Just as he stood up straight on the chair he smashed his head on the ceiling which wasn’t the greatest way to start your induction, but the boys were buzzing with his song and we all got off to our rooms to get a good sleep before the big kick off.
The first game of the season always has a slightly different feel about it. The focus had been on the Wigan game for pretty much seven weeks since we returned to pre-season. You realise how much you miss that feeling on a Saturday morning as you look forward to the game. We arrived at the stadium with a huge determination to make sure we started the season well. You could tell from the minute we started the warm up how hungry we were to perform. That showed in the performance, full of hard work, sticking together after going a goal down, and then showing for large spells real quality. We all know how the game ended, and it was a real blow to concede that late. For the work we put in for the whole game, and also for our supporters who had a nightmare journey with the traffic getting to the game. The support was brilliant, the staff and players as ever really appreciated it. But we left with the overall feeling of pride at the performance, and knowing it was a good way to start the season.
Tuesday evening we backed up that display with a good 3-1 win against Newport in the cup. The gaffer stressed to us before how important the game was. There were some well taken goals – especially from from Pav who I thought was quality all night. Nick Blackman deserved his goal after his work rate and coming so close against Wigan on a couple of occasions. And of course for Craig who came on for his debut, which is a great achievement for him, to round it off with a very well taken goal – which is brilliant for everybody involved at the club. Well done mate.
So we move onto Ipswich on Saturday which will be brilliant to see a big crowd at Madejski Stadium. The first league match of our home season is always another great day. Stick with us, there will be good times and bad times, but just know that whenever you turn up to watch your club, you’ll have a squad and staff giving it everything possible to give you something to cheer about. I know the club have a ‘Paint the Town Blue & White’ campaign for the match – so make sure you dig out your hoops, however old or new – and maybe a bit of face paint too!