Reading deserve the glory but forget the £100million goal
Ian Harte’s ball in. Mikele Leigertwood’s side-foot finish. The goal that gave Reading a 1-0 victory over Nottingham Forest last night. A goal that meant thousands of Royals fans ended up on the pitch carrying Leigertwood off it on their shoulders. That goal meant Reading were promoted to the Premier League. But that’s not enough for some people…
Instead, Leigertwood’s goal was quickly labelled “a £100million goal”, because promotion to the Premier League is apparently worth (“up to”) that sort of figure these days. At the vanguard of this declaration, of course, was Sky Sports News. No longer are clubs afforded hours or days to celebrate the mere glory of promotion into the top flight before considering the veritable bounty on offer. The final whistle had barely gone at the Madejski Stadium and Sky were keen to ram the ubiquitous nine-figure sum down everyone’s throats.
It wasn’t just Sky though. Reading manager Brian McDermott has built a promotion-winning side on a relative pittance, bringing big transfer fees in without shelling out any huge cash for replacements – yet even he couldn’t resist a reference to the cash prize either.
McDermott said: “I thought there was a lot of nerves — as you can imagine — and obviously a lot of reasons for that — like £100 million — and perhaps we were not as fluid as we can be, but we have won and it is great that we don’t have to go through the play-offs again.”
This is understandable to an extent and shouldn’t be taken as a criticism of McDermott. The huge gulf in resources available to Premier League clubs is a fact of life and it means more to the man in Reading’s dugout than almost anyone (certainly anyone whose surname can be found prior to “Zh” in the phonebook). This certainly isn’t a criticism of Reading either – the negative tone is not aimed at putting even the most insignificant dampener on the club’s magnificent achievement this season. Nevertheless, it seemed a shame to find that even a Reading fan would prefer to label this a £100million goal than a promotion-winning one when sharing a video of the moment.
Returning to the wider view, there are some – although clearly not all – elements of the national media for whom the ability to attach such an astronomical value to one event in the Football League is seen as a way of making it interesting for the proportion of their readers or viewers who have no time for any football outside of the top flight. The glory used to be seen more as winning promotion from the Championship rather than reaching the Premier League – although they might be seen as one and the same, the former is purely a reflective celebration and the latter can sometimes feel like the worshipping of a false idol.
We will see the same again in a few weeks’ time. After all, there are fewer and fewer of us who feel that winning the Championship play-off final is priceless. You don’t have to read all of that article, but it’s worth picking out these two paragraphs in particular:
The Championship play-off final is the alternative showpiece and perhaps the least sullied of all great football occasions in this country. The FA Cup Final can now seemingly take place at any old time. It is suggested that clubs are actively attempting to avoid competing in Europe, for fear of the damage it will do to their chances in the Premier League.
So don’t let them try to claim the Championship play-off final. The fact that a quarter of the division will end up either promoted or in the play-offs after 46 games is a great beacon of hope — even the most pessimistic of fanbases will contain a number of supporters who mention a top six spot in passing, sometimes weeks or months into what has thus far been a miserable campaign. That hope is of glory, not money.
I’m not sure about the etiquette around quoting yourself from eleven months previously, but perhaps there lies an interesting thought to look back upon. It’s essentially a fight against the tide and increasing numbers of supporters will attach importance to their clubs’ successes according to the figures involved rather than trophies or other less tangible achievements. This is the way we’re going. No, this is where we already are. It’s a shame though, isn’t it?