Yesterday, I saw my team Reading face Sheffield Wednesday in their Championship encounter, but not as I normally would watch a Royals game. I had a hospitality package for the game, which means there are added luxuries including a two course meal for you before the game, half-time refreshments and VIP padded seats. My dad and I were in the Premier Suite, details of which can be found here: http://www.readingfc.co.uk/news/article/premier-suite-190713-931237.aspx
Here’s how the day panned out:
With a 3pm kick-off we arrived at the stadium at around 1pm and were escorted to the Premier Suite, which is the furthest away suite from the entrance. Along the way we passed other suites such as the 1871 Suite and various Executive Boxes, one of which I saw injured midfielder Jem Karacan sitting in later on.
Once at the Premier Suite, we shown to our table which was at the furthest end of the room and was right below one of two TVs in the room. The Liverpool vs Arsenal game was on at the time, so in the build up to the game I was able to watch the rest of the Reds’ demolition of the Gunners. At the table already was an odds sheet if we wanted to place any bets, a complimentary match programme each, as well as a quiz to win a signed programme from the previous home game against Blackpool. After quickly glancing through the day’s programme with an interview with on-form striker Adam Le Fondre in, it was time to eat.
The food was a buffet in which you served yourself. The menu had designed by the chef and today’s main course was a mix of Asian dishes. I had a Thai vegetable curry with rice, a noodle dish, a pork skewer as well as a vegetable spring role.
On a separate pudding table, there was a choice of Cornish ice cream, strawberry roullard and an almond tart with cream. I went for the roulade with strawberry sauce, which, like the main course, was delicious.
After we had eaten, we answered the quiz, which consisted of five questions. One was on the number of goals scored when the teams last met, one was a question to do with a player (Michail Antonio) who has played for both clubs and is currently at Wednesday, another was to do with Michael Laudrup’s replacement at Swansea, and two picture questions. One was the back of the head of a current player and the other was a picture of a player who had played for the club in the past. Once we had answered all the questions, the hostess collected our sheet and we left waiting to find out if we had won.
For the next three quarters of an hour I was left to the read through the programme and watch the remainder of the Liverpool game as the excitement calmed down for a bit.
Although during that time, we handed the freshly released team sheets for the game, before it had been announced to the crowd in the stadium. We are unchanged for the sixth game in a row, not surprising going by a superb recent results.
Half an hour before kick-off we were joined by a host and former Reading manager Ian Branfoot, who managed the Royals between 1984 and 1989 and started his playing career at Sheffield Wednesday, making him the perfect guest for the day’s game. In his time in charge of Reading, Branfoot successfully managed us to a record breaking start to the season of 13 straight wins in 1985, and led us to promotion to Division 2 as champions in 1986. He also won the Simod Cup whilst in charge on 27 March 1988. Now 67, he gave an interview about his time at the club and also what he expected from the afternoon’s play, both of which I found extremely interesting. Then, just before kick-off, everyone could the see the teams coming out of the tunnel from the suite so were itching to get into their seats, but one thing remained. The winner of the quiz which everyone had entered earlier. “Ian could you pick out one correct answer sheet for us.” the host said as he handed the former manager a box. “Table 12!”. Branfoot declared and it took me a moment to realise that that was our table, but when I did I went up to the front, shook hands with Ian and collected the signed programme. “Just before we go,” the host asked me, “give us your score prediction”. “3-1” I said confidently, still surprised that we had won the programme. Um yeah, about that prediction…
3pm – Kick-off
After a few early chances for Reading, disaster stuck. Centre-back Alex Pearce brought down Wednesday striker Benik Afobe in the box. From the other end of the ground I couldn’t see that clearly but the referee was sure. He immediately pointed to the spot and drew the red card from his pocket and showed it to Pearce. Reading would have to play the remaining 82 minutes with ten men. Wednesday striker Chris Maguire coolly dispatched the penalty and we on the back foot. I thought for a team with ten men, we played extremely well in the first half, but we went in at half-time still 1-0 down.
3:50pm – Half-time
As well as being 1-0 down, fans were freezing cold at half-time, but thanks to hospitality I was able to warm up straight away by getting back inside the suite. A much better feeling than having to sit freezing cold and soaking wet at half-time on New Years’ Day against Nottingham Forest at the Madkeski. Biscuits and coffee were available, whilst I was also able to catch up on other half-time scores from around the country thanks to the TV above our table.
4:15pm – Second half begins
It was time to face the cold again as we retook our seats for the second half, hoping that we just might be able to get something from the game. But overall we very poor in the second half and the loss of a player took its toll as tiredness kicked. The killer below was just before the hour mark when Alex McCarthy let a shot out of his grasp and Afobe was left with an easy tap-in from close range. Game over.
5:05pm – Full Time (Final Score: Reading 0-2 Sheffield Wednesday)
Not even hospitality could make up for this defeat (well perhaps it could). Wednesday could have had three of four and we created little after the second goal had gone in. We sat back down at our table after a thoroughly disappointing result.
After a short wait, Ian Branfoot returned to give us his post-match views and analysis, with club chairman Sir John Madjeski also making an appearance to talk us through his thoughts. There was also a special moment for the mayor of Reading, Marian Livingston. As a young girl, she had been a spectator at Wembley Stadium when Reading won the Simod Cup in 1998, when they were of course managed by Ian Branfoot. Livingston still had the match programme for her day out and was on the hunt to get as many signatures as she could from the players who featured that day as well as from the manager. When she has as many players to have signed the programme, she will auction the programme for charity. Of course, with Ian Branfoot the special guest for the day’s game, she was given the opportunity to meet him in the suite and get him to sign the programme. After that had happened, Gareth McCleary, Reading’s Man of the Match for the day’s dismal game came up to the suite to be presented with the Man of the Match champagne and give a quick interview. He was also willing to sign any programmes that people in the suite had, meaning I ended the day with two signed programmes.
Overall, I had a great day out and thoroughly enjoyed the experience of hospitality, despite the final result. Even though the outcome of the game isn’t totally forgettable, having hospitality made the day a lot better.
I will be doing a post either later today or tomorrow with all my photos from yesterday’s hospitality.