The three months between the end of the season and start of the new campaign often feels like the longest three months of your life. Suddenly a huge hole is left in your life, no Match of the Day on Saturday evenings, no Super Sunday on err…Sundays.
Luckily, this summer we were entertained by the Under 21 European Championships and Women’s World Cup for the whole of June and start of July, making the unbearable break a lot more bearable. I thoroughly enjoyed both competitions, especially as every single game was on TV, and England’s women did extremely well in the latter.
But nothing can quite match going to a game itself. As much as I would have loved to have been in the Czech Republic or Canada for the two tournaments, I had nowhere near enough money, but now that pre-season has started, I’m getting that football buzz back. As much supporting your national team is great, and the whole country celebrating together is incredible, it is sort of forced upon you. You can’t choose your nationality, you’re born with one. But you can choose your club team, and it’s special unity that is hard to explain.
That’s why I was excited to watch Reading once again a few weeks ago when the Royals travelled to Bangkok to face a Thailand All-Stars XI. It may have been on a YouTube stream with seemingly racist Thai commentators and comical adverts featuring Manchester United players, but it was still good to watch my team once again.
Then yesterday came the time for me to finally go to a ground itself and watch some football. But it wasn’t the Reading men’s team I went to see. Inspired by the Women’s World Cup, I decided to travel to Farnborough to watch Reading Women face Chelsea ladies in the WSL Continental Tyres Cup, which is the female equivalent to the Capital One Cup (League Cup). It finished 3-2 to Chelsea, an underserved result, but it showed that Reading were ready for the top division as they move closer and closer to promotion from WSL2. World Cup stars Eni Aluko, Katie Chapman and Ji So-Yun all featured for the visitors, and the standard in general was high in a thoroughly entertaining game. I will definitely be going to more games in the future, starting perhaps with the WSL2 clash with Aston Villa Ladies on Saturday!
Then on Friday, I’m going to Wycombe’s Adams Park to watch Reading (the men) face Premier League Swansea, but who knows how strong a side the Welsh club will put out? That’s when it will really feel as though the campaign has started again, and I’ll know that I have nine months of footballing entertainment to look forward to, with hopefully some success at the end of it!
Pre-season games may not necessarily be a representation of how your team will do in the upcoming campaign, and that’s not what they are there for. For players, it’s a chance to get back to full fitness and sharpness. Then for us fans, who have been drained of football for far too long, we can see our team in action again, complete with exciting new signings and flashy new kits. No feeling can equal that of when your team score a goal, and to get that feeling again after a long time is magical.
We’ve got a great campaign ahead of us. It will be unpredictable. It will be heart-stopping. It will be an emotional rollercoaster. But that’s why we love football. That’s why it’s the beautiful game.