Water, maybe tons of melted snow, may have flowed under the bridge by the time you read this. The questions to Martin Brailli*, a bookseller, football referee and fan of Reading, were answered while emotions were still stirred by seven or eight minutes of heroics at home to West Brom but before the fine win at St James1 Park. He has strong memories of Charlie Hurley’s spell as manager, strong views on what shoud have happened to SAFC for failing to stage a game because of summer rainfall and an unusual philisophy on life at the lower end of the Premier …
Salut! Sunderland: What a comeback against WBA. How do you explain it and, though matchday reports may have covered this point, how many home fans missed it having left assuming defeat?
I’m not sure I can explain it, although in recent seasons we have won a lot of games with late goals so there is something in the attitude of the players that means they never accept a defeat. Brian McDermott also has a knack of making the right substitutions and yet again a sub got a goal.
A fair few left , but then that happens every week as it seems for some people getting home 10 minutes early is more important than getting the full 90 minutes of football they paid for. Not too long ago we saw droves of Arsenal fans walking out early thinking they were out of the cup, and then complaining when they weren’t allowed back in when they staged a late turnaround. There’s a lesson there somewhere !!
Did you already believe Reading would survive, has this result changed your opinion or are you still expecting relegation (there will be other possible outlooks)?
I have no idea if we will survive, but we have a decent chance but there is a long way to go yet and this time last season we weren’t looking that likely to get promoted, so no one is making any assumptions just yet. Personally the idea of being a yo yo club appeals much more than being a perennial lower mid table Premiership side anyway !
What was your reaction to news that a Premier League club, located in a region notorious for challenging weather conditions, could not put on a match in August?
Baffling. Cricket teams that fail to provide a decent playing surface have points deducted, why should the same not apply to football ? With the millions in the game there is really no excuse for not being able to guarantee a playable surface every week.
And do you feel you’d have fared better had it been played?
Possibly, although you deservedly beat us in the rearranged game.
Last season must have been wonderful for a Reading fan. What is your honest assessment of how it has been so far back in the Premier?
We’ve not had an awful lot of luck, with a different bounce of the ball we could have had another 6 or 7 points (but I’ll accept that I’m probably looking at this in a slightly biased way !). We probably have taken too long to adjust our way of playing and find our best line up but we’ve been involved in some incredible games. Whatever happens we’ll be a better side next season, we have no money worries and life will continue !
Is Brian McDermott the man for the job come what may or do you feel he has done all he can and should make way sooner or later for someone else?
After his first 2 years in charge he has plenty of credit in the bank. He’s learning and I’d be happy for him to be in charge for several more promotions yet !
Biscuitmen or Royals, Elm Park or Madejski?
No preference over nicknames, we’ve been the Royals for nearly 40 years and it’s better than being ‘United’ or ‘Blues’. Sentimentally Elm Park will always be home, but if we’d stayed there we would have been forever bumbling around the lower reaches of the Football League.
Who are the greatest players you have seen or wish youd seen in Reading colours and who should have been allowed nowhere near them?
Robin Friday, Glen Little and Darius Wdowcjek were all heroes of mine. Anyone not good enough or with the wrong attitude has been forgotten about – life’s too short for negativity !
What memories/impressions do you have of Charlie Hurley’s association with the club?
He took over when I was in my early teens so my first experiences of terrace culture were watching his team. At the time he was the first ‘big name’ to come to the club and he did pretty well. He will be forever remembered as the man who managed to get a couple of brilliant seasons out of Robin Friday.
And what other thoughts do you have on Sunderland – the club, the fans, the region?
I think the North East in general deserves a lot more success than it has had of late. It’s been an incredible breeding ground for footballers and there is a culture of supporting your clubs that we can’t really compete with here, given that a huge proportion of our local population have moved in from elsewhere.
What will be this season’s top four in order, who is going down and, unless already mentioned, where will our two clubs finish?
Man Utd, Man City, Chelsea, Spurs – although if Spurs can avoid there tradtitional late season slump they may grab 3rd.
Relegation for QPR, Villa and Newcastle who seem to have fallen off a cliff. Us to scrape to safety by a point or so and you to be boringly lower mid table.
Has the time come to accept diving as part of the modern game? If not, how do we stamp it out along with other forms of cheating?
Not sure why we should ‘accept’ any form of cheating. The only way to stop it is by taking points away from clubs with regular offenders but how you adminsiter that is an issue. On a wider point I would like to see referees allowed to get on with refereeing and managers told to stop whining about decisions. I’d also sack every pundit until they actually go and learn the laws of the game and go out and referee for a season on the parks. I am a referee and the lack of understanding of the laws and their application amongst people who earn their living from the game is shocking.
What single step should Reading FC or football authorities take to improve the lot of the ordinary supporter?
Get a grip on prices. There is no reason why tickets to a game should cost £40, £50 or £60 pounds.
The club vs country debate: who wins for you and why?
Club, no question. Although I love watching the England rugby and cricket teams I often only know there is a football international because yet again our fixtures have been disrupted. Sadly I think most footballers care little about international football, so why should I?
Will you be at our game and what will be the score?
Of course I’ll be there. The score could be anything although I think the highest aggregate I’ve not yet seen in a game is 13 so how about we win 8-5 ?
* Martin Brailli on himself:
I saw my first Reading game in 1969 and have been a regular pretty much ever since. I was chairman of the supporters’ club for a couple of years, ran the supporters’ football team for a few years and am now on the club payroll on a part time basis. I’m a bookseller by trade so pretty much manage to earn a living from the things I’d do even if no one paid me for them.
Interview: Colin Randall