No, not the Kansas City Royals, I am writing about Reading's Royals and this is not an article about a minor-league baseball or hockey team it is about my favorite club soccer team on the precipice of playing on England's biggest stage. Reading Football Club, currently fighting to get back in the playoff hunt in England's second division, are poised to face Premiership giants Manchester City Football Club on Sunday, March 13th in the FA Cup quarter-final. If the Royals can somehow take down Man City they will be among the final four teams playing at Wembley Stadium in a winner-take all tournament to bring home England's oldest piece of hardware.
So why am I blogging about it on rotowire? I used to be just like you. A typical U.S. sports fan wrapped up in the NFL, MLB, NHL and a bit of NBA. But something changed in the last ten years, let me tell you my story and you will see how I wound up here.
So I looked over the Prem teams and immediately eliminated the top four. I am not a front-runner and I found the idea of supporting Man U, Arsenal, Chelsea or Liverpool revolting. When I came to Reading everything started to make sense why they should be my team. They were new to the Premiership (as I would be), they had two Americans (winger Bobby Convey and keeper Marcus Hanhemann, who was from Seattle and a Seahawks fan like me), they had three Irish players in the team (Kevin Doyle, Stephen Hunt and Shane Long), hearing Steve Coppell talk was like listening to a General you would go into battle with full confidence following. Finally, watching the clips of what how they played in the championship sealed it. They played the game the right way, using an attacking brand of football that was exciting and fun to watch.
So that was my team. You have to understand that I picked my football team the same way as a 9-year old living in Los Angeles in 1976. The Seahawks were new to the NFL, their QB (#10, I still use seahawk10 as a username on many a forum) was from my hometown of Cerritos, CA. He was a lefty like me and once I started to watch them I was hooked. An under-manned Jack Patera coached the way I would have using onsides kicks, fake punts and fake field goals, doing anything he could to bring home the win. I have been a loyal Seahawk fan ever since despite living thousands of miles away and having to watch them from afar. It is much easier these days with the NFL Package and the internet.
So I started to watch Reading FC games on Fox Soccer Channel, a few months later I found their fan forum Hob Nob Anyone?, and now I try and tune in to BBC Radio Berkshire every Friday to listen to current players be interviewed and to learn about Reading's past. It was disappointing when they were demoted from the Premiership back to the Coca-Cola Championship in 2008. But they resisted the temptation to splash the cash and go deep into debt like so clubs have these days. They have followed a frugal path to re-build their team. Selling players off when their value is high and purchasing bargain players when their value is low. In many ways they are following a 'Moneyball' style of team building in order to balance the books while at the same time putting a solid and fun team on the field.