It's a cool and cloudy afternoon in Reading. My team, Ipswich Town, swagger onto the pitch, ready for some smooth sailing. After all, we were top of the league until a few weeks ago, and we're still only a few points behind Chelsea. Reading are somewhere down in the depths of the bottom of the table.
They call me Twist. Don't ask me why. I'm told I was drunk at the time. Anyway, I've worked my way up, all the way from Sydney FC in the Australian domestic league, to Albacete in La Liga, where we ended up winning the league, and for the last two years here at Ipswich. My form is improving... creeping up towards a goal per game average now. And internationally I'm doing very well: 34 goals from 19 caps.
So here we are. The trouble with my team is that they... how to put this... suck. I have no idea how we got into the Champions League, or topped the Premiership table. There's another striker, Lee, who's good at putting them away, but pretty ordinary when it comes to passing. And then there's the midfield. Don't get me started on the midfield. They generally prefer to pass straight to the opposition. It just saves time, and who wants to be tackled? No matter that I'm unmarked on the edge of the box right in front of them, they will pass it nicely to the opposition playmaker in the opposite direction. I hate my midfield. A lot.
I would complain about our defence, too, but we don't actually have one. I think we lost it at a bus stop somewhere. Nowadays whenever a striker heads towards our goal, there's a couple of guys strolling off toward the sidelines, that's about it. The keeper has his flashes of genius but on an off day he is excruciatingly bad.
Team spirit. Isn't it wonderful?
So. Here we go. Ipswich to walk over Reading, kickoff 2pm. Lee taps off and we make a nice run forward, threading through their midfield, who appear to be hypnotised. Or perhaps very cold. Through to the edge of the box where a solid line of defence awaits. I cross to Lee who smashes it just over the bar. So far so good.
Goal kick, and the ball gets lost in a sea of legs in the midfield. Perhaps it's a meeting of the Society for the Permanently Confused. Their midfield continue to pass into... empty space, then one of ours gets the ball, and passes it back to their midfield. It's a friendly sort of occasion. So nice to share.
Eventually one of their strikers, as frustrated as we are, manages to grab the ball off his own midfield and trundle down towards our goal. A couple of pitch invaders wearing our colours run away from the ball as fast as they can. I think they're pretending to be defenders. Their striker fires and Lonergan, our keeper, is having an off day after all. He does jumping jacks on the goal line and happily watches the ball sail into the net. Reading 1-0.
That wasn't supposed to happen. Well, obviously now our team will pull themselves together. Kick off, thread forward, meet a solid defence. No way through. This 'defence' idea works quite well, I think. We should buy one.
And so it goes. It's too painful to relate, most of it.
Just before half-time I take a run from the side and dummy all the way through the defence, slicing the equaliser across the keeper's feet into the far corner. 1-1.
Reading come back from the break ready to play. Pity we can't say the same. It's pretty much like this, over and over: their midfield lose the ball. Collins or Bowditch (our central midfielders) runs forward, I race into position to take the pass, he changes his mind and decides to give it to his new friend in the opposition instead. Over and over.
Reading take their opportunities and capitalise, twice more. Each time Lonergan sits on the goal line and watches the nice man kick the spinny ball into the big net. 3-1.
Get me out of here. I badly need a transfer. With a midfield like this, who needs injuries?