Football: Maybe, just maybe, football is starting to wake up to the realisation that it cannot go on paying players more and more while also hiring and firing managers at will.
Reading’s captain Jobi McAnuff was brave enough to stand up this week to say that salaries have become ridiculous, Newcastle’s board, too, were just as admirable in handing their current manager Alan Pardew a new eight-year contract following their amazing season last year.
Any introduction of a salary cap is unlikely while broadcasters continue to pay out billions for Premier League TV rights although the first half of this encounter provided compelling evidence that players are not always worth the money.
Toon keeper Steve Harper made a stunning point-blank save from a Pavel Pogrebnyak header on the half-hour mark, but the rest of the period was utterly torpid.
If the level of entertainment on offer was on trial then the second half presented an unbelievable counter-argument with unlimited excitement.
The game really caught fire after 58 minutes when Reading’s Jimmy Kebe received a pass from McAnuff on the edge of the box and slightly mishit his shot to leave Harper wrong-footed in the away goal.
Royals fans were still cheering as Newcastle’s Cheik Tiote’s 30-yard pass was volleyed home brilliantly by Demba Ba who had sneaked in behind the Reading defence.
It was an superb strike and probably worth the entrance fee alone. Then Reading went ahead again only three minutes later when McAnuff — who else? — crossed beautifully for Noel Hunt to head home from six yards out.
It was remarkable stuff after the slumber of the first half. A raft of substitutions allowed everyone to catch their breath although the tie soon continued at its now frenetic pace.
With seven minutes to go one of the Toon replacements, Shane Ferguson, crossed from the left and Ba got in once more to head past a stranded Alex McCarthy in the home goal. It looked well taken but replays showed he had used a hand, as if controversy was needed on top of the exhilaration.
Returning home favourite Jason Roberts then had a volley turned away superbly by Harper right at the death before McAnuff did get the ball past him in added time only to watch it rebound off the post.
It would have been fitting and fair had it gone in as Reading deserved the win and somewhat ironic given that McAnuff had thoroughly earned his keep.
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