"Oi Shane! Who ate all the pies?"
It's early Saturday evening, and I sit as a Liverpool FC fan, surrounded by Reading FC fans, at the third-round FA Cup encounter between Reading and Liverpool. The heat has long since been vacuumed out of my feet by the concrete floor of the stand below, and the sartorial preferences of the crowd are wisely focused on beanie hats and ugg boots.
The undiscovered comic genius standing a couple of places to the left of me, is artfully drawing attention to the fact that Reading footballer Shane Long has been having some difficulties with his weight this year. Before the evening is out, and this gentlemen presumably wanders off to re-join his friends at the local chess club, he provides another memorable verbal contribution. A Reading defender poleaxes Fernando Torres to the ground just in front of us, and the referee is forced to brandish a yellow card: "Oh fuck off referee!" he shouts. "Is he not supposed to even touch him?"
Watching football in a stadium such as the Madejski can be a strange experience for a motorsport fan, for not only does one sit no more than 20 yards or so from one's heroes, but it's also usually possible to make one's abuse clearly audible to the heroes in question.
Anyway, Reading are playing well, stringing together some nice simple passing moves, and they're exploiting Liverpool's weakness dealing with high balls into the box. As Charlotte, a Reading fan sitting in front of me, points out at half-time: "That's the first time we haven't been booed off this season!"
The pace of the match dwindles slightly in the second half, and it seems there's an altercation occurring in the stand diagonally opposite. It appears that a Liverpool fan has infiltrated the Reading spectators, and is causing a bit of aggro. "Wanker! Wanker! Wanker! Wanker! Wanker!" comes the rhythmic refrain from that part of the ground, as a column of fluorescently-bibbed marshals ascend the stand, and haul the unfortunate scouser from their midst.
Liverpool are as insipid as ever, but then as Emiliano Insua gets the ball at the half-way line, the crowd suddenly rise around me, and begin clapping and cheering. What's this, I wonder? Bizarrely, everyone seems to be looking at a point above pitch level, and I briefly consider the possibility that the messiah has floated into the stadium. Sadly, it's not the messiah, just a very naughty Steve Coppell (Reading's erstwhile managerial hero), who's been spotted in a commentary booth across the other side of the pitch.
As the game draws to a close, I begin to watch Liverpool manager Benitez more closely, as he trundles back and forth to signal his players from the touchline, like a portly clockwork mechanism. I briefly consider shouting some abuse, but realise that "Benitez! You only play attacking football after being criticised in the Spanish press after a Champions' League game!" is probably insufficiently succinct. Instead, I settle for:
"Oi! Benitez! Who ate all the pies?"