Robin Scott-Elliot: All hail his royal Madejski, Cilla's curious king of Reading

View From The Sofa: Rich Man, Poor Man/The Football League Show, BBC 4/BBC 1
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The Independent Football

There was a poster campaign that ran in libraries in the Seventies that went something like "I thought Reading was a place in Berkshire until I discovered reading". It was a rather smug, aren't-I-the-clever- little-sod slogan – especially if you didn't know where Reading was (they were in the Fourth Division). Who cared where Reading was, anyway? John Madejski did, does and will certainly do so for ever, although by then it will probably have been renamed Madejskiville, which is a much nicer name than Reading. And less confusing for librarians.

Madejski is, according to an interviewee in the engrossing portrait Rich Man/Poor Man, the "King of Reading". "There has never been anyone as impressive as that in Reading since Alfred the Great," summed up someone else impressively (Alfred apparently booted the Danes out of Reading back in the mists before even the foundation of the Premier League). Madejski is also the owner of the town's football club, who play at his stadium where John lives "above the shop" and where he likes to make porridge for breakfast in his Reading shirt with "CHAIRMAN" on the back.

To say that football club owners are a peculiar lot is like suggesting Madejski doesn't mind having the occasional school, hotel, gallery, garden, rooms in the Royal Academy, galaxy named after him. He is prickly about the pronunciation of his name so perhaps wants as many people as possible to have to say it. Which makes it all the stranger that after an (edited) hour in his company you want to give the multimillionaire a big hug, a HobNob and a nice cup of tea. Cheer up, John. "I'm worried about him," confides Cilla Black, one of John's "celebrity" friends.

Madejski, it became clear, is Eeyore. "Thanks for noticing me," is (Disney version) Eeyore's catchphrase and it could belong to Madejski. "Total happiness," he points out as he grumbles down the Thames Valley in his Bentley beneath his personal black cloud (the Madejski Cloud), "doesn't exist". At least he has the "shining star" of his club: "If they weren't doing well, I'd really be in a dark place." In other words, the Championship.

Reading's relegation did nothing to lighten his mood, as we find them today fighting to be noticed on the BBC's Football League show which is called The Football League Show because, I suppose, that's what it does. This is a curate's egg of a programme, not helped by a post-Match of the Day time slot. "Don't go to bed because here's some not so good football..."

It does the basics, ie showing the goals, well enough and is sprinkled with mini-breaks that prevent it becoming a ponderous trawl through the league's bottom feeders, to borrow a phrase from Madejski's narrator. The BBC appears to have decided the Football League is all about fans, compared to the Premier League on MOTD, which is all about important stuff that ends in noughts (City's spending, Dean Ashton's appearance record). This, says TFLS, is the people's game, and now over to Jacqui Oatley to read out your emails. "This one's from John. He's a Reading fan. Sack the board. Sack me. Heaven knows I'm miserable now." It's dire stuff. And spare a thought for Oatley. She's gone from the heights of being the first female commentator on MOTD to reading out other people's ramblings in the middle of a Saturday night. She'd be better off in Berkshire.

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