Just a matter of hours after Reading FC returned home to the Madejski Stadium, our community was struck by an inconceivable and callous act of terrorism.

It was a day that we had all looked forward too for months. An opportunity to return to a degree of normality after a period of unprecedented tragedy and difficulty for society as a whole.

Football pales into complete insignificance at a time like this. We should have spent our Saturday evening having the same impassioned debates that always follow the conclusion of a Royals game. It should not have been like this.

Reading FC posted a poignant message on social media in the aftermath of Saturday’s atrocity, referencing the club’s first-team photo shoot at the beginning of the 2016-17 season.

It said: “In 2016, our first team took to Forbury Gardens for their official squad photo, placing our club at the heart of its community.

“Yesterday [Saturday] evening, that heart suffered unimaginable hurt, pain, horror and tragedy.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the community we represent.” These sentiments from the club and supporters were echoed by first-team stars on social media.

At the heart of the town in Forbury Gardens and emblazoned on the crest of our football club, the Maiwand Lion that stands proudly in the centre of our town’s consciousness – representing the strength and the courage of our community.

Over the course of my lifetime, Reading FC have represented an extension of the community spirit – putting supporters first, listening to one another and ensuring that the Madejski Stadium is a home for everyone in our richly diverse community.

Although supporters will not have the opportunity to mourn shoulder-to-shoulder with fellow fans at the Madejski in the near future, the unity and support across social media and through floral tributes have exemplified that, even though we feel further apart then ever – we have never been more united.

Football is often seen as a welcome distraction from the events of the real world.

This act of cowardly terror will leave an immeasurable stain on the history of our town – but football can act as a crucially important unifier during such an incomprehensibly difficult period for society.

We will come together, and we will demonstrate our strength by not letting division win.

Our football club, as it always has, will be a home for everyone from all walks of life – offering us the chance to come together as one, every Saturday, to support our town.

Although we’re in a difficult and dark place right now, brighter days will return – we will never forget, but we will never stop an act of terror change us – and I’m sure we will all feel prouder than ever to follow a club that represents our wonderful home and community.