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Are Reading FC a 'Big Club'?

With results less than stellar right now, fans have begun to get increasingly frustrated with all things at the club. In response to this, Mike looks at whether expectations have maybe grown a little out of proportion to the size of the football club.

Michael Regan

It is clear that there is a hell of a lot of negativity around the club at the minute. In case you have missed the booing at the Madejski, there are the negative comments on the phone-in to BBC Radio Berkshire, as well as the frankly vitriolic posts on Hobhob Anyone. This has got me thinking; has our mind-set as fans changed to us being a ‘big club'.

When the ‘big boys' were in town the first time we were in the Premier League, it was clear that when you spoke to them, they expected to just roll us over and take the three points. What did surprise me though was clubs like Villa, who have not done anything noteworthy for years coming to town with the same arrogant attitude. You can to a certain extent understand it from Manchester United and Chelsea fans, but can you from Villa fans?

Now, I know that a lot of the current frustrations are down to the performances as much as the results. I too have been disappointed with the way the team has been playing this season, but do we have a right to expect to be entertained, and ultimately, to win?

Stripping it back to basics, what does your ticket entitle you to? Well, as far as I can see, it only entitles you to sit in a seat and watch a football match. It does not entitle you to be entertained and it certainly does not guarantee a win.

You can look at the question of are we a big club in many ways. For instance, if you look at the combined league tables for the 92 professional club's in the Premier League and Football League at the end of last season, Reading were the 19th biggest team in England and Wales. Looking at it this way, only Wigan are a bigger club than Reading in the Championship. On this basis, Reading would expect an automatic promotion place.

If you judge the size of a club on the number of people who watch the club, we can look at average attendance, Reading are 7th in the table for this season. On this basis we would just be outside a playoff place. This indicates that Reading are reasonably supported in the championship. It is also worth noting that no Reading match has been a complete sell-out this season.

How about the money coming in to the club? Well in the  2011/12 Championship revenue chart. Reading were 11th in terms of revenues for that season, so a mid-table performance.

Looking at total transfers, Reading have a net transfer spend of over £16.5 million. Comparing this to QPR's net transfer spend of over £60 million, Reading do not have a huge amount of clout in the transfer market.

Based on the statistics, Reading are 21st in terms of net transfer spending of all the Championship, so Reading are a tiny club in this respect.

In terms of an all time table, considering all Premier League and Football League results ever played, Reading would be 15th in the current Championship table, due to being 35th in the all-time table. The top five current championship teams are Burnley in 8th, Blackburn in 12th, Bolton in 16th, Derby in 17th and Nottingham Forest in 18th. Based on this, we are currently punching above our historic weight.

How about the number of players we can call on? Well Reading have used a total of 26 players this season, whilst Sheffield Wednesday have used 33. By this measure, reading are fourth bottom in the table indicating that the squad may not have quite as much depth as some of our rivals.

The Zingarovich affair has been a big eye opener. A man came in promising slow, steady investment in a similar vein to which Sir John Madejski ran the club; for this is "the Reading way". Initial signs were good with the signing of Jason Roberts and the promotion to the Premier League. Reality bit a season later when further investment failed to really materialise. Mr Zingarovich has not been seen at the Madejski Stadium since a friendly match with Oman. We are lead to believe through the rumour mill that significant investment is about to arrive from Oman, but we've seen it all before. I doubt that the investment will be met with the same blind optimism that it was two years ago.

Taking all of this into account, I believe that although we were relegated from the Premier League last season, and that the performances have been poor this season, we are still punching above our weight. Expectations have been raised by the TSI takeover and this has been exposed to be not what was expected, but new investment may soon be on the way. Ultimately though, if you believe your ticket entitles you to a win, then you think you support a big club. The reality may be very different.