First of all I can't possibly defend the shambles on the South Coast last night. That sort of defending isn't even acceptable on the training ground—yet alone a Championship game—and the same can be said of some of the defensive work at Brentford, and the home thrashing by Derby five days ago.
Are the XI who played last night up to the standard needed to push on?
Is the squad capable of turning this around?
For me, it's a cautious yes.
Quite how Reading have gone from going five hours without conceding a goal to leaking three each in four of the last five games is baffling and the excuses range from poor confidence levels, moments of madness and just not being up to standard.
It's a problem that Reading manager Nigel Adkins is clearly aware of, and he's offered little in the way of excuses during his last two post-match discussions with BBC Radio Berkshire's Tim Dellor, going so far on Saturday to openly admit he needs to change it because this can't continue.
This led to many including former Royals players Mick Gooding and Ady Williams questioning why no changes were made to the defence last night but when you look at it, Adkins' logic seems to have a semblance of sense behind it
With just two days between games there was little time to prepare a new defensive unit, especially when your reinforcement options include an Academy graduate with 1 Championship start and a full-back who hasn't played a senior game of football in 2014/15. Bournemouth was always going to be that last stand for this back-five, one final hope that they'd snap out of it and for 45 minutes it looked as if maybe they'd grind something out but then it collapsed... And as you so often see when confidence is low, it collapsed in spectacular fashion.
Sure you could have plugged Cooper and Kelly in last night but would they really have stopped that result? Personally it makes far more sense to start drilling those two now in the hope they can get a confidence boosting performance against a woeful Blackpool and then go from there. Reading were always up against getting a result at the Goldsands and while the performance wasn't good enough by any stretch of the imagination, a defeat is a result that is always possible even for a decent side going down there.
I'm not going to sit here and defend Nigel Adkins blindly. I can't say I've ever been a fan of his personality or some of his tactical mindsets but I will defend a man that's had pitiful amounts of support and was outright sold down the river when he arrived at the football club. In three transfer windows and three subsequent loan windows he's been allowed to bring in minimal reinforcements at a time when he's lost a massive amount of experience and quality from the football club. Players like Jimmy Kebe, Adrian Mariappa, Noel Hunt, Ian Harte, Nicky Shorey, Jobi McAnuff, Mikele Leigertwood, Adam Le Fondre, Sean Morrison, Alex McCarthy have all been allowed to leave the club during his tenure and replaced with what? Royston Drenthe? Loan spells for Glenn Murray, Jamie Mackie and Billy Sharp? Hell, Adkins couldn't even get the funds to give Chris Baird more than a six-month deal. Sure he's had a bit of support this summer but that came in the dying days of the window when most of the good deals had long been done, including a man who tore us apart last night in Callum Wilson.
I refuse to believe that Adkins has been offered decent Championship players and turned them down, it would just make no sense whatsoever.
Still, a manager has to work with what he's got and some have pointed to the job done by Brian McDermott after he succeeded Brendan Rodgers after Reading's previously mentioned poor start five years ago. I'd certainly not rule out another manager getting a bit more out of that starting eleven last night but to expect a McDermott style revolution with the players Nigel had available last night is being optimistic in the extreme.
This isn't a squad with a badly used Kebe, Long, Mills and Sigurdsson. This is a team where someone has to get the best out of Hope Akpan, Nick Blackman, Michael Hector and a host of players with fewer than a season of Championship experience. More importantly how did Brian help turn things around? By signing Andy Griffin and Zurab Zhisanishvili in on loan.
Again, MAYBE someone could do better but I'm not banking on it and frankly it's unfair to expect play-off or better performances from this group of players and to me that's what this whole frustration boils down to:
What do you honestly expect from this group of players? If you expect top six performances than quite frankly you're blinded, because that starting eleven and even those named on the bench just aren't capable of that at this point in time.
When and if McCleary, Williams, Karacan, Guthrie, Murray, Ferdinand get fit then yeah you've got half a shot of some top ten calibre runs but this is a team full of inexperience, fragile confidence and no track record of competing with the very best in this division. Hector, Obita, Taylor, Akpan, Blackman, Norwood, Kuhl, Gunter and co have NEVER won promotion from this league and even the likes of Cox, HRK and Mackie were hardly stars in promotion winning teams.
What we're seeing now is the result of YEARS of under investment in the playing staff by those that run the club and there's little indication that we can expect a quick fix. The Academy has done some fantastic work but these players in and around the squad have barely had a chance to go out on loan, so are very much learning on the job.
If this run of form continues when players return from injury and loan/permanent signings have been made then I'll be the first to say, "Nigel here's the door." However I just can't bring myself to panic over a situation where a club is dealing with years of under-investment, a chronic injury list and frankly a poor run of games. If the Thais fail to show they're serious about investing and even a fully fit squad fails to deliver, then I'll hit that big red button—but for now I'm just going to grit my teeth, put up with it and hope that better is to come...
Still let me know what you think in the comments below and if you've got a counter opinion than our fanpost feature is always open on the righthand side of the page!