1. The fans need to set their expectations
For me, the most shocking performance at the Madejski Stadium on Tuesday night was in the stands, not on the pitch. It's been said incessantly in the opening days of the season that this is a young team, lacking in much-needed Championship experience - the experience that Nigel Adkins has been so keen to bring in to the club with the signings of Simon Cox, Jamie Mackie and Anton Ferdinand.
But the response to a disappointing performance against Huddersfield from the supporters at the ground was, although far from entirely, still overly negative. The same groans and slamming of plastic seats (something I've never understood) greeted every misplaced pass or breakdown of an attack. It was bad enough last season for an underachieving experienced side, but it's thoroughly inexcusable for a young side in dire need of encouragement and the benefit of the doubt from the fans.
For me, that leaves one question to be asked of us as supporters this season - what are our expectations for the 2014/15 campaign as far as the team is concerned? Do we have the same high hopes as last season, or do we get behind the likes of Kuhl, Taylor, Obita, Hector, Akpan, Blackman, Tanner and the rest? This is a young side in need of encouragement before they can improve - the supporters have the most crucial role in that.
2. The system needs getting used to
The adoption of a new system, in this case the possession orientated system that Nigel Adkins craves, is not one just seen on the pitch. Throughout our recent history, ball retention has never led to success on the pitch, with Brendan Rodgers most notably struggling to put his tactical stamp on the Madejski turf. Loyal Royals have become used to high paced counter attacking football at best, and ineffective ‘hoofball' at worst. As such, the culture shift off the pitch is just as crucial off the pitch as it is on it - such a transition needs time, and that takes patience.
3. Another poor ref
No result can ever truly be solely dictated by the performance of the officials, but Tuesday night saw a torrid return from the now infamous Stuart Atwell. The youngest man ever to referee in the Football League took little to no control of a game that saw physical challenges from both sides - Terriers fans will surely be as annoyed as Royals were on the night. That a Google search for Stuart Atwell autocompletes as both ‘worst referee ever' and ‘ghost goal' sums it up, but the standard of officiating in the Championship has taken a significant nosedive in recent years in general, and that needs addressing.
4. All change on the Central Line
The Bermuda Triangle that is Reading's midfield continues to suck in all hope and quality, churning out injuries to Guthrie, Karacan and Williams, leaving Nigel Adkins with few other options. This season has seen Michael Hector, Jordan Obita and Hope Akpan fill the two central midfield roles, with major question marks remaining lingering over all three. Michael Hector has moved to centre back to cover the loss of Sean Morrison, Jordan Obita is best played at left back, and Hope Akpan repeatedly fails to impress. At full strength, we're truly spoilt for options, but a full strength centre midfield is one that doesn't quite compute at the moment, and probably won't do for some time.
The lack of quality is therefore worrying, especially in a (presumed) 4-2-3-1 system that relies on its two deep midfielders to control the middle of the park and the tempo of the game, so the potential arrivals of Norwood and Hammond can't come soon enough. But to add a glimmer of hope into the equation, academy graduate Aaron Kuhl could very well answer all Nigel Adkins' prayers. An opening 45 minutes saw the Sideshow Bob impersonator complete a whopping 94% of his passes, even getting forward to make chances for the frontmen. To believe that he's only 18 is scary, and the fact that he's a natural central midfielder that is fit to play is nigh on unbelievable.
5. Cometh the hour, cometh the Blackman?
Another player that, for me, deserves a special mention is Nick Blackman. Much maligned last season for, well, not being up to scratch, the former Blackburn forward has started this season a changed man. Taking up the right-wing berth from the injured Garath McCleary, he has shown confidence and poise in an encouraging set of performances early on, neatly encapsulated in his fine solo efforts against both Swansea and Newport. Against Huddersfield he often looked the most dangerous man in blue and white, having the gall to run with the ball at the Terriers' defence, although sometimes to little effect. Ultimately, any attacking player is a confidence player, and Blackman has earned that for himself. More of the same please.