Reading FC are so tinpot. No ambition, selling their top scorer. The Reading Way is back. Make a quick buck and stay destined for midtable mediocrity for eternity. These are just some of the accusations flying around this morning after it emerged that The Royals may have accepted a bid or two from rival Championship clubs.
We're doomed for relegation, if you believe the reaction on social media.
I get it, I do. Nick Blackman — contrary to a false stat of 66% flying around — has contributed to 43% of Reading goals in the league this season. 11 goals, 2 assists. Decent stats, but common sense dictates that stats aren't the be all and end all.
Reading have a few good reasons to sell Nick Blackman this month.
Grab the money while you can
The former Sheffield United striker signed a 3-and-a-half year contract when he joined the Biscuitmen three years ago, which means he has six months remaining on his contract. There doesn't seem to be any indication that he's willing to sign a new one, so the logical thing to do is to grab the money while you can.
The argument is that with Nick Blackman in your team you still have a chance of getting promotion to the Premier League, thereby being flooded with the riches the league brings with it. Selling Blackman now is a clear indication of a lack of ambition… Except that dictates that nobody else in the team is capable of scoring goals.
Taking Blackman out of the team does not mean there are no goals, it just means there's the opportunity for someone else to take chances. The team is full of goal-getters in Vydra, Sa, McCleary and the returning Samuel. That's not to mention if the club reinvest the money they make from the potential Blackman transfer in another goalscorer.
Blackman's selfish ambition
You can't hide from the fact Nick Blackman is a selfish player. Every game he tries to do something magical with the ball, to go it alone. His skills are great, his shooting decent, his team ethic? Not so great.
Brian McDermott has banged the teamwork drum from day one of walking through the door. Perhaps he's seen enough of Blackman to suggest that with him in the squad, he won't get what he wants from the sum of the parts.
We can't truly know what influence Blackman has in the dressing room, but we do know Blackman has an ego as high as his position in the Championship goalscoring charts. His celebration against Bristol City on Saturday displayed an arrogance (and petulance) to his character, not to mention the infamous "nothing to prove" line he played over the summer and a number of other incidents.
McDermott's team focus
I could be completely wrong and he could be the best role model you could hope for, but it's not just his attitude. It's his position on the pitch. Played as a right midfielder he doesn't offer enough defensively, nor get into the dangerous goalscoring position he wants. Played as a striker, he doesn't get the same space he does on the right to run at players and take them on. Played as an 'inside forward' high up the pitch in the right-side channel, the team shape is disrupted. You've got to play him, he's scoring goals — but is that to the detriment of the team as a whole?
We saw during Stephen Quinn's period out with injury that the team shape didn't quite click. That's because neither Piazon nor Ola John are capable of filling the 'Quinn role' on the left of midfield — that ability to go wide or tuck in depending on the situation, that defensive streak in his game.
I'm not blaming Blackman for the run of form that saw Clarke sacked, I wouldn't be so daft, but his positioning does mean somewhere else in the side needs to compensate. Reading simply only have one Quinn. With Blackman not in the side, the team can play a more traditional winger and bring more balance to the side, not to mention less pressure on the overworked Chris Gunter at right back.
A chance for young blood?
If Blackman is indeed sold to either Wednesday or Derby, it could see Brian McDermott give more opportunities to the academy products fans yearn to see more of. This season we've seen Aaron Tshibola break into the side and do very well indeed, but it feels like it's been a number of years that Reading fans have been crying out for a certain Dominic Samuel to get a chance in the first team. The same Dominic Samuel that saw Gozie Ugwu and Uche Ikpeazu depart because he was the preferred choice (apparently).
Or how about the returning Craig Tanner? Highly touted at youth level, could we see McDermott place his faith in this young centre-forward should Samuel stay with Gillingham for the remainder of the season?
Fancy yourself more of a winger type? Tariqe Fosu impressed in the final game of the 2014/15 season against Derby and has done a good job on loan at Fleetwood Town. Blackman's departure could see a space open up for a winger — either on the bench or in the first team.
It's not the end of the world
Of course, this could all be for nothing.
Blackman could stay for the remainder of the season and leave on a free, having fired Reading into the Premier League where they offered him the money he craves.
He could sign a new contract this month and commit his prime years to the side that has shown faith in him for three years when he didn't really deserve it.
Yet perhaps his departure is for the best. Teamwork makes the dream work.