Having ended our season at Blackburn Rovers on Saturday, we can now fully reflect on what has been another disappointing and very frustrating league campaign for everyone – the players, the manager and his coaching team, ourselves the shareholders, the board of directors and a dedicated staff…but most of all our fans.
You know it's been bad, we know it's been bad, everyone knows it's been bad!
We took control of this club nearly two years ago now and we are still learning. Our ambition remains the same. But, like so many others in football, we are trying to understand how best to achieve those ambitions as a group and reach the Premier League.
We have the same ambitions as every other team in the Championship and are unsure how to differentiate ourselves from them.
Last summer, we decided to invest in a lot of additions and improvements to our squad of players, introducing eleven new faces to the first team during a very busy transfer window. As we are all aware, the results on the pitch have not met this club’s high expectations nor the hopes and aspirations of our loyal supporters in 2015-16.
You keep calling for investment whilst forgetting we did invest last summer. Remember Matej Vydra? He cost us £2.5m and was a waste of money that can't be reclaimed and spent again.
We still feel the same disappointment, share the same frustrations and possess the same passion [as fans] in wanting to see this club back where it belongs, battling for the promotion places and competing with the very best once more. For a variety of reasons, this squad of talented individuals have not fulfilled their potential as a team nor found the consistency that this division clearly demands this season.
We know no football clubs belong anywhere, but saying we belong in the top 30 clubs in the country highlights our dissatisfaction with the last two seasons. We're also shifting the blame for this season onto someone else, which is quite easy given that this squad was very talented on paper but had no backbone.
We have to build from within now and this summer will be an important one. Six loan players have returned to their clubs and there are a number of others who have reached the end of their contracts – so change is inevitable and we will need to build and bind together a new squad of players capable of challenging at the top end of the division in 2016-17.
Do not expect significant investment in the summer. We have also learnt our lesson that building a squad on loan players is like building a house on sand. It may look very nice, but it will have no staying power when things go bad.
Despite the obvious disappointment of this season, our commitment to the club grows stronger. Before a ball had been kicked this season, the campaign began with a wonderfully well-received pre-season tour to Bangkok and Koh Samui that successfully connected the club with a football-loving fan base who took the Royals to their heart out in Thailand. On the pitch, the FA Cup proved a real highlight once more as we reached the quarter-finals for only the sixth time in the club’s history and came so close to earning another day out at Wembley!
Well we're hardly going to say our commitment has got weaker. We also know that no one in Thailand cares about Reading FC, but if we mention the FA Cup you might forget that.
Off the pitch, exciting new preliminary plans for Royal Elm Park have been put in place, while the wheels have been set in motion on our new training ground development at Bearwood. Football, of course, is the driving force behind our involvement in Reading Football Club. But investment in long term projects like these is crucial if we are to successfully lay the foundations for a sustainable future for this club.
We have to mention Royal Elm Park because we know that everyone has realised by now that is the real reason we're involved with Reading FC. That's not to say we don't care about the football side. We're investing in Bearwood which must show our long term plans and ambitions for the club.
That is if you forget that nearly every club in the Championship, and even teams like Fleetwood Town, have had such training grounds for a number of years now. We know this isn't a game changer of a development for the club, more of a must-do if we don't want other clubs to continue over-taking us, but thankfully no one's mentioned that.
It's also been convenient that people have overlooked the 26 residential units that will be built at the new training ground. They will make a significant contribution to covering most of the cost, which is again very convenient. Should we mention that we'd like to build 200 homes on the current training ground and have been accused by Arborfield Garrison Residents Action Group of making a "cynical attempt to increase the proposed housing in that development by 10%"? No, let's tell the club to not include that.
Our Academy continues to be a beacon for all others to follow. This season, our Under-18s reached the FA Youth Cup quarter-final, only to miss out on a semi-final place after a narrow defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. And our Under-21 side have competed admirably in their first season in the Premier League, beating the likes of Liverpool, Everton and Tottenham to end the season amongst the top ten teams in the country. Only last weekend, 17-year-old Josh Barrett made his first professional start for the club and there were six other Academy products amongst the squad for the last game of the season at Ewood Park! Investment in our youth is the way forward, as has been proven at Reading for a number of years. We are extremely proud of the reputation our Academy has rightly earned and we are confident we will see yet more young players break into professional football next season to make a real impact in our first team.
Yeh the academy! A reliable source of good news when the first team is flattering to deceive. Everyone knows results at youth level don't matter but my God aren't they useful for a bit of propaganda.
We just hope that it hasn't been noticed that no one actually knows what to do with the academy. We love it, but should we actually be encouraging our managers to use these players? Do we even want to use these players, when one of our agent friends can find a far more exciting player in Poland or Portugal?
Now this season has come to an end, we all have to cast aside any negativity and collectively move this club forward, together, as one, with renewed spirit and passion. The Premier League is where we want to see Reading Football Club. There is no quick answer, no easy route. Sport has ups and downs and football is no different – it won’t always go our way, every week, every season. But we will stay loyal and dedicated to the cause until it all comes together.
Stop being so negative. If we all say we want to be in the Premier League enough times it will surely happen. And if not, by saying it we look ambitious and like we have a plan.
We better add a bit calling for some perspective. Who put that last sentence in? Didn't we say "if the financial performance of Reading continues in the way it has been, then you are looking at a change of ownership once we feel that we can not continue to support the team?"
Thank you for your continued allegiance and incredible support. Enjoy the summer and let’s look forward to a strong new-look team taking on the brand new challenge of the brand new season ahead!
Please, please buy or renew your season tickets!
Oh, has anyone realised we didn't mention the manager? Not to worry, we'll probably sack him by the end of the month, or late autumn if he's lucky.