It’s not been a great time to be a Reading fan recently. On the pitch, the goalless draw at League Two Stevenage felt like a particular low point, whilst the fanbase feels more disunited than it has for quite a while. The ongoing Stam In/Out debate has even spilled over into arguments on social media over whether or not it’s right to boo your own team at a football match.
I’m not going to argue that everything’s fine - of course it isn’t. The run that Reading are currently on, in which they’ve scored just four goals in a seven match winless streak in all competitions, is pretty dire. Clearly, there’s something very wrong at the club, whether you attribute that to the manager, players, figures behind-the-scenes or a mixture of all three.
Of course, fans have a huge part to play too - we’re not just passive spectators, or “customers” as former Charlton Chief Executive Katrien Meire infamously once said, we’re the lifeblood of the club. Managers, players, owners and CEOs all come and go but we don’t.
That’s why the level of support - and the kind of support - is so important at any time, especially now. The idea that the players don’t actually care and they’re oblivious to what’s going on in the stands has always been a ridiculous myth - like us they’re human, they’re flawed, and how we treat them matters.
Chris Gunter and Paul McShane made that very clear on social media after the game on Saturday evening. Besides acknowledging that the football’s been pretty dire recently, both reminded the fanbase that the actions of a vocal minority at the game - supporters chanting against their own team - didn’t help anyone.
“Sarcastic and disrespectful chanting will never ever help us. And we all want the same thing.” Chris Gunter.
“To have the fans boo and mock us during a match is very disheartening and hard to take.” Paul McShane.
The issue here really is - what are negative chants supposed to achieve? How does any of this help Reading FC? Yes, everyone who pays their entrance fee has the right to boo the manager and/or players, but that doesn’t meant it is right to do so. The team is in a particularly deep hole at the moment, but kicking them whilst they’re trying to climb out of it doesn’t get us anywhere.
A lot of you are firmly in favour of Jaap Stam getting the sack, and having watched the dire 0-2 defeat to Birmingham recently, I really can’t blame you - although that’s a debate that’s been covered enough elsewhere (brief highlights reel below).
But, until he goes - if he goes - the fact stands that the team is in trouble, and they need you as fans now more than ever. Giving them your support is very important if we’re to push up the table and get through a few rounds of the FA Cup this season.
I’m not asking you to fork out for the ~440 mile round trip to Hull on Saturday, but you can get the team over the line against Stevenage the following Tuesday night. It’ll only cost you about a tenner for a ticket, and gives you the chance to help push the team into the fourth round of the cup.
Will the football be enjoyable? No, probably not, but it’ll sure as hell be a lot worse if only a few people turn up and they don’t get behind the team. Either we as fans rally behind the players, and help get the team out of this mess, or we let this season get an awful lot worse than it currently is.