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Hunty’s Column: What On Earth Has Happened At Reading?

Our columnist’s take on what’s happening on and off the pitch at RG2.

Reading v Stoke City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images

Well it’s been a funny old couple of weeks in the history of Reading Football Club. Finally, we got rid of Ron Gourlay, who seemed to me to be on a one-man mission to destroy the club. We replaced him with our previous CEO Nigel Howe - a positive and safe move in the current circumstances.

Nigel then turned into Donald Trump (of old!) and fired the sporting director, which was no loss as I’ve no idea what he actually did any way, and also Paul Clement. Most fans wouldn’t have argued with this up until a few weeks ago but, in the last few games, there was an improvement in performances and team spirit.

He also got the best out of Yakou Meite and introduced academy players Danny Loader and Andy Rinomhota, which gave hope to the future. Then he was gone on Thursday. Good luck to him for the future, he was a decent guy who tried frantically to save a sinking ship.

So who’s next for a ride on the Reading FC merry-go-round? A bloke from Portugal whose agent reportedly gave us a number of woeful signings a few years ago? One of those tried and trusted managers like Steve Bruce or a gamble on an ex-Reading hero like Parky or Murty?

I have no idea on what’s best, so I’ll leave that to the owners, thanks. Whoever they pick, they have a hell of a job to fix things - and do so quickly before we sink further in to the relegation mire.

Wilder showed Reading how it’s done

The Sheffield United game gave Scott Marshall a chance to have a go at the lottery of managing the team. I hope the experience hasn’t traumatised him too much, so he can go back to continue his fine work with the under-23s.

Blades manager Chris Wilder showed exactly what you can do with a limited budget and an average-looking squad. He gets them playing together as a unit and, at times, it physically looked like men against boys on Saturday. He has a team of leaders all of the pitch something we lack.

Although Leandro Bacuna leads by example for us, the likes of Liam Kelly, John Swift and Josh Sims are just not physically strong enough to support him. Tough-tackling David Meyler seems as close to starting a game as I do. Perhaps Saeid Ezatolahi can do this when he returns, but forget Parky as manager - how we need a player like him to lead the midfield!

Chris Gunter had one of his best games in a long time against Sheffield United, but not having a natural left-footer at left-back just puts the balance of the team all over the shop. Hopefully Jordan Obita can come back in soon. If not, a replacement is needed in the January sales. On the other side, Andy Yiadom has proved to be our best summer signing and needs to stay at right back.

The size of United’s centre-backs compared to ours was frightening. I still think we missed a trick not signing Tommy Elphick - we need to sign someone like that who has a physical presence.

Up front, when they are all fit, Yakou Meite, Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, Marc Mcnulty and Sam Baldock give us options, but they need the service! Modou Barrow and Garath McCleary provide that, as should Callum Harriott when he’s fit, but as we all know, Sone Aluko doesn’t. Move him on for the sake of his career and our sanity.

This coming transfer window is going to be one of the most important in our history. We need to somehow move on the fringe players of the squad; the dead wood and those due to be out of contract in the summer. Personally, I think we should get rid of those who don’t care about playing for the Royals and try to rebuild a squad with players that do.

Mental health matters

The reason why players may not perform well could be down to what is going on behind the scenes - we honestly don’t know. That topic, mental health, is as close to my heart as it is close to my head. I’m working with the charity MIND and the guys at STAR (Supporters Trust At Reading) to set up regular catch-ups at the Madejski Stadium for those with mental health issues or who are socially isolated.

Would you be interested, or be able to spread the word to make this happen in the new year? We are also trying to fix up a game when all the the exiled Royals get together in January or February.

Contact me or the guys at STAR - it’s not for publicity, it’s to help.

Despite the footy I’m wishing you all a safe and happy Christmas. Urzzz!