On Monday morning, Sir John Madejski gave a wide-ranging interview to Andrew Peach over at BBC Berks, in which he gave his thoughts on a load of issues surrounding Reading behind-the-scenes and the club’s future. We’ve already touched on his comments about Ron Gourlay - which you can read here - but Madejski also had a lot to say about the current owners.
Chinese siblings Dai Yonnge and Xiu Li Dai are pretty secretive people and we haven’t heard much from them, bar a recent statement on the ongoing search for a new CEO. Although Sir John is largely in the same boat as us, he did share some of his general impressions of how the duo have done so far in his chat with BBC Berks. You can find a transcript of that interview at Football.London here - it’s well worth a read in its entirety.
Although Sir John admitted that he “[doesn’t] know them that well”, and has “only met them on a couple of occasions”, he’s very complimentary about them, saying he’s “deeply grateful” that they invested in the club.
Investment is a key theme in Madejski’s comments on the Chinese. Going back to the days when he was in charge, but making it very public that he was interested in selling up to bring in a rich new owner, he often spoke about how much funding needs to be pumped into a football club to keep it competitive. He seems to be content that finances are no longer an issue at Reading:
”You can see an immense amount of money being spent not only on players but the new training ground at Bearwood. These people are serious people and with the investment they have made so far, I would assume they would want to recuperate their investment or at least make their investment work.”
“Football is not for the faint-hearted. They have spent an awful lot of money and I don’t think they have seen a particularly good return on it as I speak. They have made some changes and there are some changes. One has got to be grateful they are around so we have to be positive and look to the future.
”I can say this - God help us if Mr Dai suddenly decided to turn the tap off and leave because as I say it’s not for the faint-hearted. People need to realise the carrying costs of owning a football club is immense.”
As Sir John says, investment in new players was noticeable in the Dais’ first summer at the club (2017), but it did dry up quite a bit a year later in the most recent transfer window. Most of the 2018 incomings have been free transfers or loan deals, although former CEO Ron Gourlay suggested afterwards that Reading had spent all they could - due to FFP limits.
The investment in the Bearwood project, despite being a long time coming, is encouraging for the future too. That complex could be vital in giving us an edge if we’re compete at a higher level in the future.
Madejski on the ownership going forward
Sir John is very optimistic about the club’s future, and said the Royals now have a “new opportunity to go forward in a positive way of getting things right”. Although he admitted he’s open to helping out where he can, Madejski emphasised that Reading is now Dai Yongge’s “baby”, so the current owner will do things his way.
“In China there is a lot of attitudes and ideas and I think he feels he owns the club so it’s his baby, his club and, therefore, he wants to do it his way. It’s like ‘the King is dead, long live the King’ type thing.
“I am delighted to say there are still lots of people at the club who were there in my day and they are very, very good people. They are the bricks and mortar who hold the club together.”
Interestingly though, Sir John doesn’t mention Xiu Li Dai - Yongge’s sister - quite as much as Yongge. That’s despite Xiu Li becoming increasingly involved in the running of the club, visiting the stadium more frequently in months and even being present for the unveiling of a board in honour of Reading’s academy graduates on December 1.
What I take from that is that, even though Xiu Li is becoming active and visible at the club, her brother is still very much involved - it’s not as if he’s taken a step back. After all, the club is “his baby”, so that would be out of character. Instead, they’ve decided that Xiu Li will move forwards to change things up at Reading, after the duo presumably ran out of patience with Gourlay.