We all have that one mate who doesn’t get their round in. They’ll use any old excuse: they’re saving for a holiday... pay day hasn’t come yet... their partner won’t allow it.
They sit in the restaurant and nurse their one pint for as long as possible. You like to think it isn’t personal. Then they order the fillet steak with two sides and a large glass of their top wine.
Your eyes dart around the table as someone pipes up: “Hang on a minute...”
This summer, Reading have become that mate.
For months, the Royals have wrestled with Financial Fair Play. This hasn’t just been a behind-the-scenes boardroom struggle, this has been a public defence mechanism. Jose Gomes and Nigel Howe have come across as very reasonable in citing our economic woe - with the accounts backing up their sentiment.
The club even went as far as using The Reading Way - an ethic shrouded in prudence - as their marketing strategy for the season. Again, a perfectly sound decision in the climate we thought we were in. It pressed the idea of academy talents getting their chance and of considered spending ensuring that the lessons of the Ron Gourlay and Anton Zingarevich eras were learned.
So how has it come to pass that Reading spent £12.5million on two strikers after only one of the unwanted high-earning first-teamers left for a fee?
Either FFP wasn’t as big a fuss as we thought or we are simply ploughing on regardless. Yes, we knew the owners were cash rich but the club itself is still light on revenue. Some transfer chicanery is no doubt being employed with Lucas Joao’s payments spread across five years, but little detail has emerged about the George Puscas deal.
Obviously, the fundamentals of these transfers will come down to what happens on the pitch. You could easily draw parallels between these players and Matej Vydra, Lucas Piazon and Ola John when they signed. Those three, like Sone Aluko, David Meyler, Wayne Bridge, and many more, weren’t that good on the pitch. Come what may, we will owe Sheffield Wednesday £1million every year for the next four years. That could cripple us if we go down and it will constrain us if we stay at this level.
The Joao deal looked a lot better before the Puscas news broke. If Jose Gomes had identified his countryman as the guaranteed starter to fire us to safety or better, then the outlay is understandable. We would at least have a plan. Instead, he isn’t even the most expensive striker we have signed this week.
Rolling the dice is unavoidable in football and sticking with the young side that lost on the weekend was a huge gamble. But it was a gamble we, as fans, had come to accept. If we struggled then there was method in the madness and the academy had been given more than a fair chance.
That method is dripping away - and the madness remains.
Now some fans even reckon our minimum expectation is the play-offs. Very dangeorus thinking before we’ve seen the newboys play. Let’s see how it pans out. Football is a mad sport and these two players will hopefully become club legends. It just feels like we’ve been here before... and had vowed never to come back.