Doing my Fans Verdict pieces after every game allows to delve a bit deeper into the thoughts and the emotions of the fanbase, which can be a blessing, but also can be quite depressing sometimes.
That, for the majority of the time, is through no fault of the fans. I think we all know that our club, and these players, have given us more than our fair share of moments to moan about over the last couple of seasons.
However, when I was scrolling through the #ReadingFC hashtag after the game against Stoke on Sunday afternoon, I was taken aback by how many negative, angry and pessimistic tweets there were.
Look, every fan is more than entitled to their opinion, and most of us have very different ones, which is one of the reasons that makes football so unpredictable and so great. But here’s a few reasons why I think the panic that seems to have set in among a large amount of the fans is more than premature.
We’re top of the league
This is, ultimately, the main reason to be excited and optimistic as a Reading fan right now. We’re still top of the league.
You may count us lucky for still being there after suffering three losses on the trot, but no one gets to the top of this league without deserving to be there. We’ve won seven of our 11 games, and were the best team in the league by a country mile for the first eight of those 11.
In my opinion, even if we had dropped off the top of the table, maybe down to just outside the play-offs for example, that would still be a successful start to the season. We have to look at the bigger picture.
This season has, so far, shown that we are on track to become a more formidable outfit in this division. But even if we drop from the top two or three in the league - which is just as likely as any other outcome - as long as we keep going toe-to-toe with the so called bigger clubs, and keep ourselves in with a shout of the play-offs, we have to see this season as a success.
However, we've shown more than enough so far in the first 11 games to suggest we could well be up at the top end of the table come May next year, but now it’s just up to the players and Pauno to keep us where we are. All I’m saying is this: let’s not overreact if we do begin to drop off a bit; it’s a long season.
Our old pal Sean Morrison made a decent point in the Sky Sports Studio after the Stoke City game, saying that if these three losses were scattered around in those 11 games, rather than being the last three, we’d be in a much different mood. I know it’s all ifs, buts and maybes, but I think he has a point.
I hate blaming injuries. Similarly to how I hate blaming referee performances if we have a bad result. Every team suffers injuries (particularly this season) and every team has their fair share of bad referees. However, at the end of the day, they are two things that do have a detrimental effect on performances and results. That’s a fact.
At the moment we are without Liam Moore, Yakou Meite, John Swift, Ovie Ejaria, Felipe Araruna and Tom Holmes - that’s six players who would easily get in to our matchday 18, and four who would walk into our best starting eleven. Add to that the fact that Andy Yiadom and Sam Baldock only just returned to the squad on Saturday, and that shows just how unlucky the Royals have been.
Hopefully after the international break, we'll be able to at least welcome Meite and Ejaria back into the fold, and those two alone will give us a huge boost going forward.
I think the one we all want back the most though is Moore. In the minutes he’s played on a football pitch in the Championship this season, we conceded just three goals. However, ever since he hobbled off in the 80th minute against Coventry, we’ve conceded 10 goals - that is not a coincidence.
I firmly believe once we have all of these players back fit, particularly the three apparently closest to a return, we’ll be in a much better position to really kick on from what has been a very good start, regardless of the last three performances.
We’re clearly progressing
Only once in the last six seasons have we finished higher than 14th. That, as much as it might pain me to say and as much as you might not like to hear, means we’re long gone from the days of McDermott v1 when we consistently finished in and around the top six.
This start to the season has at least given us the platform to put an end to the consistent below-average seasons we’ve got depressingly used to in recent times, and is a clear sign that this team is made of different stuff.
To start tarnishing them with the same brush as we used for the teams of Paul Clement, Jose Gomes and Mark Bowen after three bad games is, quite frankly, ridiculous. It’s very easy to revert back to being negative when we see are team lose, particularly considering how used to that we've gotten, but this group of players have already shown enough to earn our upmost praise - and three bad performances really shouldn't change that.
I know our expectations should change based on how the team performs and how many games they win; expectations should always rise when a team is performing well. But they shouldn't change this quickly. If we were a team that was consistently at the top of the league, and had maybe even just been relegated from the Premier League, then I’d understand it. But, unfortunately we’re not.
This team has given us so much already to the proud of and excited about, and we’re only 11 games in. The foundations are there for Pauno and the players to make this a really enjoyable season. Even so, it will be full of ups and downs, no question about that - it is the Championship after all.
Let’s stick with the team just as much during the rough blips just as much as we do in the good times. That’s why we used to do, and was a big part of why we were such a harmonious, united club.