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Reactions Speak Louder Than Words

After Reading’s first league loss of the season on Friday night, here's why I think the reaction of the players against Preston is so important.

Coventry City v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

Watching Veljko Paunovic and the players go about their business the way they have done so far this season has been nothing sort of phenomenal - even if we’ve had to watch it from afar.

To go the first eight games of the season unbeaten, winning seven of those and only conceding three goals in the process, is a testament to the professionalism of the players and how well the manager has done to keep the players level-headed and grounded, when complacency could have easily worked its way into the team at some point.

Of course, you learn a lot as a fan from watching your team win every week - we’ve learned Michael Olise is arguably the best talent outside the Premier League, Lucas Joao is an absolute beast and Josh Laurent might be the best free signing of all time.

However, we’ll learn more about the kind of team this really is, and what kind of campaign we can expect, in the game against Preston North End on Wednesday than we have done in the entirety of the season so far.

The players have shown that when confidence and morale is high, and you’re in a rich vein of form, they can continue to perform. What they haven’t had a chance to show so far is how they respond to a bad result - which, yes, is of course because of how good they’ve been - but you learn how good a team truly is in their reaction to failures.

Coventry City v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

Now, Friday night wasn't a huge failure. Yes, we lost the game and didn’t play anywhere near as well as we had done before facing the Sky Blues, but the run was always going to come to an end at some point, and now all eyes have to turn to the Preston game.

If you look back to our last ‘successful’ team - the squad that Jaap Stam led to the play-off final in the 2016/17 season - that team suffered some awful defeats that season. When we lost in the league that year, we lost badly - 4-0 away to Brentford, 5-0 away to Fulham and 7-1 away to Norwich being stand out capitulations.

But, incredibly, we always seemed to back up those losses with brilliant wins. I know Reading fans could argue forever about what exactly happened that season. In my opinion, though, wherever you finish at the end of a Championship season is where you deserve to finish. And our ability to react quickly to bad results is a big reason why we deserved to finish third.

I have full faith in the players, and in Pauno in particular, that we will get a response on Wednesday night. However, as much as the players can come out on social media and say they'll put it right next game, that'll all mean nothing if they don’t actually go and do it.

We have got used to managers and players talking the talk but not walking the walk in recent years; this time it needs to be different. And I have complete confidence that it will be different.

Middlesbrough v Reading - Sky Bet Championship - Riverside Stadium Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images

There’s just something about this team that feels good and resonates with us as fans. I know that might seem a bit of an obvious thing to say when we’re sat four points clear at the top of the table after nine games, but this team, to me at least, has an air of the 2011/2012 promotion team to it.

That doesn't mean I think we’ll get promoted, I'm not even beginning to think of that word at this point - it’ll only come to bite us later on in the season. But, this team has already shown signs of having the same traits and same qualities that made us fall head over heels in love with that title-winning team.

We have all the ingredients to give this season a really good go. You look through our team at the moment and I can't really see a big weak point. It's now up to the players and up to Paunovic to make the most of the ridiculously good foundations they've managed to give themselves. It’s down to them now.

The team spirit is there, the fight, the passion and we’ve even got a little bit of stardust sprinkled in there too in the form of the likes of Olise, Swift, Ejaria and Joao. This could be a special season for us fans, even if we can't go and watch the games, but the Preston game will be the big test.

If we react immediately and get back on the winning horse, then Friday night will be forgotten, but pick up another bad result and you can guarantee the question marks will begin to appear.

So many people want to write us off, and label this start as a fluke. Let’s not give them that satisfaction.