We all love Reading Football Club. We can't do anything about that. When you love something, particularly a football club, it’s very easy for emotions to get the better of you - I’ve been more than guilty of that myself throughout my years of trudging up and down the country to watch this club play football.
On Tuesday night, we were bad. We were really bad. Veljko got it horribly wrong, the players didn’t have the fight compared to that of Wycombe Wanderers and we missed big chances that play-off teams just have to take. It was a low point for the season.
I was just as fuming as anybody at around 10pm on Tuesday. It was like a throwback to the dark days, I started laughing when he took Michael Olise off - mainly because if I didn't, I probably would’ve broken down in tears. My overriding emotion after the game was, if I’m honest, that of ‘same old Reading’. They always disappoint.
But after a couple of hours of pure anger, frustration and just feeling let down - the dust settled and I began to look at the bigger picture.
Looking at the bigger picture is arguably one of life’s biggest cliche’s, and it’s a very, very hard thing to do when you’re so emotionally invested in something as we are with this club. But it’s so, so important - in this season more than ever. To understand how good we have it at the minute, I’m going to remind you all about how bad it was not so long ago...
2017/2018. A season that still gives me nightmares and sends shivers down my spine to this day. Remember that 2-1 loss at home to Burton Albion? Remember Paul McShane telling the players not to come and clap the fans after we drew 0-0 away to Stevenage in the FA Cup? Remember us only just surviving on the last day of the season?
That was a season when all of our anger was justified. That was a season where the players just looked like they didn’t want to be there. That was a season as tough as any I’ve had being a Reading fan. I, like a lot of you I would imagine, struggled to muster up the courage to even care about football towards the end of that season.
And it got worse before it got better, didn't it? Remember the appointments of Gianluca Nani and Ron Gourlay? Remember the pathetic performances we saw under Paul Clement that left us 21st in the league before he was sacked?
I remember all of that. That was a time worth complaining about, that was a time worth calling for change, that was a time when the level of anger and hatred I saw on Twitter while writing up my Fans’ Verdict pieces would’ve been entirely justified.
Criticising Pauno and the players for the last few games is completely fair; we’ve hit a rough patch and both the manager and the players haven’t found the solution to get us out of it yet. And Tuesday night was the worst of the lot.
But the reaction seemed to go further than that on Tuesday evening, and these may have been knee-jerk tweets that fans now regret, or they may be how fans are genuinely feeling, I can’t comment on that.
But, if there are fans out there who genuinely want Paunovic to be sacked, and there are fans out there who have declared our season ‘over’ after a few bad results - then I ask those fans to take a step back and look at how far we’ve come in such a short space of time. And that is mainly down to one man, and that’s Pauno.
Yep, I agree his tactics recently have left a lot to be desired (taking Olise off on Tuesday was arguably the worst tactical decision I’ve ever seen as a Reading fan - and I’ve seen some humdingers in my time), but he’s united a broken club, and he’s got us to fifth in the table.
Paunovic has done more than enough this season to earn our patience and respect. He’s done so much for our club off the pitch, and he’s got a team on it who will die for the badge and aren't that bad at football are they?
Let me put this way, our low point last season was capitulating to an awful end to the season, with the players not looking arsed as we finished 14th which lead to the most shambolic pre-season in the club’s history. This season, our lowest point so far has been a loss that’s still left us in fifth place (FIFTH), with our play-off destiny still in our own hands. It’s really not that bad is it.
We have 14 huge, huge games to go. The biggest always being the next. And let me tell you, Saturday’s game at Rotherham is the game where we'll see what this group are made of. I for one am going to be right behind them. They don't deserve us to lose faith in them now, it’s a time they need it more than ever.