Understandably, there is a huge wave of concern currently surrounding the club. With no new incomings whatsoever and with the depletion of the squad through sales, contract expirations and releases, we are thinner than a piece of cling film that’s has been stretched over picnic sandwiches too many times.
The anger amongst the fans has seemingly been replaced by fear over the last few weeks: fear of the realisation that we could be in trouble this season. The financial “situation” (which, let’s face it, none of us really know the deal on) has been rumbling on for a while now and is the unpleasant culmination of years of mismanagement off the pitch (and some on it). Whose fault that is is irrelevant at this point in time. We are where we are and as yet, we have yet to have anyone new come through the doors of RG2.
A statistic that fans may not be aware of is that, in his nearly full year in charge, Pauno has yet to make a permanent signing at the club. The fact that he managed to guide us to seventh in his maiden season and the fact that he has come back for more this time around, despite being handcuffed to the radiator that says “do not sign any players”, shows a testament of his character and one that is rightly earning plaudits from our fanbase. He continues to put a positive spin on events and discussions that he is probably being kept out of which further elevates his stock.
The season itself will be decided on managerial experience and quality. Many teams have failed to add to their squads in the way they would have liked, leaving the tactical knowledge of those in the dugout to take centre stage. The league seems to be loaded with gaffers who are looking to make a point (see McCarthy, Warnock and Parker for starters) and it will be intriguing to see how Pauno fairs against a stronger pool of managers this time around.
Our season hinges on whether we can keep our core group of 13/14 players fit. 46 games, plus cup runs (here’s hoping) and play-offs (here’s double hoping) would stretch even the deepest of squads. The fact we are heading into Saturday’s game with a recognised tally of around 17/18 players is concerning to put it mildly. But of course, the smaller the squad, the deeper the bond and team work, shared ethic and combined targets is and that always counts for something. Four or five signings, in any format, over the next few weeks would go a long way to elevate some of those fears.
As far as predictions go, this is where the water gets dirty. With the flattening of quality across the league in mid-table, you could place us anywhere between the relegation spots and ninth (FYI, I don’t see us near the PO spots - I’m not Four Four Two Magazine), so I’ll aim for what I hope will happen and say 12th. Anything north of that and I will be delighted, “tinpot” mentality be damned.
This will be a season like no other. One thing is for sure is that the team and Pauno will need us more than ever. Let’s try to put our fears aside and get behind the boys as we enter the Berkshire Arena for the first time in a long time.
Oh, and if you can, try and buy the kit. A famous supermarket slogan once stated “every little helps…”