Another game, another humiliating result. After the game, club historian David Downs confirmed that it was Reading’s record home league defeat. Need I say more? After the game, Veljko Paunovic said he felt embarrassed by the loss. He spoke to the official club website and Berkshire Live.
Paunovic on the defeat
“It’s hard to describe how we feel right now. Embarrassment is the only word. We let down a lot of people today. We shouldn’t have lost like this. We shouldn’t have broken down in the second half, conceding so many goals... so easily. It was not acceptable at all. Our players wanted to fight back, but in the desire to fight back, we started to make more individual mistakes and we lost our patience, our structure and our shape.
“We are now under a huge test, for everyone. How we handle this moment and this situation, and how we handle ourselves, will determine our future.
“We must remind ourselves that there have been a lot of difficulties along the way. The result today is in part a consequence of those difficulties. A culmination of the issues we have been faced with. And tonight the team were affected by those issues. I’m not happy it happened. But the challenges we have been faced with from the past have been unprecedented.
“And in the present, we have been hit by so many injuries... today more – losing experienced players like Scott Dann, who can handle a team like Fulham, that was detrimental for us.
“Of course people are looking for people to blame. I accept all that responsibility. But we also have to look back and remind ourselves that we came here into a difficult situation at the club. And we have had to keep extinguishing the fires in very difficult conditions.
“In this difficult moment, we need to find belief, to find trust, to find motivation and I’m ready to help the players do that. I am a professional, I am a fighter and I’m ready to fight.
“I’ll keep encouraging everyone around me to work the best they can, because that’s what we need. And we have to get through this difficult period, especially now in January – it’s not done and we still have difficult circumstances.
“I believe in this group and believe in the team and I believe that we can turn this around, because there is a long way to go. And the way we behave now will define how we overcome our issues.”
Paunovic on being given time to turn things around
“That’s a very cynical question. It’s not what I think about that. I think about the team and group. Everybody is given a very difficult task. We are now blamed for something we haven’t done and we are here coming to help and give people our best.
“Now we are thrown under the bus. It’s not an easy task but we are going to keep going. I believe in the group and saw how difficult it was for them.
“Some people may think differently but I saw they gave it their all, the only issue with that is you have to give that in a frame of the team and not on your own. It’s a good intention but it wasn’t done in the right way. We wanted to fight back and we saw a lot of refusal in our players.
“We wanted to go forward and get on the ball but it was individual actions. It has to come as a group and we didn’t regroup well.”
Paunovic on finding solutions while injured players come back
“January is going to be tough. Everything you’ve seen is just a culmination of the consequences of the difficult situation that we are living in in the past two years. Having to play players when they are not fully fit, having setbacks with guys you [the press] don’t need to be aware of, dealing with these difficulties, at some point had to happen.
“I’m not happy they happened and when you put all that together the last thing you want to have is a game against a team like Fulham. The same as bad things happen, I also believe in good things. I believe in miracles. And I believe in this group.”
Paunovic on if the months after January be equally as difficult
“I believe we will recover some players like Joao, Morrison, Rinomhota, Meite - two of them scored more than 30 goals so that will help the attack. It’s going to help our overall respect and credibility, and we have two internationals coming back in February so completing the group will help but it will take time for them to recover form.
“That’s what you can expect and how long it will take. How we handle the situation and ourselves is going to determine how the players’ return will help us or not. And it’ll still be difficult, even with them back.”
Paunovic on addressing left-back situation
“We’re working on it. In January we have to everything ready, and we are not in that situation. That is a consequence of what happened tonight. As we don’t have the flexibility to quickly solve problems where we need, we have to wait and stick with what we have.”
Paunovic on Carroll contract latest
“Andy Carroll is somebody we must have here in order to go through this difficult period. He showed his spirit, his fighting mentality, he never gave up and [showed] his qualities.
“The team played a lot for him in the first half. We still have to improve on that and it would be massive if he stayed. We made him a contract offer - the best possible and now we await his response.”
Paunovic on what he says to the players
“We understand what business we are and how thing work and everything can happen moving forward. I suggest everyone needs to try and recover from this hard loss and when we come back, find motivation and belief and trust in each other and what we are doing.
“If you look at the reverse fixture at Fulham, we beat them and that is something I keep with me and keeps me going. Not only that, but other games when we played well. They have to find inspiration in those moments. It is very difficult and will continue to be hard but there are some glimpses when we did catch up on our form and consistency.
“We were hit by more injuries, points deduction which hit us hard and Covid. It may have looked like we gave up but that’s not the case.”
Paunovic on having so many games coming up
“That is another consequence of the issues. At this point, we should have played against Kidderminster with our best team, that was our plan, and passed that round and for everyone to be happy.
“But we had a Covid outbreak, three games postponed, some players didn’t recover well, lost our form and shape, and now it is management and dealing with this difficult situation.”