I’m fed up. Again. I’m writing this on the evening of Monday 3 January 2022 on the back of the latest defensive capitulation by a Reading team, this time at home to Derby. While it was a difficult day at the office after squandering a two-goal lead, I remain entirely sympathetic to Pauno’s situation, given the hand he has been dealt by the club and the ridiculous injury list.
However, while I’m reticent to call for any manager’s head, there are perfectly valid questions being asked by the fanbase over whether he is able to lift this team out of the relegation mire and is a man for the long term. I am not calling for his head (yet) but I also don’t want to see Reading relegated to the third tier for the first time in 20 years.
Relegation would be potentially catastrophic for the club: it would remain to be seen whether or not Mr Dai would continue to want to invest, whether the club would need to enter administration, whether we would have a competitive team, etc. etc.
I also fear for next season if we do escape the drop this year, with so many high-earners out of contract and a severely restricted budget imposed on us by the EFL to bring us back onto a sustainable footing, and therefore whether we’d be able to field a competitive team. So many scenarios, so many different outcomes, so many decisions to be made by those running the club.
And therein lies the issue. I’ve spoken to numerous fans across multiple platforms who are all of differing mindsets when it comes to the plethora of issues engulfing the club. We all have our ideas, wants and needs for what we think is the best way forward, but whatever way you turn, the crux of the matter is not so much a nagging doubt at the back of your head, but rather a sledgehammer that smacks into it – there is a complete absence of trust for the owners.
Nobody I’ve spoken to believes the owners will do what is necessary to pull this club out of the river of sh*t it finds itself in. The vessel that should be chock-full of trust is instead filled with the curdling stench of fear that the owners will continue to make short-term decisions based on advice from people who do not have the club’s interests at heart and with no thought for the long-term interests of the club.
The Dais remain silent; they have no desire to communicate to us as fans. While I would normally respect this, there are times when visibility is needed and thoughtful words are spoken with sincerity. Now, with Reading in its 150th year and sleepwalking towards relegation, is the time for the owners to communicate.
Granted, we’ve heard from Mr Dai finally in the aftermath of the six-point deduction which is to be genuinely lauded, but on the other hand should it really take such drastic circumstances for an owner to make himself visible and heard after four and a half years of ownership? Virtually all of the other visibility we’ve had is Mr Dai taking 57 minutes to sprint half the length of the SCL Stadium pitch.
This club is in desperate need of vision, clarity and direction, with now more than any other point in the club’s 150-year history being the most important time to impose a clearly defined, carefully planned strategy. Every owner of a football club must be held to account for their actions by the fans of their clubs, but how are we to hold Reading’s owners to account if they remain as elusive as a promotion via the playoffs?
At the moment the owners’ credibility remains low, continues to get lower, and if they continue to completely ignore and disrespect the fanbase and don’t willingly oversee financial change to a more sustainable footing (rather than it being imposed and reluctantly adhered to), the time will eventually come when they will be made unwelcome at the club by those fans.
Supporters are growing increasingly fed up with the manager and players and they will always be the ones who bear the brunt of fans’ angst, but I think the vast majority recognise that ultimately the problems stem from the very top. The club cannot continue the way it is - otherwise it will only continue to bleed itself out of the Championship and into League One, and that is not what anybody wants.