Veljko Paunovic’s departure last month helped to relieve some of the pressure that was starting to mount on Dai Yongge, the main player in this sorry saga.
Not only does he have to be accountable for the financial mismanagement that’s hampering our progress on the pitch, but also for his indecisiveness and lack of communication between the club and its supporters, something that wasn’t a major issue prior to his arrival back in 2017.
Valid criticisms can be made of the Thai ownership, but at the time of their departure, we had a respectable CEO in place who had a positive influence, a technical director who had set out a clear vision and plan for the future and a manager that worked closely with him.
Less than five years on, we’re not just a club that has declined quite noticeably, but we’re also a club that has lost its dignity both on and off the field. On the pitch, many players are underperforming and have not provided value for the wages they’re earning, though off-the-field matters can’t have helped.
Several national media institutions including The Guardian and The Athletic have highlighted our plight, and while tough times are inevitable for any club, the damning assessments of those outlets on our current predicament are nothing short of an embarrassment for us.
The fact we received a points deduction for overspending is also embarrassing, especially as we used to be known as a team that always spent within our means.
That’s what it comes down to for me: identity. Any sort of identity we used to have has been sucked away in the past few years and it has left many fans feeling a sense of apathy.
The badge and the blue and white hoops remain the same, two things that keep up coming back to watch our club, but we have an owner who seems lost, a CEO who doesn’t regularly communicate with us, an ‘interim’ boss who many are already starting to question after seeing him spend eight years out of management and a group of players we just can’t relate to.
Sticking on the lines of what Ady Williams has said recently, there are very few Reading players you would want to be in the trenches with. Perhaps barring Yakou Meite and a couple of the academy graduates, the latter of whom still need to prove they can perform consistently at this level, there’s no meaningful relationship between any/many of the other squad members and it’s sad to see.
Is that because the players aren’t putting enough effort in? I can’t fault their commitment too much - but are they only putting in 100% and not that extra 10% we need in this relegation battle? Can anyone in that team step up and take games by the scruff of the neck? Do they have the bottle to remain afloat in the Championship?
They will have to answer that themselves - but what’s obvious in my mind is the fact they are a group of individuals and this is why Paunovic and Paul Ince need to be questioned. But this problem is also systemic.
Ultimately, the man responsible for unsuccessful managerial appointments in recent years is Dai. The reasons why we have no senior left-backs available at this stage is partly because of our transfer embargo and partly because we recruited Brandon Barker instead of adding to this position of need. That issue is a systemic one.
The reason why we seemingly have the wrong mix of players at our disposal is partly because of this embargo and partly because we didn’t seem to have a coherent transfer strategy prior to being placed under restrictions. That issue is a systemic one.
It may seem like ‘bash Mr Dai’ day - but he’s been hiding behind others including managers, players, the CEO and reportedly involved businessman Kia Joorabchian for far too long.
He may not have picked the team for our losses against Blackpool and Millwall, but instability off the pitch can’t have helped matters on it. The lack of a long-term plan, something the owner is responsible for, also provides us, the players and the management with nothing to look forward to or aim for.
Abiding by the EFL business plan is all well and good - but where’s our own plan? Saying you want to be in the Premier League is fine - but attention to detail is key and we don’t look to have the brains needed to make a potential summer rebuild a success.
Instead, the club seems to be one empty void.
Who knows if we have the financial wiggle room to make key appointments behind the scenes? Mr Dai may be actively considering bringing in a director of football for all we know - but we don’t know whether we can bring one in at this stage.
I do appreciate that the club can’t reveal sensitive financial details - but I would call on them to provide more information in terms of what we can and can’t do in terms of hiring off-field personnel.
This transparency could be something other teams under an EFL embargo may not be prepared to provide, but extraordinary times calls for extraordinary measures and more meaningful communication is the least loyal supporters deserve for travelling to and from games.
So there is a lot of work for Dai to be doing in the coming days, weeks and months. One managerial sacking, a potential appointment of a permanent boss and a possible winning run between now and the end of the season won’t paper over the serious cracks that remain at the Select Car Leasing Stadium.
I’m just one fan saying this. There are many others who feel the same way and if the club does ever want to reach out to receive input from other supporters, don’t just communicate with fan sites like The Tilehurst End. I may be part of the editorial team on a Reading platform - but I can’t speak for the entire fanbase. My input is no more valuable than others.
One other thing is for certain - and that’s the fact you’re not out of the woods Mr Dai. You may have ploughed a lot of money into this club, something we’re grateful for, but look at the state of us now.
This is the worst state we’ve been in since I’ve become a supporter and although I was lucky to grow up in the Coppell and McDermott eras, where we are now is beyond the pale. And where we currently are was totally avoidable.
If you don’t act now, a tipping point will come where fans will completely turn against you as they did on Paunovic and Joorabchian. Some may have expressed their disappointment - but that tipping point hasn’t come where most of the supporters have directly targeted you.
There are those that are cautious about speaking out against your decisions because of how heavily we rely on your continued financial support. But I can’t see my club sink further into this mess. You played a part in getting into this mess - and you need to get us out of it.
In my opinion, you are incredibly lucky the fanbase hasn’t been far more critical of you even before now - but from my end - I’m no longer striking a calm tone. I’m sure many supporters would be happy to get involved and help you if they can play a part in making real changes at the club, but that time is running out with discontent growing by the day.
The fact many fans have a better idea of how to run the club than it has been in recent years is arguably nothing short of a damning indictment of your premiership.
You have the funds and commitment to run the club but other vital ingredients are missing and at this stage, things will only get worse unless you start to form a real connection to the fanbase. There are too many problems at the club for you to stay hidden behind the scenes.
To other parties involved in this current mess, including management, the CEO and players: it’s time to pull your socks up and get us away from relegation danger.
To Mr Dai, I’m convinced we would be better off if you sold the club to someone else in the coming months, though no one will even think about launching a takeover bid at this stage considering we have no assets and a shocking amount of debt. It’s time to prove my and many other peoples’ verdicts wrong.