If Reading’s season could end in any way, this kind of showing really summed it up succinctly: a weak, uninspiring, joyless performance. For the most part it seemed more like a pre-season friendly; there was no intention from either side to bust a lung. As was heard in the Sir John Madejski Stand, both teams appeared to be ‘on the beach’ – and that couldn’t be disputed.
As safety had been assured a few games prior, the pressure was off. However, with that pressure being off, this did not lead to any kind of freedom of expression - it was more that they couldn’t really be bothered to perform any more than they had to. A box-ticking exercise, if you will.
Misshapes, mistakes, misfits – a definition of our midfield, if written by Jarvis Cocker. On their day this season, midfield, especially when Andy Rinomhota featured, has managed to have some kind of form, shape and sense about it. However, when the midfield positions are as they are, down to the bare bones of what is available, it has been hard to fashion a system that works for all parties.
Josh Laurent is wasted as a pure defensive midfielder, Danny Drinkwater cannot play in any other position than a defensive playmaker and poor Tom Dele-Bashiru is shoved into whatever position is left. None of this is avoidable unfortunately but whatever is fashioned rarely seems to work. Nobody seemed particularly comfortable or adept in making the central area tick. This area, amongst many, has to be strengthened and made sense of next season. Easier said than done!
By any measure the standard of football on show was poor, especially in wide and forward positions. The lack of close control or ability to play the sensible or positive pass seemed impossible. Countless times the passes were backwards or overhit; this was all too easy to play against. Time and again, possession was lost through a lack of strength or application. The determination that had been present against Swansea City seemed a world away from this showing.
Interim manager Paul Ince seemed to think otherwise in that this was a decent performance and that Reading were unlucky. However, to be unlucky would assume that we had missed chances or the defence held up against constant attacks. We had no shots on target. A requirement to rely less on luck next season would appear to be a wiser move.
As the curtain fell on another season at home, the team rather sheepishly took to the field to receive the applause from the fans. This all felt rather empty and rather embarrassing for everyone. The players seemed to be understandably bashful to receive applause for what has been a hugely disappointing campaign. The fans in turn (of those that remained), was muted. Applauding the players after a defeat, one of many at the SCL, this felt more like applause of relief, consolation and loyalty.
Save for the injured Andy Yiadom who interacted with the masses in Club 1871 enthusiastically, bowing before them, blowing kisses and having a fair bit of fun albeit with a fractured toe. You love to see it. Hopefully a sign that he could sign a new deal as he’s clearly loved by the fans and he’s happy here. Unlike John Swift, who seemed to make a untimely but obvious faux pas that he would indeed be leaving with many others. Oops.
John Swift on Radio Berkshire: "At the moment there's a lot of players leaving, it's quite hard for #ReadingFC to offer new contracts. It's strange that we're all leaving...might all be leaving at the same time, but it's the situation the club are in. Hopefully it can be sorted."— The Tilehurst End (@TheTilehurstEnd) April 30, 2022
While the position of interim manager Ince seems up in the air, a meeting with the owner appears to be happening in the upcoming week. What happens within this meeting will no doubt be crucial not just for the future of Ince but for the club in general. Ince has stated that this club ‘needs a plan’; that is not in doubt. He has been around Reading long enough to have established that there are many aspects that need serious root-and-branch surgery. There’s a lot to fix, there’s no mystery there.
The meeting will no doubt discuss his future, whether he wants to stay on, what the parameters are that would be agreeable to him to stay and what changes he would like to see that the owner would agree to.
If Ince feels he is the man for the job, he is going to require assurances that his own ideas can be implemented and he would be supported within that. If he feels that the owners cannot or will not give him those assurances, he’ll likely walk away and the whole process of moving the club forward begins again. It may be a delay that we can do without. Who knows what is to come, but the rebuild, ethos and identity for Reading FC cannot begin too soon.