This season, Reading have been the epitome of that infamous Gennaro Gattuso quote that went something along the lines of “sometimes maybe good, sometimes maybe... not so good”. Saturday afternoon fell firmly in the latter camp.
The players just didn’t turn up. Every one of them was well, well below par and we got exactly what we deserved: a drubbing. Stoke City didn't even play well. They didn’t have to play well to put four goals past us - that’s how shambolic we were.
The fans were not a happy bunch...
I can’t exactly pick out two or three things from the performance - the entire thing was just dreadful. We were weak, fragile and all over the place defensively; clueless, toothless and limp in attack. It was probably the worst overall performance of the season.
I think it’s fair to say that the fans were left fuming - in fact, I’ve done well to find this many tweets without any expletives. I suspect we all thought we’d left performances like this firmly in the past...
Worst away performance I've seen from #readingfc in a while. Made a poor Stoke side, look really good. Baba, Holmes and Loum the main culprilts. Shocking performance from everyone— Jack (@thesimpsonRFC) January 21, 2023
Awful performance today, maybe worst since Sunderland at home. #readingfc— Lee Richards (@Lee_Richards1) January 21, 2023
Today was embarrassing. We were poor. No principles of play. Slow, lack of movement, No intensity. Everyone on that pitch should be ashamed. Stoke never had it so easy. #readingfc— Dave Roberts (@LaughingLima) January 21, 2023
Very very poor #readingfc https://t.co/TpiJqhbEzO— Andy (@Brownie1871) January 21, 2023
Just back from an embarrassing (and freezing) performance at the Britannia Stadium, only highlights worth mentioning were the meat & potato pie and two cups of Bovril!! Fair play to Stoke for accepting the gifted goals we offered them on a plate. That was really poor #ReadingFC— Glyn (@Glyn123ABC) January 21, 2023
Can’t blame injuries, no midweek fixture last week. Just a straight forward shocking performance today #readingfc— Stevie p (@stevie_p1871) January 21, 2023
Worst performance of season. Embarrassing #readingfc— steve richardson (@Rich1Steve) January 21, 2023
That's our 3rd 4-0 away defeat this season and somehow the performances in these defeats manages to get worse each time #readingfc— Dan (@DanTheMan__98) January 21, 2023
Shocking performance. Poor team selection and took too long to make subs. One of our worst games all season #readingfc— Joel (@Jdh72Joel) January 21, 2023
The manager was quick to blame the players’ lack of fight after the game and while that's a valid point, Ince has to be taking his fair share of the blame too. But this lack of accountability isn’t anything new with him.
Ince got it horribly wrong with his starting line-up and tactics. Stoke are a team devoid of confidence and we set up as if we’re playing Manchester City away. I don't know how we were trying to score a goal on Saturday and that lies with Ince.
The fans are starting to question whether he’s the best man to take us forward beyond this season...
Stewed on Ince’s fight comments. It’s nothing to do with that. He persists with awful players (Baba, Hendrick,Loum eg) favouring experience, has no tactics/gameplan other than to compete. He blames the players every time we lose. Fight, Compete, Get Beat. The new #ReadingFC way.— Super Kevin Bremner (Parody) (@skb777) January 22, 2023
We are absolutely screwed if the players down tools like they have in previous seasons.— Pedro‼️ (@PictonPedro) January 21, 2023
Will Paul Ince last a full year in a managerial role for the first time in his 16 year coaching career?#ReadingFC pic.twitter.com/EfSaliwEpv
Ince blaming the players straight away. Saying he would take them all off at half time but didn't even take one off then. #ReadingFC— chiekomoners (@chiekomoners) January 21, 2023
Would keep Ince til the end of the season but then start a fresh, I still can't understand what our style of play is, he won't progress us any further than this— hugh rfc vandel'isle (@HughIsle) January 21, 2023
Find a fresh young manager with a clear style of play who can work with Bowen and Carey in the summer#readingfc https://t.co/thaD0m8SAG
I would let Ince carry on until the end of the season, not much benefit in doing it now. Confident we'll avoid the drop still, but certainly don't look like we have any direction long term under Ince. He's steadied the ship but he can't can't take us on a cruise ️ #readingfc— Tom Maynard (@ttmaynard) January 21, 2023
Paul Ince: “I could have made 11 subs at half-time”— Jordan Norris (@Jordo_Grittt) January 21, 2023
Everyone: “How many did you make?”
Paul Ince: “None”
The more choices and decisions Paul Ince has to make, the worse he will be. I’m sure of it. #readingfc
Ince’s tactics and half time team talks are very similar to Clement’s judging by how we set up in the second half. He is lucky he has a better squad than we had back in 2018… #readingfc— Alex Lane-Kieltyka (@alex_elkay21) January 21, 2023
Paul Ince has done a brilliant job of bringing unity and stability and changing the atmosphere around the club, which was rotten. However, the man is not a tactician. This should always be a short-term solution. #readingfc— JackOliverG (@JackOliverG) January 21, 2023
Might be time for a change if ince don’t sort it out in the next few games - clueless #readingfc— Ben1871 (@Ben18712) January 21, 2023
Is sacking the manager when we aren’t in a perilous league position to best idea? Performances are shocking but could be shooting ourselves in the foot. Also, T Ince’s performances could be drastically influenced too and he’s our best player by far #readingfc— Harry Sands (@SarryHands) January 21, 2023
Just a horrendous, horrendous afternoon. From start to finish it was an absolute shambles. Everyone has to take a long hard look at themselves after that one - Paul Ince included. There wasn’t a single half-decent performance and the tactics were non-existent. An afternoon to forget.
Next up a nice, easy trip to Old Trafford. Oh, God.