Anyone brave enough to follow Reading away from home must be given credit. No league win in 2023 so far and yet we’re still selling out our allocations. A fanbase of masochists, clearly. Along with the Royals getting sunk everywhere they go, another tradition appears to be developing and it feels as though this might be an opportunity missed.
Results and performances aside, think about what’s been happening at Reading lately. We’ve got Sell Before We Dai getting the club much-needed media attention along with regular protests each home match. But other than anti-Dai chants and banners, away matches aren’t used to stage protests, which makes them a less charged affair.
Is this why Ruben Selles brings himself and the team within touching distance of fans come full-time at away games?
We know that, short of actually saying he wants Dai Yongge gone, Selles gets the protests. But the fact he fronted up and apologised on the pitch at Blackpool and again came over to talk with fans after defeat at Leyton Orient suggests to me: Selles not just empathises with weary loyal Royals, but he wants to galvanise fans and players into a collective, creating an “us verses the rest of the world” type bond. A pact aimed squarely at those who have put manager, players and fans in another dire situation, or should that be “Dai situation?”
Acknowledging your away support is part and parcel of football – plus, as fans, we win together, we lose together, right? I can’t see the players defending Dai Yongge if that’s where we’re venting our anger come full-time, can you?
To me, Selles is using these full-time moments to come over to the fans in the hope “Dai out” chants start, providing an outlet and absolving our young side who have likely lost. He’s a clever man if so.
Think about it: irrespective of whether his tactics cost us the game, there’s always the fall-back excuse for Selles: it’s Dai’s fault. Ultimately there’s truth in that but, as I said, it does also offer Selles some protection.
It also helps these young players. We should clap to show appreciation for their efforts in what is frankly an impossible position: to put their bodies on the line with no guarantee they’ll be paid. We’re all in the same boat metaphorically and, as fans, we can vent our frustrations towards Dai and Dayong Pang. But being there while we do suggests to me that the players are silently agreeing, especially if they stick around like they have done. Given the toxicity right now, it would be easier for them to stay away, yet they keep coming over...
The one thing Reading’s fanbase will need in the coming months is solidarity. Even if results and performances remain poor, we need to get behind the manager and players if we’re to avoid back-to-back relegations. Not to mention off-the-field issues. I’m not saying they deserve a “hall pass” from criticism, but this Royals squad is essentially an under-23s side all in the deep end of what is their first pro season – for the vast majority anyway.
It’s a tough ask and telling them “you’re not fit to wear the shirt” isn’t deserved in my opinion. There’s a heck of a long way to go in what already feels a long season. Changes in personnel aren’t coming any time soon, that’s for sure.
Selles’ refusal to change tactics is clearly putting us in danger, and perhaps chants for him to change the team need to start? Local journalists need to question the manager here too. There isn’t an alternative, because who currently at Reading has the ability to sack Selles?
Thus I don’t think Saturday’s post-match events were our nadir. There could even be results worse than Blackpool away still to come!
Mark Bowen said at Blue Collar Corner months ago that he couldn’t sack Paul Ince. Dayong Pang is AWOL and, as for Dai Yongge… you get the picture.
The fans, the manager and the players: we’re all stuck in this until Dai Yongge is gone from Reading Football Club.
Cast your mind back to when Anton Zingarevich arrived. The announcement came in January 2012, and it wasn’t rubber-stamped until that summer. Dai’s takeover reportedly started around Christmas 2016 and wasn’t finalised until May of 2017. Given EFL rules, we now won’t know if any takeover is in the offing until it’s happened, and rumours suggest nothing positive is happening.
Let’s not forget what we know about Dai Yongge too. He’s stubborn to the point that the only players “sold” during his tenure have been through release clauses in their contracts. This doughnut has turned down good money over the years. So what on earth is he going to be like bargaining the sale of Reading, including his precious training ground?! Yet again he’s likely to put his ego ahead of logic. All while not paying wages or HMRC. What a guy...
For me, Ruben Selles is another incarnation of Veljko Paunovic and Paul Ince: a manager of seemingly limited ability, doing a job with his hands tied in difficult circumstances. Unless he can turn it around, new owners will likely dispose of him the first opportunity they get. That’s football.
But until then, he’s our manager, left to effectively front the mess our owners have created with a side even more vulnerable than his predecessors had to work with. He’s being a lot cuter with his comments than Pauno or Ince were and I say he’s doing that in more perilous circumstances than they faced. That deserves some respect, but yes, he does need to offer more tactically.
Ultimately he needs us to back his team. It’s time we focused on the bigger picture too. Performances aside, the debts are mounting and time is ticking. Reading Football Club will do well to survive this season. Not survive League One, I mean just survive.
The nights are getting darker and that goes for our beloved club too. It’s time to pull together for better and for worse. I fear the latter is yet to come...