I nearly summed up this column in one word: horrendous. There really isn’t anything else to add that hasn’t been commented on, suggested or otherwise stated that really sums up the last six weeks’ performances.
Charlton Athletic away was always going to be a difficult one as the Addicks have been on an impressive run recently, however this should have (and no disrespect) come to a shuddering halt against a Fleetwood Town side equally as unimpressive as us, who’ve struggled to keep 11 men on the pitch this season.
Starting with Charlton and it’s the same story: OK ‘til the first goal then the collapse happened. It’s not even that we’re playing well and being unlucky; we are starting OK then you can see the fight drain from the players. Against Fleetwood, there was no cohesion, no game plan and no confidence.
Both sides were there for the taking, with both a solid game plan and tactical nuance should have yielded some points, but both ended up being men against boys.
The social scene is fairly light, especially from Fleetwood. However, you can see that, especially in the Addicks’ corner, they are building and starting to get form. I wish the same could be said for Reading.
So, taking a brief look at both camps, the messaging is fairly consistent
On a run
Charlton are one of League One’s form teams…so what has Michael Appleton changed to spark upturn?: Only Portsmouth (18), Oxford (16) and Burton (14) have taken more points than Charlton (12) over the last six matches. https://t.co/J906KAuCG3 #charlton #cafc— Forever Charlton (@charltonnews) October 22, 2023
As always, fans like to get carried away
Good to see opposition fans understanding the situation we are in
Sold out away end @CAFCofficial today. The reading fans deserve better than this horrific owner. @EFL need to ensure clubs do not go under by strict regulation. #cafc #Royals #sellupmryoung pic.twitter.com/ENu4Muy2Lr— Tony (@tonycafc198) October 21, 2023
On the up!
Charlton are FLYING!— Knappers (@ftfcknappers) October 21, 2023
Unbeaten in 7 matches
Won 4 of those
Scored 16 in that time ⚽️⚽️
Unbeaten under Micheal Appleton (3W3D)
Beat Wycombe, Exeter and Reading
Came back from 2-0 down v Blackpool
Into the top 10.. it’s starting to click at #CAFC pic.twitter.com/U3fYCrzbDq
He’s gonna go and would put money on it won’t be Charlton!
So we gonna go for Reading's Abbey then, what a player #cafc— NADIA (@MynameisNadia__) October 21, 2023
Praise for CB
I'll single out Teale tonight. Mature performance. Comfortable in possession. Old fashioned classy centre half. Needed such young blood for a while. Lawal at right back superb and what a goal. Should have put it to bed 1st half but luck and fight won out #OnwardTogether #Reafle— Jeff Weston (@jeffweston1970) October 24, 2023
Once again a run around the usual suspects sees the BBC saying that Charlton’s impressive run was extended and Reading’s “horrendous away form” continued (death, taxes and Reading losing away, etc) with what they describe as a “thrashing”, which probably isn’t far from the truth.
Following this up is Wokingham Today’s piece where they say actually the first half wasn’t too bad. However, the second half was as they term “clinical”, also mentioning that Charlton featured three ex-Reading players in their ranks, all of whom probably would walk into our current team. Makes you think…
James Earnshaw over at the Reading Chronicle is probably a little less generous, calling it a capitulation, highlighting the fact by saying that Reading “struggled to get off the canvas” once we conceded.
Once again the BBC reference a dismal run, now highlighting that it’s six league matches since we tasted victory. They go onto say that Fleetwood produced a dominant display and dictated most of the play, and we improved slightly in the second period but it wasn’t enough.
Wokingham Today call it a “damaging defeat” and a “dismal first-half display”. They also make the point that we did improve, but in reality Fleetwood should have been out of sight in the first half and spurned numerous opportunities to increase the score.
James at the Chronicle mentions the word that we all fear: this result plunged us into relegation fear. It’s October and we are already facing that eventuality, being eight points off safety. Again he points to the first half as being “lacklustre” and we did improve after the break, but Fleetwood again always looked to have that second goal in them.
As said before I have used this column to advocate patience and control. However, for myself that is starting to fade. Ruben Selles has proven that he won’t change, can’t read a game and even making an early sub after 30 minutes for “tactical” reasons didn’t actually change that much.
We have Portsmouth on Saturday, and for the first time in a while, I am hoping that we get a draw – at home (!). I can’t see it. This team is devoid of confidence, leadership and mental strength.
So we all wanted change, we all wanted the kids to be given a go after the horror performances of the first few games of the season, and we understood that this might entail a little bit of pain. That pain has now developed into a complex. We need leadership: this team is mentally shot to pieces and they don’t have the experience to understand how to deal with challenges that professional football brings.
Maybe it’s time to bring some of the outcast “senior” players back into the side, if nothing else than to protect the already mentally scared younger players and stop them turning into players such as Tom Holmes, Tom McIntyre etc who - for their whole professional careers - have played in a team that’s struggled, and regressed from when they had stellar breakout seasons. It’s not fair on these youngsters and not fair on the fans.
These aren’t bad players, these aren’t untalented players, but it’s not enough. You need to guide them through and the question has to be asked if Selles is the man to do this. If we actually look at his record, I will say that he’s had two jobs that both are challenges for even the most experienced of managers. With Southampton he was given a struggling Premier League team and couldn’t get them to work. He now has walked into Reading when we have the worst position financially and off-field dramas that you could get.
Should we have considered this when appointing him? Probably, but who else would have taken the job? I will probably get lambasted for this, but this is perfect Neil Warnock territory. While not everyone’s cup of tea, he is able to work with misfits and younger players to get something out of them.
We have to look at facts: we will probably lose some players come January, Nelson Abbey and Tyler Bindon being prime examples. So sorry guys, it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better. I do think any other club and Selles would have gone by now, but the truth is we probably can’t afford to get rid.
We face a Portsmouth side on Saturday. I hate to think what the bookies are giving us (#GambleAware) but I can’t see anything except an away win.
Shout-out to all those who have travelled to the away games: their resolution is something to be admired.
In a nutshell, this season will be a success if we aren’t relegated or in administration, but in truth I think both are highly likely. But we support the team, we rise from the ashes and who knows, one day with the right owners and the right manager, we may actually win a game…