High: An unlikely point against the league leaders (April 15)
Reading were short on any kind of positivity in the closing months of the season, but we had actual hope after this match. Paul Ince had been sacked after the previous game, a 2-1 Easter Monday loss at Preston North End, with Noel Hunt put in temporary charge ahead of league leaders Burnley coming to town. It was a desperate, last-ditch gamble, but one that injected belief into an increasingly apathetic, downtrodden fanbase.
Reading looked rejuvenated mentally, physically and tactically against Burnley, this time lining up in a 4-4-2 rather than the previous 3-5-2, holding the visitors to a hard-earned 0-0 draw. All being well that would have been the springboard for a complete turnaround in the following weeks...
Every single emotion— Reading FC (@ReadingFC) April 15, 2023
One important point. And it is only one point.
Now we’re on the Hunt for more… pic.twitter.com/N6sUZu1UE5
Low: No late reprieve (April 29)
Reading blew various opportunities to ignite their survival bid in the closing weeks of the season, drawing 1-1 against Luton Town and losing 2-1 at Coventry City on the same day as Queens Park Rangers won at Burnley, but the biggest misfire came in the penultimate game of the season.
The Royals went into the final home match needing to beat Wigan Athletic. The fans certainly played their part in the build-up, selling out the Select Car Leasing Stadium for the first time in years.
But Reading fluffed their lines on the day, putting in a drab performance. In fact, following Charlie Hughes’ late goal, it took a 93rd-minute equaliser from substitute Yakou Meite to salvage anything from the game, barely maintaining our mathematical possibility of survival.
Low: Relegation (May 4)
That mathematical possibility was wiped out a matter of days later when Huddersfield Town unexpectedly beat soon-to-be-promoted Sheffield United in their game in hand. Thanks a bunch Sheffield United!
It was grimly apt that a lifeless, tepid second half of the season culminated in Reading being relegated with a whimper. No gallant last-ditch heroics, just helplessly watching the Terriers beat the Blades to secure their Championship status.
Having been a third- or fourth-tier side for much of the club’s history, Reading had worked so hard in the previous two decades to earn, maintain and build upon second-tier status. That was all gone in an instant.
High: Defiant to the end (May 8)
Reading’s away support has been fantastic in the circumstances throughout 2023, particularly in the second half of the year, despite the lack of wins. But the best testament to that came in early May on the final day of the season, when around 900 hardy fans made the trip up to Huddersfield Town - down from a full 2,000 or so sell-out that would have happened if there’d been something riding on this game.
It was a typically miserable game to watch, with the hosts running out 2-0 winners and Reading not managing a shot on target. But the travelling support made the most of the occasion nonetheless, continuing the final away-day tradition of lobbing inflatables around, while some even put on a conga in the concourse.
It was all daft, silly fun, but it still made for a strangely enjoyable afternoon to partially counter the effects of a miserable season.
Top, top support this afternoon. What a fanbase, what a club pic.twitter.com/IDiELTTRQ3— Oh Little Town Of Tilehurst End (@TheTilehurstEnd) May 8, 2023
Low: The EFL vs Reading Football Club (and Dai) (June 16)
Reading fans went into the summer with high hopes of a fresh start in League One, fuelled by an extensive rebuild. As Mark Bowen had said in April, “we are very confident that this six-point penalty is the last of our medicine and we will now be allowed to come out of the embargo and be able to trade again in the summer”.
He wasn’t to know what was coming, and certainly supporters weren’t to know either. But the announcement of a series of charges against Reading and owner Dai Yongge by the EFL on June 16 was the start of ongoing chaos that wouldn’t just derail the club’s pre-season preparations, it would even prompt fears of administration at some points.
High: Fans start fighting back (also June 16)
While Sell Before We Dai didn’t officially launch until the following week, supporters started mobilising and organising to make it happen within hours of the EFL’s announcement. It feels bittersweet to highlight this as a positive - it’s sad that such a movement was required in the first place - but Sell Before We Dai ended up doing plenty of good in 2023.
Media campaigning, fan protests, political pressure, it all started on a Friday morning in mid-June. As a result, supporters have been able to demonstrate, push back against the mismanagement of the club and highlight Reading’s plight to the outside world to an extent that wouldn’t have otherwise been possible.