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View From The Dolan: The State Of Play

In a VFTD special, Ben assesses where Reading are at - on and off the pitch - going into the international break.

PA Images via Getty Images

We’ve all been let down. That’s basically the crux of all this. The anger is building in me (and I’m guessing you too) because this season, despite being billed correctly at the start as likely to be “a hard one”, has collapsed into farce once again. A year on from the horror show that was Pauno’s final days, we’ve seemingly learned nothing.

The main difference is of course is that we have a belligerent, arrogant and selfish manager in charge. He’s gone from “man management supremo” to throwing any and all of his players under any moving vehicle he can find as quickly as possible.

Of course, he joins a long list of bad managers that we’ve had over the last few years, but we’ve been over that already this season. Last year, you could definitely question the players’ mentality, desire and overall skill level. This season, not so much.

Of course, we aren’t dealing with a Man City-esque level of depth (and that comparison is there for a f**king reason), but plenty of arguments could be made for the fact that this squad is better than last year’s. You only need to look at the football they were playing (albeit in small doses) before the World Cup to prove that. We’ve gone backwards in super quick time and that is on Incey. He needs to go and quickly if we are to turn around this run of form.

What isn’t his fault is the probable points deduction. And that, my fellow fan, is unforgivable, whether we are in the wrong (likely) or the EFL are being uber-strict (at which point the appeal would be pretty straightforward, right? Especially if they have had to sign off on everything we’ve done…).

The fact this is even being talked about is just flabbergasting. Whoever you point the finger at, it’s a collective failing from the top-office employees of this club. You know, those people who are there to guide the club financially and securely through the football jungle.

And this is where I start to lose it. We’ve become accustomed to poor performances on the pitch and then getting completely carried away when we win three games on the trot (maybe that’s just me), we know the matchday vibe has diminished (easy to blame Covid and Brexit for that one…), and we are fully aware that it’s been tricky to get players in on decent wages to improve the squad. But my anger towards the club is now very specific and clear, giving me clarity, almost.

The tenure of this owner is littered with mistakes, with a constant disregard for the rules of this league and with a disturbing penchant to surround himself with sharks. That’s all well and good, but the problem is that sharks eventually eat you if you hang around them long enough. As mentioned earlier, we are in line for a second points deduction in successive seasons. It’s embarrassing at this point. We are the crisis club, the team that no one wants to watch or play for. And that’s happened on Dai’s watch.

So what happens next? In the short term, Ince needs to leave and the deduction needs to be confirmed. We then know what we are dealing with. Long term? I don’t know. I have some ideas. Without going into absolute specifics, I recently left STAR for a reason and that was down to a very large difference of opinion on how to move forward and what the organisation itself should be doing. Popular to belief and rumours, it wasn’t me “throwing my toys out of the pram” (although I have been known to do that...).

What I do know is that some great people, who do fantastic work for little reward or spotlight, will suffer greatly from the fallout from all this. I don’t need Reading FC to pay my mortgage so in theory I can walk away when I want. Obviously I can’t, because I love this club, but I don’t depend on them financially. My overriding sadness is that, as a club, I feel we miss the target so often.

A lot of people tell me a lot stuff: that’s not a brag, just a reality. Whether that’s employees, fans, parents of players in the academy - I talk to a range of people regularly and they all say the same thing: there’s no connection anymore.

How we get that back, I honestly don’t know. I’ve not watched the last three games and I don’t intend to until April 7. I need a break - I’m drained and gutted and I need to go missing for a bit. One of my fave bands of all time, Modest Mouse, do a little number called ‘Pups to Dust’ and the fist two lines go like this:

Our hearts don’t change, from pups to dust

Couldn’t see clearly but I had a sense of what right and wrong was

Right now, that’s exactly how I feel about this club. I stood on those terraces at the age of six and that was that. I’m 38 next month. I know what a football club, rooted in the community and its fans, should feel like, and we are a million miles away from that right now.

Until next time. Probably.