The problem with this club is that the timing of basically everything they do is wrong. Firing that Ince fella: too late. Releasing kits: too late. Giving 34-year-old, 1.93-metre-high strikers 18-month contracts: too early.
The start to this summer is no exception. Having heard mere scraps from the more senior folk among the squad on social media, fans are yet to hear anything from anyone in a position of power about… well, anything.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand those fans out there going “well, what do you want them to say?”. Playing devil’s advocate, whatever they say about relegation, the new-manager search and players leaving/staying (all fairly hefty areas to cover) could and probably would be shot down in flames. Not because it would be worthless, but because this has happened time and time again.
The open goal has been there to chat to the fans via some sort of statement and the hierarchy have continually missed the chance to go 1-0 up. They’ve waited too long to say something and, by the time they do, people have lost interest.
Personally, releasing anything in the days after our demotion was confirmed would have been bad timing (and it may seem like I’m contradicting myself here, but bear with me) - just look at those idiots down in Southampton for that. But we are almost two weeks removed from being relegated and not one senior member of staff has updated the fans on any sort of plan, commitment level or process to the next few weeks.
Of course then, the first official communication from the club was always going to be met with a bit of a tasty reception after this length of silence. That appeared on Monday, with the announcement of the selling process for season tickets for the first third-tier campaign in over 20 years - something that tends to get fans semi-excited for the new season.
However, any mild enthusiasm that was beginning to overtake the pain and embarrassment of dropping down a league was ended quickly and efficiently by the news that these season tickets would be going up in price.
Now, before we go any further, I personally don’t have a problem with the price increase. It had to happen at some point, right? It’s overdue. But it’s the manner of it all that really causes the issue.
Coupled with this price rise were two separate articles. The first clearly laid out the annual table of prices for each stand, age bracket, entry point etc and it was evident from the off that most, if not all, prices were being increased. The second article gave the rationale for these price rises. Even the most negative of soups among us would struggle not to understand why these increases were needed.
But again, Reading Football Club being Reading Football Club dropped the PR manual in the bin and instead of releasing the second article first, they pushed it out straight after the “black and white” piece of how much we were all being charged to watch Port Vale (a place that doesn’t even exist), Shrewsbury Town and Burton Albion at home (no offence to those teams by the way).
By this point, the damage was done. Most people missed the second article because they were so busy complaining about the first that the madness outweighed the method.
Let’s be clear: many of our fans will just blindly renew (me included) - that’s not right or wrong, it’s just a fact. But there will be some fans that would quite like to know which players they might see while enjoying their more expensive season ticket, which chap is sat in the dugout or who is actually running the bloody club they have just committed another 10 months of their life to.
Yet again, timing is everything. I wrote my final column before the season ticket price rise, detailing briefly that the club needed to get fans back onside and inside the Whitley Bowl. I don’t begrudge the increase in dollars to sit in the Dolan. I’ve (sort of) come to terms with League One; I don’t mind that we are still choosing a manager - I would just like to be kept in the loop much more than I’ve been in recent years at a very crucial period for our team.
As football fans, we know that timing is everything, on and off the pitch. This announcement has put the club on the back foot almost instantly, despite how many tickets they sold or didn’t sell on the first day, at the start of its biggest summer for years. Yet again, it’s all self-inflicted and wholly unsurprising. Had they waited to push this news out after a manager announcement or even the publication of the retained list, it might not have gone down as badly.
As it is, a very basic and expected situation has amplified ill feeling further at a time when the club can least afford (pardon the pun) to lose more supporters. Let’s hope the coming days bring news that can start heal some wounds. After all, we could do with a bit of positivity around these parts.