Thursday was a dark day for the club, and it has been a long time coming. Year after year of mismanagement in the boardroom and well below-par performances on the pitch have led to this. The last six months have summed it all up really: Dai Yonogge defying all common sense and logic to stick with Paul Ince for as long as we did is ultimately why we’ve been relegated.
The blame lies in a lot of different places. Fingers are being - and will continue to be - pointed in various directions as fans try to process how it’s got to this and those within the club try to ensure this is the start of a total rebuild (hopefully).
However, I'm not here to talk about what’s been and gone. As cheesy as it sounds, and as infuriating as it may sound to some so soon after relegation, I want to talk about the future and how, as hard as it is going to be, we as fans need to stick together and stick with the club.
There is no right or wrong way to react to something like relegation. It’s as though we’ve all entered a stage of grief and everyone reacts differently. I don't blame any fan who responds with outright anger. At the end of the day, it is an outrage that our club has been run like this for so long.
But now is no time to wash our hands with the club. As fans, we have to take the rough with the smooth. Now, that may be trivialising the situation a little. This isn’t a rough patch of a few games where we haven’t played very well, it’s relegation to League One. But the principle stays the same in my opinion: we have to be with the club in their lowest moments the same way we are in their highest.
This club has never been further away from the days of Brian McDermott and Steve Coppell, whose teams epitomised how Reading Football Club should be operated both on and off the pitch. But, call me naive, I see no reason why we can’t live days like that again.
Actually, I’ll go one step further and say that we will live days like that again. Football is a cycle, and although we’re experiencing the lowest ebb of this club’s recent history, we will bounce back.
What’s done is done. We’re relegated and the club has been run the way it has been run for the last six years. It hurts, and it’s not right that it’s come to this. But there is nothing we can do about it now apart from look ahead to the future.
That future may look uncertain, but we have the right people in the right positions at the club now. The short-term future is bleak, but we can't let that overshadow a promising long-term future. It’s not going to change overnight, but I think we’re at the beginning of a process that will bring Reading back towards the club we all fell in love with.
However, we need to be there throughout that process. And, like it or not, that process starts on Monday at Huddersfield Town, and it will continue in August when we kickstart our League One campaign.
I completely understand why some fans at this point may not want to go to Huddersfield on Monday afternoon, or may not want to go to League One games next season. But it’s in the name: we’re supporters. Wherever this club finds itself, it still needs our backing.
And, like I said previously, we have to stick together. Everyone has different ways to deal with relegation, whether that be anger, sadness, denial or trying to put a positive spin on it. Ultimately we all want the same thing, and we’re only going to get a club we can be proud in back again if we stick together and keep supporting.
I’m not going to sit here and say that we’re going to walk League One next season. It’s a very, very hard league to get out of - proven by the likes of Bolton Wanderers, Portsmouth and Sunderland in recent years.
But I see no reason why we can’t be there or thereabouts in looking for an immediate bounce-back to the Championship - it least has to be what the club is aiming for. I’m as hurt as anybody about all of this, but I want to try and look towards the future and be optimistic about what next season can hold, because I believe there are genuine reasons to be able to feel like that.
That doesn’t mean I don’t understand the magnitude of the situation we’re in. We again have a lot of players out of contract in the summer, and I’m sure plenty others will leave the club as well. The predictability of Dai’s silence doesn’t make it any less frustrating or worrying. And the fact that Kia Joorabchian was at the game last Saturday has to be at least a small cause for concern.
But we’re Reading til we die, right? And we’ll be there come August to do it all over again.