The last game of 2022/23 ended with a 2-0 defeat against Huddersfield Town at the John Smith’s Stadium to round off a miserable week and season. Both Huddersfield goals came in the second half - through Josh Koroma and Joseph Hungbo. Now it is time to rebuild and look ahead to next season in League One.
Here is what interim manager Noel Hunt had to say. He spoke to the official club website and the Reading Chronicle.
Hunt on the defeat
“We didn’t play the game the way we wanted to. We had some good spells in the first half, but we didn’t really hurt them. But we were flat, which is understandable after the week we’ve had. It was a tale of two teams, one has achieved the great escape, while we have got tangled up in it all.
“The players have been great throughout the last three or four weeks, but we are relegated and there was a definite flatness today on an afternoon we wanted to give something back to our fans.
“And the fans were great. I think they had a cut-off time when, after Thursday’s result, they could have claimed a refund on their ticket. But not many did. And that just shows their class as a set of fans.
“And the fans who came up here this afternoon were outstanding. They were fantastic all the way through the game and some of the chants that were coming out made me smile.
“We’ve got a strong fanbase: loyal, passionate people who believe in this club. And with our fans with us, that can only be a good thing going into the future.
“I think now we all need some time to mourn. I said to the boys, it doesn’t matter if you’re here next season or back at your loan clubs or somewhere else – you will remember this feeling. And you won’t want to feel like this again.
“And if you stay together as a team, play as a team, these things are less likely to happen again in the future.
“As for me, this was a job I was to take until the end of the season. And I’m just proud to be part of this football club. If I was under-21s manager this afternoon, I’d still be as proud to be part of this club.
“It’s been an unbelievable experience, but I’m gutted we haven’t been able to do the job we needed to do. I’ll take this opportunity with me and if an opportunity like this comes around again in the future, it will stand me in good stead.
“And I said to the boys, that if I die tonight, regardless of the situation, I’ll be a proud man and I’ll rest easy. Because I gave it my all for a club that means so much to me.”
Hunt on relegation news
“It was [a crushing blow]. Credit to Huddersfield, their form in the last four or five weeks has been excellent. To pick the boys up on Saturday morning, they were low, but they galvanised and stuck together. We had a meeting about it and prepared for today. Unfortunately, we came out second best.”
Hunt on the club’s future
“Look at the players we have signed here for next season, Coniah [Boyce-Clarke] making his debut, Jay Senga coming on for his debut and lifting the game - I thought he was excellent when he came on. The young ones, Kelvin Abrefa, Mamadi [Camara] coming on the pitch and giving us some life. They are the things you look to for the positives.
“In the first 15 minutes we got down the sides and were quicker with the football, we hit the post and were an inch away from Jeff [Hendrick] scoring from Femi [Azeez]’s cross. For whatever reason we sat back.
We had a go in the second half, bringing the young ones on to give a bit of energy and legs. They are academy players who have come through, and we’re hoping they are the future of the football club.”
Hunt on Andy Carroll
“It was my decision that kept him at home. He’s been playing with injections and getting strapped up. We felt if we could get the extra couple of days off him that he would be flying fit for pre-season and get him sorted.
“He was chomping at the bit to play. With nothing riding on the game today, I felt it was best to leave him at home. I feel he gives so much and has put his body through so much this season for us selflessly that it was the right thing to do.”
Hunt on his future at the club
“I haven’t even thought about it. The guys behind the scenes, in terms of Mark Bowen, Eddie and the staff, Brian Carey with Jared Dublin. We are safe with that.
“This was until the end of the season and after that who knows. As far as I think I was pretty sure I’m going back to the under-23s but I haven’t had that conversation, so I don’t know yet. Your guess is as good as mine.”
Hunt on League One prospects
“No one knows. I’ve seen teams go to League One and two years later be in the Premier League. Norwich did it and Southampton did it. Maybe it is what the club need, maybe the reset is going to be good. We’ve got a lot of good players signed here and a lot of young boys coming through, so the future will be bright for the club no matter what.”
Hunt on supporters
“They were great. To see how many we had in the stands just shows the class we have as a set of fans. I spoke to the players before and let them know that there was a recall date, 12pm on Friday, that the fans could get a refund and not come up but only 100 or so didn’t do it. Who would blame them?
“The ones that did turn out was fantastic all the way through the game, with some of the chants they were singing. We’ve got a strong fanbase who are loyal, passionate and believe in this club. With them with us, it’s only a good thing.”