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Why Ruben Selles And The Players Deserve Unwavering Admiration

Reading’s manager and players are facing the current adversity with hugely admirable stalwartness, Harry writes.

Cambridge United v Reading - Sky Bet League One - Abbey Stadium Photo by Simon Marper/PA Images via Getty Images

Everybody associated with Reading FC is going through the wringer. The fans are desperate and fearful for the future of the club they have loved all their lives, and day-to-day staff are getting to the end of the month unsure whether their pay packet will go into their bank account or not - and that’s only if they haven’t been made redundant.

That, in my opinion, is the worst thing about all of this. Dai Yongge’s calamitous ownership is affecting real people’s lives. People who have bills to pay, houses to keep warm and children to feed. That’s where the bulk of my sympathy goes in all this - the people who are scared they won't have a job next week.

However, I want to talk about Ruben Selles and the players. It’s easy to overlook them in this whole situation. If the worst-case scenario happens and we go bust, the manager and the players will find new clubs, probably still on wages that most fans and day-to-day members of staff could only ever dream of having. Therefore they can, understandably so I suppose, find sympathy harder to come by.

But this sandstorm from hell that Dai has conjured up will still impact them and, in my opinion, they are facing this adversity with hugely admirable stalwartness. They’re making me proud that they represent our football club. Particularly Ruben Selles.

Shrewsbury Town v Reading - Sky Bet League One Photo by James Baylis - AMA/Getty Images

It feels like we’ve said this about every manager since Jaap Stam, but Selles has been dealt the worst hand of any manager in the history of this club. And it’s not even close.

Since he joined, off-field matters have escalated (or plummeted I suppose) to an all-time low. We’ve had missed HMRC payments, heavy transfer restrictions and embargoes, and continuous mismanagement from the top.

It’s easy to say Selles and the players should still have a done a better job than they have done so far on the pitch. And don’t get me wrong, some of the performances this season have been harrowing watches. But I think that, collectively as a fanbase, we’re now in a position to be able to understand the circumstances under which Selles, his staff and the players have been working.

When you take into account the fact there’s no money to stay in hotels the night before away games, or pay the catering company what they’re owed - forcing players to eat microwave meals, and then - most astonishingly - the CEO deciding to sell two of Selles’ most important players without consulting either him or Mark Bowen, you begin to wonder why on earth Selles hasn’t walked yet.

That's just three things I’ve picked off the top of my head and have been made public. Can you imagine the kind of other stuff he’s had to deal with? I haven’t even mentioned that two of his own coaching staff, in Andrew Sparkes and Eddie Niedzwiecki, were made redundant a matter of weeks ago too.

Through all of it he’s stayed true to himself as a manager and, astoundingly, hasn’t jumped ship and said ‘I can’t do this anymore’. That in itself should be applauded, not to mention the fact he managed a significant upturn in form over the Christmas period and, most impressively, temporarily forfeited his wages in November to ensure other members of staff got theirs first. I mean, it’s a situation no-one should ever have to find themself in, but only certain kind of people do things like that.

He may not be everyone’s cup of tea as a manager or tactician, but as a man, and as a representative of Reading Football Club during its most difficult moment, he can only be respected in my opinion. If we survive this turmoil, there should always be a place for Ruben Selles at the SCL.

Lincoln City v Reading - Sky Bet League One Photo by Andrew Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images

It’s a similar story with the players. Of course, performances on the whole have been pretty bad but, let’s be honest, this is a squad mostly made up of kids. The likes of Ben Elliott, Charlie Savage, Nelson Abbey, Caylan Vickers, Tyler Bindon, Michael Craig, Kelvin Ehibhatiomhan, Matty Carson and Dom Ballard all had little to no first-team experience before this season. There’s baptisms of fire, and there’s what they’ve had to endure.

I'd be surprised if all of their agents weren’t desperately trying to find new clubs for them before the month ends but, again, the fact they're still fronting up and facing the music every week in the way they have been and continue to do has to be admired.

Oddly, as my emotional connection to the club has continued to fade due to Dai Yongge, my love for this group of players and manager has only grown stronger. Seriously, what must all the players who joined in the summer be thinking?

If you were ranking all 92 professional clubs on how attractive they are for players looking for clubs, we’d be dead last. Mark Bowen must’ve felt like a holiday salesman trying to get multi-millionaires to go on long weekends to Butlins in the summer.

And now, as mentioned, the players are having to eat microwave meals and don’t get overnight stays before away games. But we still have players like Nelson Abbey and Tom Holmes who, reportedly, wanted to stay when offered with moves to Luton Town - which they now are apparently on the verge of completing. It’s as mind-boggling as it is heartwarming.

Whatever happens, this group of players and manager deserve our continuous and unwavering support.