As I write this piece, our very own Danny Williams takes his place in Central Midfield for the USA vs Germany in Cologne. Yes, football is still actually ongoing in mid-June and it's not a even numbered year. Our season ended with nary a whimper after the pride swelling FA Cup Semi-Final and thoughts soon turned to August. In years gone by football ended with the European Cup Final, as was, and maybe a major tournament. Even then it was pretty established that the higher echelons of football really didn't start doing business until July, when contracts tended to expire and begin.
Not Who, but What
As Olly expertly pointed out in his article, the transfer window has actually yet to open. Whether it's an actual conscious thought for most fans I'm not entirely sure, but there seems to be a strange expectation that goes along with the current itch than cannot be scratched of "when are we going to sign players"? I turn that question around a tad by asking "What quality of player will we, eventually, sign?" (Some even scoff at the thought of International Paul McShane! Who do we think we are?!)
For me, a seasoned fan of many years, June is when players, managers, staff (bar the groundsmen) are on their holidays after a long hard season. And so it should be thus. Yet in a footballing world that never stops with Fifa scandals, friendlies and qualifiers still in progress, it's no surprise that players are now moving to new clubs earlier also. As we have seen this week with Adam Federici and Alex Pearce moving to greener pastures...allegedly!
History of the Future
In some way, I do understand why fans are demanding action NOW, as if the best freebies will be gone if we sit on our behinds, but in the real world, domestic football is largely on the beach and not the boardroom. What does baffle is what the perception of the state the club is in and what the reality is for Reading FC this season and possibly beyond. Maybe it's my older, wiser, more measured type of following, I'm no economist either, I don't claim to have any insider information, but for me, next season will be a struggle and I'll tell you for why.
Most will, or should, have a feeling by now that the Thai consortium was never going to pump money into the club. Considering the debt that the club faced - a cool £66m quid - you would think that this would suggest to most that we're still paying the cost of that utter disaster that the Zingarevich reign and the Vibrac saga that ensued.
Some may suggest that you have to speculate to accumulate, but this isn't your average in-game bet on the next goal scored, or that it's not that you've gone a few quid over your overdraft and having your mates sub you for a night out. It makes you wonder if some even want a solvent football club or even fathom FFP at all? Winning at all costs is quite literally that.
The club will without question big up our future, that everything is rosy. That ever-so-positive-DJ-Megaparty happy clappy rhetoric won't change a tad. We should be seeing through that by now, surely? In the words of Public Enemy (YouTube it!) DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE.
Let it goooo...
So what is the realistic view of what we have seen and yet to see this summer? We were always going to lose our major earners, like Federici and Pearce. Don't forget that they were still on Premier League wages in the Championship. One could not blame the club for offering contracts that were 'within our means', and one also could not blame the players for keeping accustomed to the lifestyle afforded to them.
How we could possibly match other potential suitors? Yet some were citing a lack of loyalty to these long serving pro's. Loyalty is the fans preserve and rarely extends beyond that. Once again it was shown that Reading fans have a terrible propensity of not being able to let go!
2 for the Price of 5
We still have other major earners too. Danny Williams, signed during the Anton era, will be on a very decent wage for the Championship. Lest we forget the big funded Russian, Pavel Pogrebnyak - who is allegedly on the salary of quite possibly three Championship players, if tales are to be believed.
I'll spin it another way, you're a few months behind on your mortgage payments, a demanding teenage daughter stropping that you're a crap Dad and you still have that gas guzzling car that you also pay through the nose for that you took the loan out on when times were good....and well, everything went to shit after that. Imagine if that was your scenario. Would you be still thinking about 'going out and signing big'?
A Kind of Magic
Yet STILL there's that drug dependent need - sign, sign, sign, buy, buy, buy. But using what? Where is this magic stash of cash going to come from? To use another similar analogy to the above, imagine if you're getting your own financial affairs in order, you've consolidated, had a clear-out on eBay, got shot of those horrendous rom-com's and never-watched box-sets that were gathering dust via MusicMagpie, you've ditched Sky Sports and Movies and given up the cigs. What do you do now? Now what you don't do is go on holiday to Disneyworld, followed by a week in the Caribbean and get shot of the lodger. You follow?
Yet some expect us to burn the financial candle at both ends still, as if every season starts off with a pot of cash bequeathed from a benevolent benefactor. IT. IS. NOT. GOING. TO. HAPPEN. The club, or The board, more to the point will still be in consolidation mode. No two ways about it. We're likely to still be in recovery this time next year also. That is the upshot of it. No bright side.
If the recent rumour is to believed that Pavel could be on his way, well, I can't imagine for a single second the club won't be doing all they can to make that happen. Not because of the value of the player, not because of the fans, simply because his wage is unsustainable for this level and for our club.
As Clarke said at the Fans Forum, we will lose a 'significant' amount of the squad this summer, as has been proven, and any signings we make will be 'clever' ones with the rest being made up of Academy kids being promoted. That is not a sign of a manager with a budget to burn.
Our market will undoubtedly be cheap, young players who we can attract but still have value at a later date or experienced pro's that could still do a job but relatively cheap to pay. And of course being the local branch of Chelsea's Youth Club. Anything else is literally fiction or I am the one that's deluded. You decide!
The Realism of being Realistic
We know investments are being made in other areas of the club, ones that will serve us well in the future. It's just not today or tomorrow or next season that we'll see the fruits of that. As the saying goes - "If you have low expectations, you don't be disappointed." I think that's a message we all need to heed for the good of Reading FC today, tomorrow and in the near future at least.