by Bob Lethaby
Supporting Reading FC has been an odd, frustrating, annoying and occasionally exciting experience this season. Whilst the management structure still seems to be adhering to the foundations that made the club so successful last season, the different opinions amongst supporters on the unofficial forums are very stark.
Many supporters, especially the relics from the grey depressing lower league days of Elm Park, are happy with frugality, relegation and sensible sustainability, whilst the newer generation of supporters that have been vital to the expanding support base at the Madejski, are more demanding and are pushing for bigger investment.
As a supporter who has followed the Royals since the late 70’s I have found myself in a situation where I have been sat on the fence as well as leaping to either side of it and therein lies the current problem at Reading. The management, the investors and the supporters do not know whether to stick or twist and the result of this wholesale indecision is probable relegation.
However, when I was sat on the positive side of the fence at the start of the season, I really thought players like Guthrie, Pogbreynak, McCleary and Gunter were all positive additions that could possibly secure the Royals a comfortable bottom half finish. Why they were such a spectacular failure for the first half of the season is open to judge and jury but Brian McDermott has recently admitted Reading were too brazen earlier in the campaign, resulting in goals aplenty but defeat after defeat.
Over the last few weeks there have been small signs of improvement with a 5-4-1 formation replacing the high tempo 4-4-2 system that has served Reading so well over the last decade. This has corrected the flow of goals at both ends and Reading have quickly gone from being the neutrals entertainer to bus parking spoilers. It worked against Man City until the last minute; it earned a win against West Ham and it caved in under pressure at in form Spurs.
This system may not be enough to escape the drop but it is credit to the management that they understand that the fans are sick of being entertaining losers. I walked out of the Arsenal game at 0-4, not because I am disloyal but because I just can’t stand the torture of seeing my club humiliated then patronised as plucky losers. If you earn the right to play in the Premier League, you surely have to take it seriously and have a right go?
The transfer window has seen the acquisition of sporting Lisbon captain Daniel Carrico, presumably as a replacement for the out of sorts Mikele Leigertwood who has resembled a shadow chasing lunatic for much of the season. The return of Jem Karacan and the long awaited upturn in form and effort from the new signings offers faint hope, but surely other acquisitions are needed to put on a real run at survival.
So far, the heavier investment made by Southampton and in particular West Ham (though we did beat them) has proved that, without doubt, Reading were not bold enough in the summer and showed naivety towards the gulf in class that existed between the Championship and the Premier League.
I am currently sat fidgeting on the negative side of the fence. However, I am happy to clamber back up and even leap over to the positive side if there is a drastic but unlikely surge in form. During this period, I will cross paths with many Reading many doing the same oscillating as the uncertainty continues.
Ultimately though, despite all the pathetic slanging matches on sites like HobNob we all want the same thing.
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