Identity Crisis 

They say that football is a simple game made difficult. The mind leading the feet on a merry dance between consistency, confusion and all constituents in between.The collective minds of the loyal Reading fan will not only wonder where did it all go so horribly, horribly wrong but when it will it ever become right?

When Reading slipped through the trapdoor of the Premier League into the Championship it was a case of when would we return, not if. Fast forward a few short but terrifyingly abject seasons, a common thought is how Reading can stop falling further down the league pyramid rather than spring upwards.

The image you can conjure is that same collective of fans looking down, forlorn, shaking their heads. The feeling now is beyond anger and simple frustration. Those feelings soon numb into a malaise when history repeats itself so often. To pinch a quote from the song sung by Nottingham Forest fans – We’ve lost that loving feeling.

That may sound trite, perhaps overly sentimental and ‘woe is me’, but this is a game of emotions (as any Leicester fan will tell you) and you probably wouldn’t be reading this if you did not ‘love’ Reading FC. For me, I think the overriding feeling I have is that the ‘trust’ I had in all the levels of the club has just eroded away. Do I trust the new owners (can we even call them ‘new’ any longer?) to do the right thing for the football club? And by that, I mean the actual footballing side and not the PLC. Do I trust the board to have the vision and strategy to resist the further slide into a League One abyss? Do I even trust the current manager and remaining players that will be here for the 2016/17 season? Hand on heart and without hesistation, at this moment in time, no, I simply can’t.

Most of us think of the club, any club, as a single ‘organism’ if you like. It sounds delusional, but hear me out. When everything works well, when we’re winning (yes, remember that?), we feel united and unbeatable on every level – there’s a palpable singularity that we all latch onto and resonate with – some may recall this as ‘The Reading Way’. The same applies when the flip-side occurs – everything is tainted and toxic; no bright side. As we have seen countless times this season, the mental and physical energy on and off the field has evaporated away. The bigger picture needs to be understood for the smaller picture to make any sense. No fan ever truly knows all the insider machinations of whatever club they follow, but for us, we don’t appear even to have the remotest clue. If anything, the common consensus would be that the owners are merely after the land that the Madejski resides on. Based on that feeling, it’s difficult to have any empathy with the fledgling owners and their cultural foibles. 

In hindsight, the many loan signings, Clarke’s flirtation and “professionalism” with Fulham, the return of Brian, the PA Guy, that ‘song’…you name it, none of it ever went to plan. We’d all struggle to find anything at all positive from recent history that isn’t tinged with a tang of negativity, but I suppose, that’s football!

As with any relationship that has a wobble, a reset button needs to be pushed, a clearing of the mind. Nicky Hammond probably saw that his own reset needed to occur also. Whatever reset the club needs, we all feel it needs to happen and soon. The board will doubtless be struggling with what the winning formula is, when truly speaking, there is none. It is best endeavours and hoping all the decisions fall in your favour. Often managers say that once the players are over the white line the rest is up to those players. Similar could be said of our owners; once the ink has dried on whatever decisions they make, that’s their domain dealt with. Whether those decisions are sound, over or under adventurous – who knows? Nobody. We all choose which side or sides we fall on; for them, thanking the owners for saving our club from administration or against them, for appearing to have no vision or ideas to push us on. Or those that think the return of Brian is a mistake or that he needs further time to develop his own younger squad. Those feelings intertwined with finances, the wage bill, the investment (lack of, or unwise), Royal Elm Park or the loss of a car park. Each one, if you dig a bit deeper, is a tad emotive and not one of them is 100% positive to all and never will be. Sadly, there’s no one antidote that can be crafted to propel us from the sick bed. Like a patient suffering a psychosomatic ailment that just cannot be diagnosed, the answers can be guessed but are not obvious. Whatever the cure is, we all wish our club to get better soon. 

Neill Rees 

Let us know if you agree or disagree with this article via @ElmParkRoyals or the comments section below. All feedback appreciated. 


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