Although Reading are yet to pick up a Premier League win, FanZoner Stephen Dempsey is not too worried.
Not time for Reading to panic just yet
It's been a funny few weeks and, on the face of it, not a time to fill us with hope for the future. The Royals are still yet to register a win in the Premier League, our defence still remains a point of major concern and we have been, to be frank, embarrassed by the likes of Spurs and rendered toothless by the dark horse of the league in West Bromwich Albion.
Despite all this, I have to admit that my anxiety levels are surprisingly low for several reasons and I have yet - with the exception of the Spurs game - to have feverish nightmares of a return to the Championship and the myriad horrors that promises.
My zen-like approach can be explained in several ways. First off, many of the problems that seemed set to ensure we never made it out of the relegation zone have either been solved or at least can be called a work in progress. The calamitous times of Federici have revealed McCarthy as a genuine first-team, and England (in my opinion) contender whose heroics against Swansea were the equal of those of Hart against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League.
Our defence, that seemed more like an old fishing boat lost at sea than a sturdy battleship has had some much needed pace and prowess on the ball provided by Mariappa (though the choice of Gorkss over Pearce still perplexes me) and, most importantly, we are scoring goals.
Whilst survival in this league may rely on clean sheets and tight defences, the value of putting pressure on opponents by getting yourselves on the score sheet cannot be underestimated (and neither can the morale boost it gives supporters). This Reading team is by no means a finished article ready to take on the titans of English football in earnest, but it is slowly gaining momentum after a timid start.
The other factor that eases my relegation fears, and one that I suspect will continue to do so as the season progresses, is the performance of our rival relegation contenders. Though we have yet to win a game, we find ourselves sitting in the relegation zone by a mere point and with a game in hand - telling evidence that we are not the only team struggling in this league.
QPR are, frankly, a laughing stock at the moment whilst I cannot see Southampton continuing to concede this many goals without dropping further down the table. Norwich no longer look the force they did under Lambert while the aforementioned manager's new charges are hardly setting the world alight. Though it is still early doors, our steady improvements should see us looking to survive the relegation dogfight rather than being condemned as the first team to suffer such a miserable fate.
There is, however, one small worry that makes me hesitant to give my earlier prediction with complete confidence and it is not a criticism that I have ever levelled at our team before. Since Brian has been in charge, the team have always appeared united by our whole squad mentality and 'win the next game' ethos yet some of this unity seems to have slipped away in recent weeks.
First Federici threw his toys out of the cot over being, in my opinion quite rightly, dropped and then Guthrie followed suit with his complaints about being dropped over his playing style. I have no doubts whatsoever that these sorts of complaints are common in any team but the big difference with Reading is that they have rarely surface into the public domain but seem to have been quelled quickly upon their occurring.
We need a, dare I say it, 'all in this together' attitude to keep ourselves afloat in this league and if such murmurings are apparent now, who knows how dramatic they could become if we find ourselves lurking around the bottom three come January or even March.
On a similar note, I found Brian's recent comments about appealing to referees a little unsettling. Whilst I completely agree with him that players should leave referees to do their jobs in a perfect world, we do not find ourselves living in such a perfect game. Our matches against Chelsea and Newcastle are damning evidence for the inexcusable incompetence of officials in the modern English game and, if we are to get our just desserts in games like these, I see no problem in appealing as hard as we can against ludicrous decisions.
If we don't, then a team like ours will never get the rewards we deserve for fantastic performances such as the one Reading produced against Newcastle. Nice guys finish last, so the saying goes, and it would be galling to watch us fall from the top division due to the incompetence of a body of officials that seem captivated by the reputations of our opponents.