Empty words ring around the Madejski
Let’s talk about a word that seems to be lingering like a bad smell around the Reading camp at the moment: determination.
For most people, it’s usually a word that suggests positivity even in the face of adversity but I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that with the Royals, it has just become an easy way to try and escape the awkward reality that, as it stands today, we are failing to cope with this league in exasperating fashion. Losing at home? ‘We’re determined to learn from it.’ Throw away a winning position? ‘We are determined to never let that happen again’. The record doesn’t change regardless of how we’re performing and it’s a tune that I, at least, am starting to get tired of listening to.
But maybe I’m being a bit harsh. After all, it is quite possible that I’ve misinterpreted the message behind ‘determination’ – a term that’s ambiguous on its own: maybe the right question is, what are we determined to do?
If we are talking about a determination to win games then I’m struggling, the Everton game aside, to see a scenario so far where we’ve managed to convert this determination into a result. The results against Swansea and Wigan are just two examples where we’ve collapsed after going ahead – a cardinal sin in this league. How about a determination to avoid relegation by grinding out points wherever we can? Not being able to hold on to a valuable point against a relegation rival in Wigan is evidence enough that determination is getting us nothing there.
A determination to play attractive football? Nope, I’m struggling to see a breakthrough there as well, with Guthrie (debatably our best option as a playmaker) disappearing in a cloud of injury/disciplinary-based mystery, and Alex Pearce remaining locked in a contractual battle with the club that defies any rational explanation (how we can pay Pogrebnyak such a huge amount to warm the bench every week and not give our Player of the Season a concession to his contractual demands is very confusing).
value for money
The only explanation that I can come up with as to what Brian and others mean by determination is that they are determined to do things ‘the Reading way’ – an answer that is deeply unsatisfactory given that I don’t think anyone really knows what we mean by that. If we mean a miserly transfer policy that relies on bargain basement deals turning to gold then I don’t think I want this sort of determination. Even if this refers to a policy where we try and develop our home-grown players into first team regulars (though I think it’s an admirable goal and one that we can proudly say we have achieved to an extent far beyond that of other, more renowned, clubs) then it’s not a way that is going to keep us in the Premier League.
I don’t enjoy writing about our club’s failings and, in recent history, we’ve been in a great position where we really haven’t had to but I think Reading FC stands at a crossroads. One path leads to us viewing this season as a brief time in the limelight before returning to being a stable, family-based club that will undoubtedly feed larger clubs with quality players whilst we comfortably survive in the Championship. The other path sees this season as an opportunity to establish ourselves as a Premier League club for seasons to come, to grow into a club that I genuinely think could be mentioned in the same breath as Fulham or Everton. At the moment we can’t decide between the two and look like we’re going to crash into the ditch between the two paths – a laughable mess of a club wrapped up in delusions of grandeur without the bravery to back it up.
As it stands I don’t even know where to start: Brian seems to have lost that spark which helped us to such heights last season, most of the players seem to have given up the ghost – if they even get on to the pitch at all – and the only consistent at the club seems to be the incredibly pointless move we start every match with (you know the one – where Leigertwood hoofs it to their left back for the first of many times per game). Dark times indeed….