Relegation looms as reeling Royals experience a week to forget

Relegation looms as reeling Royals experience a week to forget

It has not been the best of weeks for my home town team of Reading currently hovering in a precarious 21st place in the Championship.

To be more accurate, it has been disastrous especially as it is supposed to be a celebratory 150th anniversary year.

Last Saturday, the Royals were humiliated in the third round of the FA Cup when they were beaten 2-1 by non-league side Kidderminster Harriers, the lowest-ranked team left in the competition, playing in the sixth tier National League North.

If that was not bad enough, on Tuesday night Reading were trounced 7-0 at home by Fulham in the Championship in a highly embarrassing result, putting huge pressure on manager Veljko Paunovic who admitted it was "another horrible night" for his team.

Strangely, Reading had beaten Fulham 2-1 at Craven Cottage earlier in the season. In a reference to that rare victory, Paunovic commented this week: "I feel there are more great moments from this team."

It sounded desperate and is unlikely to placate angry Reading supporters who weren't shy in offering their opinions after the recent results.

The immediate response by fans was what you would expect -- "Hopeless," "Dreadful," "Painful" and "Absolute Shambles" were among the more printable comments.

"Disgraceful. The manager has to go!" tweeted one.

"We looked like a pub side," was another offering.

We can safely say that the Royals fans are not happy and it is no surprise attendances are falling.

Much of the ire was aimed at the owners, Chinese brother and sister Dai Yongge and Dai Xiu Li, who, despite their heavy investment in the club, many feel lack of passion for the Royals.

Remarkably, it is the second time Fulham have achieved a 7-0 away win in the league this season, having similar success at Blackburn Rovers.

It is the first time since the 1895-6 season that any team has won 7-0 away from home twice.

To be fair to Reading, just a little bit of history is necessary.

Back in the 1960s when I used to watch them regularly at their old Elm Park ground, they were in the old Third Division and seemed to have been there forever.

In fact, for an incredible 40 years from 1931-71, they never moved out of the third tier and invariably finished up in mid-table. Not even a relegation dog-fight to liven things up.

When they did finally move from the Third Division it was unfortunately in the wrong direction and in 1971-72 they were relegated to the old Fourth Division for the first time.

After another decade of messing about in the lower divisions, Reading reached the second tier in 1985-86 for the first time in 50 years, winning promotion after a remarkable run of 13 successive wins.

Even so, I never dreamed that one day Reading would make it to the Premier League, but after 135 years they finally succeeded in 2006 under the astute leadership of manager Steve Coppell. I had never thought I would see that day. It was hard to explain the magnitude of that achievement for Reading.

For most of its existence, the club had been a prize example of mediocrity, punctuated by just a few spells of false hopes. Reading performed remarkably well in their first season in the top flight, finishing eighth.

When they were inevitably relegated the next season, I thought that would be the last they would see of the Premier League.

But they won promotion again in 2012 under Brian McDermott, although this time they only lasted one season.

Sadly their main concern now is not getting relegated from the Championship with only Peterborough, Barnsley and Derby below them.

This week's miserable showing was admittedly not the first time Reading have suffered heavy defeats.

In the 1970s, I was unfortunate enough to be at Elm Park to witness the Royals get thrashed 6-1 by Crystal Palace.

During their time in the top flight, they were also on the receiving end of heavy defeats but at least they displayed some fight, losing 7-4 away to Portsmouth in September 2007 and then 6-4 against Spurs three months later.

As it is, after these recent setbacks, Reading fans will be looking with some trepidation at the score from the Riverside Stadium today where they are taking on an in-form Middlesbrough.

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