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Tim Dellor's Royals Watching: New signings arrive as Reading need points

Is Suranne Jones on HMS Vigil or Veljko Paunovic at Reading FC in a more perilous position right now?

Given the choice I would probably swerve being cooped up in a submarine with a murderer on the loose, as is the case for poor Suranne in the BBC 1 drama, but Veljko’s not much better off.

His team is plummeting to new depths, he is in danger of a mutiny, and his club is desperately trying to remain financially afloat. Life as manager of an out of form Championship team cannot be much fun.

Tim Dellor's Royals column
Tim Dellor's Royals column

Last Saturday a couple of hundred fans traipsed all the way up to Huddersfield, only to watch the team thrashed 4-0. They now teeter precariously above the relegation zone, albeit after just five games, when the table is nothing more than an early season form guide. Based on the four defeats so far, fans are bracing themselves for a long season ahead.

The transfer window closed on Tuesday evening. While it was open it at least offered some distraction from what is happening on the pitch. Despite a transfer embargo Reading managed to lure six new players in, without losing anyone as a makeweight, as had been anticipated.

The primary concern right now is Paunovic only has one first team striker fit and available until next year. Unfortunately that one, George Puscas, looks horribly out of form. Something creative will need to happen to either bypass Puscas’ inability to link up play, or to magically bring him back into form.

This season the defence has been all at sea. Shipping 13 goals in five league games is frightening – they have conceded more goals than any other football league team. Last season after the same number of games they had the best defensive record in the football league.

They concede bad goals in every conceivable way.

Zonal marking at set plays is particularly upsetting fans, and is proving costly. Defenders letting balls bounce, slipping over, getting outpaced, failing to mark men in open play….. you name the elementary mistake and Reading’s defenders have committed it in the five Championship games so far this season.

Based on the owners previous trigger-happy reaction to poor runs of form, it is remarkable Paunovic is still in post. He must be treading on thin ice, even though injuries, Covid and the transfer embargo have made his job nigh on impossible. The owners shifted on Jaap Stam, Paul Clement, Jose Gomes and Mark Bowen with indecent haste, but are showing more patience with the current boss.

His fate rests on the impact of newboys Scott Dann (central defence), Danny Drinkwater (midfield), Tom Dele Bashiru (winger), Junior Hoilett (winger) Alen Halilovic (attacking midfielder) and Baba Rahman (left back). Put simply if at least four of the six make positive impacts then Reading have a chance of turning things round. That is what the squad will be looking to do during the international break. If the team sinks any further and runs aground Paunovic may be walking the plank.

To finish on a positive though, Vigil is a BBC drama well worth a watch.

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