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Tim Dellor's Royal Watching: Reading hit by more embarrassment as Fulham hit seven

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“Embarrassing” was manager Veljko Paunovic’s description of the 7-0 hiding to Fulham. At least he had learnt from previous mistakes. Four days earlier, when it was equally as embarrassing losing to National League North side Kidderminster Harriers, he offered lots of excuses and mitigating circumstances, which do indisputably exist. Fans have little patience with football managers rattling off long lists of excuses week after week.

Results wise, this has been perhaps the worst week in the 150 year history of the club. We have all been scrabbling through the record books trying to find a season in which they were knocked out the FA Cup by a team sitting further beneath them in the league pyramid than Kidderminster currently are, and a heavier league home defeat. On both fronts we have drawn a blank.

Nobody wants to kick a man while he is down, and a good man at that, but Paunovic has lost his way. Picking a weakened team to play Kidderminster was wrong. The training and strength and conditioning programme is ineffective. Psychologically he is breeding doubt and eroding confidence. Tactically things are inconsistent and confused.

Tim Dellor - Royals Column
Tim Dellor - Royals Column

The club has been here before, of course. Managers come and go every few years, often more rapidly than Paunovic. More often than not they lose grip, failing to see the wood from the trees. What is blindingly obvious to seasoned observers on the outside gets lost in mountains of science, detail, anxiety and over-thinking on the inside.

Take the injury to Scott Dann on Tuesday evening. He appeared to strain his calf after three minutes of the game. His enforced departure wrecked the set up of both the midfield and the defence. He was “rested” four days earlier against Kidderminster, meaning he had played just one game in 32 days going into the Fulham match. Calf muscles tend to rip when inactivity is followed by a burst of strenuous exercise.

Femi Azeez is an athletic 20 year old winger. He played against Kidderminster, but then rolled his ankle in training on Monday meaning he missed the game against Fulham. How can you possibly be required to exert yourself in training the day before a game to the extent, on a perfectly smooth pitch, you twist an ankle?

A dozen players are now out injured. That may seem like an awful lot of bad luck, but the longer this crisis persists the more questionable the management of this group of players becomes.

There are things beyond the manager’s control working against him. The over-spend and points deduction was certainly not Paunovic’s fault. Since the announcement was made on November 17th, Reading have won just once.

The contracts of 17 of his first team squad expire by July this summer. Nine of the starting 11 on Tuesday night are amongst these players with uncertain futures. This wayward long term planning should be looked after by the board and a Director of Football, not the manager, who ought to be too busy focusing exclusively on the next game.

Results on the pitch are now showing the extent of the mess off the pitch at Reading FC.

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