What's in store for Reading in the Championship run-in?
After a brief period of optimism following Reading’s victory over Burton Albion last month, the Royals have slumped back into poor form and have failed to gain a single point since their visit to the Pirelli Stadium.
As a result, the negativity and frustration among the Reading fanbase has not subsided.
Back-to-back defeats, including yet another home defeat under Jaap Stam, who only a season ago had turned the Madejski Stadium into a fortress, have only served to increase the hostile atmosphere around the club.
The grievance was clear on both sides after the Millwall defeat. The Dutchman remarked that he doesn’t pay any notice to the fans and that even during the success of last season, negativity ruled over positivity.
The former Manchester United man’s comments were partly truthful and, while they don’t go as far as blaming the fans entirely, the actions of certain members of the Reading faithful have not been helping the on-pitch situation.
Indeed, there were sections of the support that were not best pleased with the possession driven style that Stam implemented. However, painting the fans in even a slightly negative light is not going to end well.
Despite the fact it is felt by many that booing and jeering your own team is the worst possible way to show your displeasure, the form currently on display is always going to encourage a negative presence from the stands, and it is up to the management and playing staff to figure out how to stop the unfavourable behaviours.
Too often this season Reading have looked slow, lifeless and disorganised.
New signings have flopped and even with record transfer investments, no overwhelming impact has been made on the field.
The Madejski currently has the scent of tactical staleness and a manager reluctant to stray too far from his template, leading to a stagnated club that seems willing to repeat the same mistakes time and time again.
However, there is hope, Reading have not conceded more than two goals in a single Championship game this season, indicating, at least on paper, that the club may not be too far from turning things around.
Due to the ongoing participation of Sheffield United in the FA Cup, ten days will have passed since the previous Royals match when Tuesday comes.
This provides opportune time for the slate to be wiped clean and a trip to Spain for five days of intense training in a bid to turn around their woeful form, with a third of the season remaining.
Tuesday night offered an opportunity for Reading to showcase their new and refreshed mindset as they travelled to fellow strugglers Nottingham Forest, where they picked up a 1-1 draw.
A win could have given new life to Jaap Stam’s men before the visit of high-flying Derby County on the weekend, but it was not to be.
While it seems somewhat inevitable that Matej Vydra, the Championship’s top scorer – who thoroughly underwhelmed during his time in Berkshire – will find the net, it would be a pleasant surprise if the Royals could buck the trend of home defeats and collect their first win on a Saturday at the Madejski Stadium this season.
The traditional benchmark for Championship survival is 50 points and Reading currently sit on 33 points with 14 games to go.
If that points total is to be taken as gospel, the Royals are just six wins away from ensuring their Championship status for another season.
However, when you have only won a single game in the previous 12, those 18 crucial points seem like a huge hurdle.
The hope for Jaap Stam will be that the time spent in Spain will enable the squad to bond and refresh their minds before, what is surely going to be, a busy end to the season.
The relationship between the supporters and the players is at a significantly low point.
It is more important now, than ever, that the management, playing staff and most crucially the fans, remember that everyone is fighting for the same thing – Championship survival and the continued success of Reading Football Club.