Writer: Adam Jones
Reading were in a mess at the start of summer. They had been placed under a transfer embargo, finished only a couple of places above the relegation zone and had a squad which had an obvious lack of depth.
What followed in the months after was nothing short of miraculous. Somehow, we managed to sign ten players which have made our squad one of the stronger ones in the Championship – but despite this, our form took a major nosedive at the end of August when we lost 2-0 to Charlton Athletic. This downturn in form cost Jose Gomes his job, a role which has since been taken on by Mark Bowen.
On the surface, it looks like we want to recreate the 2016/17 season by bringing in a lot of players with the aim of achieving a high finish. The difference between that campaign and this season is that we spent within our means when Jaap Stam first took charge in Berkshire, under the Thai owners. We were also not placed under a transfer embargo earlier that summer.
Although we do have some top quality players in our squad, this summer’s spending spree was a huge risk. For the past couple of years, we have been flirting with relegation and spending recklessly in transfer windows under Ron Gourlay. It wasn’t particularly the amount we had spent, but the wage bill that kept on increasing.
Whilst it’s true that many players have left the club this summer to ease our wage bill problem, we have made five permanent signings, with Ovie Ejaria making it six when he joins at the end of his loan spell next summer. Add the loan players into the equation and it brings the wage bill back up to a level that might not be sustainable for the Royals if they fall down to League One.
At the moment, you have to commend Dai Yongge for his commitment to the football club. Ever since the Chinese businessman and his sister took a majority stake in the club, the Royals have lost a playoff final and suffered two years of lower midtable finishes in the second tier.
I have genuine fears that he may pull the plug if we are relegated. There’s no attraction whatsoever in owning a football club that plies its trade in League One, especially to a Chinese billionaire who craves Premier League football. We’ve seen what’s happened with Bolton Wanderers and Bury over the summer. I couldn’t bear to see that happen to my football club.
That’s why I feel like Dai Yongge’s summer strategy was slightly dangerous. It’s highly unlikely that a club can go from 20th position to a promotion chasing spot in the following season, which is what Reading are aiming to do. The 2016/17 season was remarkable because of that.
I understand that we desperately needed players in the summer to be able to compete in the league. However, the signing of George Puscas with all the future payments that we need to make was borderline irresponsible. Yes, he’s one of the most promising young prospects in Europe. Despite this, there’s no guarantee that Reading will get a return on their investment of the young Romanian.
We have young promising players from the academy who we haven’t seen a lot of this season because of all the new signings. Michael Olise, Josh Barrett and Tom McIntyre all played well in pre-season, yet they haven’t been given the chance to show what they can do in the league so far this season.
I just hope that Dai Yongge feels the same enthusiasm that I do about these academy players. If he stays committed to the football club, I can’t fault him. Although he did appoint Ron Gourlay, who turned out to be a disaster for the club, the owner has shown that he’s willing to invest in the football side of the club.
Let’s just hope that he keeps a level head in the next few transfer windows to get the club’s finances back on track. Mr Dai deserves success for all of his commitment. I hope the club can provide it for him.