In recent weeks frustration and anger has grown around the Reading fanbase as performances on the pitch crater and the situation off of it gets more and more concerning.

As supporters fear their club slipping from their grasp, the Reading Chronicle wanted to find out how the fanbase is feeling about some of the important issues around the club.

Within an hour of the survey going live, more than 500 people had taken the time to share their views. That number had surpassed 1,000 by the following morning. In total, more than 1,300 Reading supporters had their say and the results - both clear and frequently damning of those in power at the club - can be found below...

Question #1: Who do you feel is most responsible for Reading's current situation?

There are a number of individuals and circumstances responsible for the precarious position Reading finds itself in, and as such, the voting on this first question was split.

It is clear, however, that a few parties are being more significantly pointed to as the key members in the club’s problems off the pitch and slide towards the relegation zone on it.

Owner Dai Yongge received 52% of the votes as fans have rightly pointed to the heavy spending, lack of clear direction and issues with the running of the football side of the club as key reasons for the situation Reading are in. Meanwhile, the blame was partitioned rather equally after the owner with 18% faulting manager Veljko Paunovic, 11% the players, and 8% the EFL.

With such a complex and murky situation it’s hard to limit blame to just one individual and truthfully the list of options for this question could have been much longer, making it no surprise to see that the third-most votes after the owner and manager went to ‘other’. Commenters have listed Kia Joorabchian and Ron Gourlay as possible inclusions for this ‘other’ category.

Question #2: Do you think Veljko Paunovic should…

It’s important to note that the survey went out on Monday evening, 48 hours after the Kidderminster catastrophe but still 24 hours prior to the Fulham disaster. At that time, 59% of fans felt that Veljko Paunovic should leave immediately while only 6% believed he should be part of the club’s long-term planning.

The majority is clearly on the side of moving on from Paunovic and it’s likely that number would be even higher had the survey gone out following Tuesday night’s epic capitulation to the Cottagers.

Question #3: Do you trust the Reading leadership to make the right appointment should Paunovic depart?

Out of the ten multiple-choice questions, none received as near a unanimous consensus as this one. 95% of fans who took part in the survey answered that they do NOT trust the Reading leadership to make the right appointment should Paunovic depart.

It’s a damning indictment of the belief in the club’s decision-making processes but after the last few years who can blame Reading fans? A lack of trust is understandable with Paunovic being the fifth manager of the Dai Yongge era. He’s the longest-serving too with Paul Clement, Jose Gomes, and Mark Bowen all lasting less than a year at the helm. Jaap Stam was in charge for longer than Paunovic has had but he was initially appointed prior to Dai Yongge’s arrival.

Clement was a failure, Gomes left after an awful start to the 2018/19 season and while Bowen probably exceeded expectations, the whole process of how he got the job and the way he left gives great credence to why fans don’t seem to trust the club’s ability to make the wisest managerial choices.

Questions also have to be asked about how Paunovic was appointed in the first place and the qualifications necessary for the job. While Paunovic has an impressive playing CV, his only professional managerial experience prior to this job was a mediocre stint in charge of the Chicago Fire in the MLS. 

Gomes meanwhile, had managed 12 teams in 23 years prior to Reading, his longest spell coming in at 72 games with Hungarian side Videoton. Not once did he reach the two-year mark in those 12 stints. He had managed in Portugal, Hungary, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE before joining Reading. Was he really qualified?

4. Do you feel this current group of players care enough about the club?

Perhaps the results of this answer would also have been different had it come following the Fulham showing as heads appeared to drop in a second half that was far too easy for the visitors. 37% of fans answered that they didn’t feel the current group of Reading players care enough while just 5% believe they are trying their hardest.

58% of fans said they don't know enough about the behind-the-scenes ongoings at the club to properly judge whether or not these players care enough - a very fair way to look at a situation that those outside of the dressing room simply don’t know every detail about.

5. What division do you expect Reading to be in next season?

Reading currently sit three points clear of the relegation zone and while things look questionable following recent form, the majority of Royals still seem confident enough that their club will be in the Championship next season.

56% of fans agree that will be the case while 44% think Reading will be playing their football in League One next season. Although the number of pessimists may have risen after Tuesday’s drubbing.

6. How does your personal connection to the club feel compared to past years?

The attendances at the Select Car Leasing Stadium are on the decline with a total of 11,472 fans in attendance on Tuesday night - that number including the healthy Fulham allocation. 

The sparse crowds are a very real concern but not a major shock as fans continue to become increasingly frustrated and alienated. A whopping 78% of fans feel that their personal connection to Reading is weaker than in past years with 47% claiming that it’s weaker than ever. Just 5% answered that their connection to the club is stronger than ever with 17% saying it’s the same as in previous years.

It’s clear that this hyper-alienation is a major issue that the Reading hierarchy should be focusing on. Are they though?

7. What do you think is the biggest reason for Reading's on-the-pitch struggles this season?

Another question without a simple answer and the split of responses projects that complexity. 11% of respondents chose ‘other’ as their reason for Reading’s on the pitch struggles this season.

However, despite the multitude of possible answers, fans were primarily split between two choices: injuries and the tactical approach. Injuries are hard to ignore with Alen Halilovic, Felipe Araruna, and Scott Dann all added to the injured list over the past week. Paunovic has never had a full squad to choose from this season and the loss of primary goalscorers Lucas Joao and Yakou Meite have played a significant role. 34% of fans believe that injuries are the biggest factor for Reading’s struggles this season.

But the majority still don’t believe that’s the biggest reason. 43% of fans have levied the blame on the team’s tactical approach this season which is another indictment of the belief around manager Veljko Paunovic.

6% of fans placed the blame on the effect of the EFL’s six-point deduction and further restrictions while another 6% said the playing struggles are due to a lack of quality in the squad.

Just two out of 1,336 respondents, less than 1%, were willing to blame the team’s bad form on misfortune and refereeing decisions with the vast majority of Reading fans preferring to look in-house.

8. With much of the squad out of contract in the summer, do you trust the Reading hierarchy to adequately rebuild the playing squad?

As with the previous question about the Reading hierarchy’s ability to adequately replace Paunovic, there’s a clear lack of confidence when it comes to recruitment as a whole. While it’s slightly less of a majority as with the manager, 92% of Reading fans do not trust those in charge at the club to adequately rebuild the squad this summer.

And a rebuild will be needed regardless of the division Reading finds itself in. 10 of the 11 players who started in the 2-2 draw with Derby County are out of contract this summer while it would be a surprise if any of the club’s loanees were signed up permanently. In addition, much of the Under-23s are also out of contract in the coming months.

It’s a huge task facing the club and past recruitment gives reason for concern. Massive transfer fees and wages were handed out to expensive flops including George Puscas, Sone Aluko, and Marc McNulty in the years following Dai Yongge’s 2017 takeover and the team hasn’t improved. 

The business last summer, which saw Reading make much more of an attempt to follow the EFL’s guidelines, gives reason for some optimism with a wave of decent business including the free-agent signing of Scott Dann and loan deals for Baba Rahman and Danny Drinkwater. 

Chelsea Loan Player Technical Coach Paulo Ferreira visited Bearwood in November and was said to be impressed with what he saw so it appears likely that that partnership could grow. It’s still very unclear what the actual transfer strategy is at Reading, so despite the better 2021 summer window, there is major concern. Past mistakes still on the books such as Puscas no doubt give credence to that as well.

9. How do you feel about the club's communication with fans?

The topic of communication - or the lack of it - has become a focal point of conversation around the Reading fanbase as supporters get restless and furious at the lack of clarity and answers coming out of the club. STAR recently pressed the club on the issue and the notes, which can be found here, don’t give a lot of reason for confidence that communication will improve.

Although to the club’s credit, a request from STAR for an urgent meeting has been granted but it’s not yet clear who will be in attendance.

This isn’t a small problem that can be ignored. This lack of communication is a major problem for fans - something that was clear with the results of this survey. 850 supporters, 64% of those who took part, said the lack of communication from the club is a major issue for them, while 241 answered that “fans should be in greater dialogue with the club”. 

14% said the communication was “not great, but not terrible” while 33 respondents, 2%, feel the club’s communication with fans is appropriate for a football club in this day and age.

10. Which of the following best describes how you feel about the medium and long term future of Reading FC (past the end of this season)?

In putting this survey together, the Reading Chronicle chose six words we feel describes a range of emotions that could reflect fans’ experience with their club at this time. But there are truly hundreds of adjectives that could have been used. 

The more positive options, “optimistic” and “excited” received 2% and .09% of the vote. Let that sink in. Less than 1% of Reading fans are excited about the medium and long-term future of their club.

142 people, 11%, answered with “meh” while 169 or 13% said they felt apathetic. Comfortably the two most-common choices were “scared”, chosen by 34.5% of respondents, and nervous, 39%.

It’s obviously disheartening to see so little excitement and positivity in the fanbase but it’s extremely understandable considering the murkiness all across the club from the pitch to the pinnacle of the boardroom. Fears and nervousness over the club’s future viability are fair while apathy is clearly growing. 

11. If you have anything else you'd like to share about your Reading FC experience at this time please do so below...

There is a very real and living passion in this fanbase and while most of this survey may have suggested that is lacking, the answers to this final  open-ended throw-in question tells quite a story.

369 (28%) of 1366 respondents chose to add to the multiple-choice questions with additional comments of their own. The answers ranged from one-word expletives to passionate near-dissertations outlining exactly why there is so much concern and sadness around the state of Reading Football Club.

Just a few of the many impassionaned responses can be found below:

"I’m very concerned and have lost sleep over this. I’m angry and want to voice my opinion to people who can do something about it. This club is slowly falling down a hill and the future is bleak. But it can be changed and I will keep coming from Bristol to support the team."

"Club has lost its personal touch, it’s soulless, players are strangers to the fans . We go to matches expecting to lose . Been a supporter for 68 years, have never felt so low."

"The club needs to remember it’s community roots and embrace the towns passion. The owner is out of touch with local people. What are the owners motives? Whose idea was it to bring in clueless managers with no EFL experience? We need a DOF with a connection to the club, someone like Brian or Mick Gooding."

No doubt the alienation of Reading’s fans is very real and very present at the club. But the flame of passion is there too. It needs to be embraced, it needs to be encouraged, and most importantly, it can’t be allowed to burn out. That is the challenge facing Reading’s leaders, although really, that should be their joy: the passion of the fans.