“All we want is to make sure this club is sound and will be there for us to support."

Those are the words from one member of Club 1871. Reading supporters are scared. And who can blame them?

With their club 21st in the Championship table, restrained by unknown financial sanctions, and near total radio silence from those in power, Reading fans in the vocal Club 1871 section of the Select Car Leasing Stadium decided to voice their concerns.

Prior to Saturday's 4-3 defeat to Huddersfield, a banner was unfurled in the top tier of the South Stand.

Six words printed in white on blue fabric sums up the way many fans are feeling in regards to Reading Football Club: “No Desire. No Drive. No Direction.”

“It’s a general feeling that has been gradually building game by game and eventually you have to say ‘enough is enough,’” Ian, a long-standing member of Club 1871 explains to the Chronicle.

Reading Chronicle: The Reading players react to Huddersfield's second goal. Image by: JasonPIXThe Reading players react to Huddersfield's second goal. Image by: JasonPIX

“When the first whistle goes you back the team, you’re desperate for them to win, but on and off the pitch it keeps biting away at the back of your mind,” he continues. "You have a voice for a reason, you need to do something to be heard rather than just sit and watch things go in the wrong direction."

“We’ve been speaking for a few weeks about the fact that generally everyone seems to feel so distant from the club at the moment,” Joe, another ever-present member of the group said. "We love the club too much to stay at home and do nothing."

In a statement from Club 1871 released to the Chronicle, they explained their position:

"We want our old Reading back. A club with a sustainable business model, a bright future and relatable characters within the club. We were so lucky to live through the 106 era, with John Madejski in charge, and a group of players you’d regularly see around the stadium, and feel a real connection with. The club you see today is worlds away from that.

"We protest because we want change - enough is enough! It’s not a decision we take lightly, but we just can’t bear to sit here and think about the years to come if a change in direction isn’t forthcoming. We are aware not all fans share the same view about how to go about getting this change we all crave, but fans who are happy with our current situation are few and far between."

The decision to put all the building frustration and fear into action came on Thursday following last week’s dismal defeat to Luton. But it would be unfair to think of this as some knee-jerk overreaction.

“We’re quite logical people,” Ian laughs. “We ask questions and we haven’t been seeing anything that’s come from the club, the backroom staff, the board, or the players that has had any real substance.”

“The reason we did it wasn’t because there were six of us who were annoyed,” Joe is quick to add. “It was because we were getting message after message asking what we were going to do about it. People now trust Club 1871 to be a voice of the fanbase and say ‘no, we’re not having this anymore.’”

The banner may have been picked up in a haste the morning of Saturday’s game, but every element of this protest from the timing, placement, and of course, the wording has an intentional explanation.

Reading Chronicle: Reading fans in the Club 1871 section. Image by: JasonPIXReading fans in the Club 1871 section. Image by: JasonPIX

“We said, let’s not try to dig out a player or the manager because as soon as you focus on one person everyone else becomes nothing," Ian explains. "And this is about everyone. Across the board everyone needs to take responsibility for this and I’m not sure everyone is. 

“We wanted to do something that didn’t point fingers at any one individual. Because if you start a banner for a player, or the manager, or the board then other people would get off scot-free.”

With problems at so many levels of the club, the group felt that the “No Desire. No Drive. No Direction.” wording meets the issues on the multiple levels they exist.

“If we’re being brutally honest we could say that there actually is a direction we’re going in and it’s the wrong direction!" Ian continues.

Set up near the end of the 2017/18 season, Club 1871's aim is to "try and create a loud, positive atmosphere at the Madejski Stadium throughout the 90 minutes." Of course, a protest could be seen as opposition to that mission statement, something the group says they are conscious of.

“We’re really passionate about wanting to support the team during the game," Joe says. "If we’re all booing and doing this stuff during the game, that’s counter-productive, we need to win games to stay up.

"So the banner went up before and then we tried to make noise during, everyone was on board with that, and we couldn’t have done much more in that Huddersfield game. We were loud for 90 minutes, even when we were 4-3 down with five minutes to go…we kept going.”

Reading Chronicle: Danny Drinkwater reacts to a Huddersfield goal on Saturday. Image by: JasonPIXDanny Drinkwater reacts to a Huddersfield goal on Saturday. Image by: JasonPIX

As they fight for their Championship life, Reading are entering a strange period of the season where they don’t have a home game for three weeks. And when they do return to the SCL it will be for a momentous day.

“Our next home game is Coventry, the celebration of our 150th year," Ian comments. "We didn’t want it to get to a point where we can’t celebrate that. It’s something to be proud of, we’re all proud Reading fans and we want to be able to enjoy that day and that game…hopefully with a win! But we want to be able to get behind the team and we’re planning displays and flags for our 150th year. We didn’t want it to be taken over by a protest."

While both Ian and Joe point out that the views of Club 1871 don’t necessarily reflect every member of the diverse Reading fanbase, there does seem to be widespread dissatisfaction - something that was extremely evident in the Chronicle’s recent fan survey results.

Ultimately it’s difficult to quickly summarise the list of concerns Reading fans have. From the threat of relegation to the influence of agent Kia Joorabchian to questions over the club's medium to long term plan and the capability of manager Veljko Paunovic, a great element of murkiness sits at the centre of many of the worries. 

“One of the key things is the lack of communication," Ian explains. "STAR had a meeting last weekend which we’re waiting to hear back on but as a club, historically, we’ve been really good at communicating with fans. We're a family club, albeit that’s another thing we may have lost our way and our identity with.”

The Chronicle has contacted Reading FC for comment on Saturday's protest but is yet to receive a response as of the time of publication.

As attendances at the SCL dwindle and supporter frustration grows, it’s not clear where things go from here regardless of Reading's eventual league status - although relegation would certainly raise the alarm.

It’s not as if the Reading community hasn’t experienced relegation before - this level of fear is far more existential.

“The worry is we’re going to go down, financially we’re clearly not in a good position as it is, it’s going to hit us even more financially," Joe says. "You see what’s happening with Derby, Bury, and you think…we could be the next one. Because that’s how bad it gets. 

“There is no trust. There is no trust from supporters towards at any level of the club. You can’t trust the players to get results, you can’t trust the manager to do what he needs to do to change things up to get results, you can’t trust anyone above him to make the right decisions to make sure we don’t get relegated. And you can’t trust the owners because we never hear from them.

“Before when we’ve had relegations we’ve had someone at the club we could rely on. Someone like Nigel Howe, people who know football. Now there’s no one at the club you can hang your hat on, no one at the club who you believe can get us through this.

Reading Chronicle: A banner from a few fans on Saturday. Image by: JasonPIXA banner from a few fans on Saturday. Image by: JasonPIX

"We’re at the point where it feels like there’s no one at the club who knows what they’re doing. There’s nothing at the club at the moment to keep people there. The owners could have the best interests of the club, they could be doing everything they can, but we don’t know because we never hear from them.

“People want someone they can trust and we don’t have that anywhere across the club at the moment.”

“I remember the relegation in 1998," Ian adds. "But even then it wasn’t a case of being quiet, people wre standing up, the team was fighting, trying different things. And ultimately we weren’t good enough, the quality on the pitch wasn’t good enough. As a fan, you can take that. It’s when we feel that the club doesn’t understand what a precarious position we’re in…that’s what it feels like at the moment. It’s quite difficult to go week in week out at the moment!”

The outcome of STAR’s recent meeting with the club’s hierarchy will be important and the hope within Club 1871 is that those in power will take notice of this protest reducing the need for further action. But if they feel more is required, then more will be done.

"We don’t want to continue having to make banners against the club we love, putting out opinions that we shouldn’t feel like we have to voice," Ian says. "But ultimately if there’s no change then we have to try and voice our opinions and our concerns.

"We have to remember that we have a voice and we intend to use it for good. And if we feel that we need to be showing more, then we’ll do what we feel is necessary. We’ll take the right kind of action, we don’t want to instigate anything bad or ill-feeling, we’re not that kind of people but at the same time we do want to have a voice."

The statement from Club 1871 notes that owner Dai Yongge "has shown good intention by investing a lot in the club" but that the "people he appears to trust are the ones seen to be causing serious damage."

"We need someone within the board and the club who can have an influence with Dai who has a wealth of experience within the leagues and what is required for a healthy future."

The centre of the growing fear is that it isn't clear there is a healthy future in store for Reading Football Club. 

"Fans shouldn't have to worry if their club is going to exist 1/5/10 years’ time. There is still time to sort this mess out," Club 1871's statement continues.

"We all know what it means to be Reading fans. We’ve always been proud of the underdog status we’ve often fought against with great success. We can get back there with a clear plan. Knowing our owner cares about us through others isn’t enough. Seeing nefarious individuals sitting in the stands regularly doesn’t fill us with hope either. Let’s let the club know that we want to know what’s going on, and that at the very least, we won’t keep hiring staff who just don’t care about the club, the badge or the fans. 

"We want the old Reading back. It’s our town and our club, and we should fight for it."