It’s fair to say that the appointment of Ruben Selles in July 2023 was met by Reading fans with the kind of antipathy usually reserved for the cheese course at the end of a big meal.

Typical of the arse-about-face way of doing things under the current ownership, Selles was announced as Reading manager almost three weeks before he had actually secured a visa to work, having left Southampton with a record of two wins from seventeen games barely a month earlier.

What Selles has achieved in this most stressful of public football dramas should be applauded.

Nobody could lay Southampton’s demise at Selles’ door, nor indeed the problems that he walked into at Reading.  In many ways, managing Reading at this early stage of his career may be one of the most life-affirming things that ever happens to him.  

Nobody denies the coaching attributes of Selles, indeed, the Spaniard has coached all over Europe, gaining valuable experience to go alongside his Master's degree in Sports & Physiology from the University of Valencia, and a UEFA Pro Licence added at the age of just 25.  This is a man keen to learn and prove himself.

When Selles arrived at Reading, it was as a highly regarded young coach.  If he leaves at the end of the current season, it will be as a battle hardened manager.

One can only imagine the strain of having to constantly pick people up around the club that aren’t being paid, and motivate them to go again, day after day, month after month.  And trying to square the responsibilities of improving talented young players on the training pitch, with responding to the media after another points deduction has seen the latest hard earned points disappear into the ether, is a talent that you can’t learn on any UEFA course.

It’s true that Reading were unlikely to part with Selles’ company this season no matter how bad things got, but at the same time that fact doesn’t do anything to help produce a hard working environment.  Harsh as it sounds, that little bit of uncertainty around their employment is what helps to keep many managers on their toes.  Selles has had to find other ways to motivate himself and everybody around him.

And that’s very hard to do.

When I was at Portsmouth and the club was in administration, each manager that stepped into the void tried to create a siege mentality. It was “us against the world” etc. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.  In any case it was totally undermined when our manager, Steve Cotterill, left for Nottingham Forest, not that anybody could blame him in the circumstances.  But it did leave the changing room wondering whether it really was “us” against the world, or just some of us until a better opportunity came along.

Selles could quite easily have abandoned Reading, but he stayed.  In the harshest of football environments, his loyalty has so far stood up.  Could anybody really take issue with him if he left to manage a more stable club?  Definitely not.  Will they?  Probably.  That’s football.

On the pitch there are of course frustrations.  I don’t watch football well.  I like things done a certain way just like everybody else, so when I see certain phases of play that contradict my own style, I find myself gripping my seat and throwing my arms in the air.  But that’s what makes me a fan of the game too.  Between you and me, I’m much better when watching football behind glass.

And I’ve vented my frustrations about the team on more than one occasion this season with all the patience of somebody ignoring the fact that Selles is having to work with what he’s got, and even with some that he doesn’t want.  

For the time being, there’s nothing anybody can do about that.  But when re-watching the matches, it is entirely possible to see where Selles is coming from, tactically.  At times the football is progressive and expansive and is capable of producing excellent results.  The issue is consistency, something that any young side learning their trade will always struggle with.  It’s exasperating at times, but not something that can be held against them.

So as the season draws to a close and we find ourselves relieved at preserving our League One status, we begin to turn our attention to the summer and what that might hold with the possibility of new ownership.

I think we’ve all had our fill of this season to be quite honest, and a little bit of breathing space before the next course is served is probably something we could all do with, especially Ruben Selles.