We have a bad case of the jittersBy Nick Ive
April 17, 2008
Steve Coppell admits his players failed to handle the pressure during Saturday’s dismal defeat at home to Fulham on Saturday.
Royals would have taken a giant step towards Premier League safety and all but condemned the Cottagers to the drop had they secured three points.
But they cracked under the pressure and produced what was arguably their worst display of the season.
Reading failed to test Fulham keeper Kasey Keller in the entire match, while at the other end only a couple of wonderful saves from Marcus Hahnemann and the woodwork denied the Londoners a bigger victory.
Coppell told the Evening Post: “Everything concerns me at the moment about the display, but to be fair in the first half, although we didn’t play well, we didn’t play badly.
“We didn’t create a great deal, but if we had maintained that tempo for the second half we would have done better. We went a goal down and there was clearly tension and anxiety from the players in the second half and when that happens people are bound to make mistakes.
“The lack of chances was a by-product of that nervousness and where we are in the league and what we are trying to achieve.
“The closest comparison I can make is the nervous 90s in cricket.
“All week I have been told that had we beaten Fulham we would have been in a really strong position and I’m sure people were telling the players that too.
“I think that was very much on the players’ minds and I’m mindful that when you try to force things they usually don’t happen.”
Despite Saturday’s woeful display, Coppell insists there is no lack of effort on his players’ behalf.
And he believes the weight of expectation is unrealistic due to last season’s remarkable heroics when Royals finished eighth.
He said: “I try to look at it from a distance.
“If this had been our first season in the Premiership then people would be saying ‘terrific, you’re still in there fighting and giving it everything’.
“We haven’t been flowing this season, but this is one hard
league whether you have been in it one year or 10 years.
“Given the level of investment it’s good that we are still in their fighting, giving it everything. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
“Everyone here is giving it 100 per cent and maybe the players’ desire and determination is getting in the way of the flowing football.”
Reading’s under-fire players were booed off by disillusioned supporters, who had not left before the final whistle.
But Coppell added: “The fans have been brilliant this season.
“There were a few boos on Saturday and to be fair that’s expected, but if we’d been in this position last season I’m not sure we’d be getting so much criticism. This is our second year in the top flight in 136 years.
“This is very much a club with real community spirit and we all have to stay together come what may. That’s the best way.”