McDermott: Fans can lift struggling Royals
Brian McDermott has called on Reading's fans to keep the faith as the Royals look to finally deliver their first Premier League win of the season.
Reading have endured a difficult time since they returned to the top-flight and host Fulham on Saturday having picked up just three points from their opening seven games.
The Berkshire club have squandered leads twice in both their games against Swansea and Newcastle while they were completely outplayed in their home defeat to Tottenham.
If results go against them this weekend, McDermott's team could be five points adrift of safety come Sunday night, but the Reading boss wants the Royals faithful to keep backing the side.
"We really need the fans. They have to believe (in us)," McDermott said.
"They have been important to us since I became manager. They have stuck by us when times have been difficult. Now we are going through a difficult spell of results but they can really pull us through.
"Everyone knows the Madejski Stadium is a very difficult place to come and get a result and the fans are a big part of that.
"I'm sure they do believe that we can do whatever we have to do in this league."
Reading striker Jason Roberts thrust himself in to the spotlight last weekend when he refused to wear a Kick It Out shirt in the warm-up before the Royals' 1-0 defeat to Liverpool.
The 34-year-old will continue his protest at the football authorities by not wearing the T-shirt again before Saturday's game, but he wants to put talk of the boycott to one side now and start concentrating on helping the team pick up their first win.
The former Blackburn striker has been encouraged by recent performances from the team and thinks it will not be long before they achieve their first victory.
"The performances have been better than the results, but that's the Premier League for you," he said.
"As a group we are new to this league, but we have a strong squad.
"We are disappointed with the results but we believe that will change.
"We believe in each other's ability and we have a good chance of turning things around. That first win is on its way."
Roberts' frustration does not extend to McDermott, who has overlooked him for a starting berth this season.
"I had a bit of a calf problem which has taken time to heal so I have been a bit wary about throwing myself in to it and the manager has agreed with me," the striker said.
"But I have built up my substitute appearances and I have played reserve games.
"Of course I want to play but when he does call on me I will be ready to work hard.
"The most important thing is the club and it staying in the league."
Reading forward Noel Hunt could make his comeback from a heel injury in the clash while McDermott must decide whether to stick with Alex McCarthy or recall Adam Federici in goal.
Fulham winger Damien Duff is available after recovering from illness but midfielder Simon Davies is still sidelined with a hip problem.
Martin Jol denies Fulham keep selling their best players but admits Brede Hangeland may be an enforced exception.
The Cottagers were hit by two significant departures at the end of the summer transfer window, losing top scorer Clint Dempsey and playmaker Mousa Dembele. But their exits were sweetened by the arrival of Dimitar Berbatov from Manchester United and also Sascha Riether, Mladen Petric and Hugo Rodallega.
Jol is confident Fulham will be in a position to prevent any further departures, but accepts the future of defender Hangeland hangs in the balance. He said: "Our culture is that we always like to keep the players we want to keep. I don't know where the story that our star players are going is coming from. We always want to improve and don't tell anybody else, but I believe that's what we did in the transfer window.
"With Dembele it was different, he left three days before the transfer window closed after promising he'd stay. Then he left and I didn't have time to do anything, so that's why we had to go for 35-year-old Giorgos Karagounis, and he's doing well. We spoke to Clint 18 months before his contract expired, but he wanted to go to a Champions League club.
"So believe me, there isn't a situation where a lot of my best players would go. Berbatov has two years, Petric one year and an option, so that is fine and Rodallega was a free transfer. Riether has an option.
"Brede is the only problem, but we've been talking to him for the last five or six months. But we've made him a good offer so if he wants to stay that would be fantastic."
Victory at Reading could potentially lift Fulham into the top four, but Jol believes points will be hard to come by against a team that is in a false position.
"Reading's results are always close and they have a few players who can make a difference," he said.
"They need a result and so we will have to play well and work hard to get a result there.
"It's probably more important to them than us because they really need a win to turn the corner.
"They've had a difficult schedule of fixtures and could be higher."