Sometimes in life, your best just isn’t good enough, no matter how hard you try. Like when Gordon Brown tried to be Prime Minister, or when John Barnes tried to be a football manager. Or a TV presenter. Or anything other than a footballer, actually.
Add to that list Reading Football Club. Bottom of the Premier League going into the final fixture before Christmas, the Royals look doomed to an immediate return to the Championship, a division which they won in such storming fashion last season, but there can be no real blame attributed to staff and management alike.
Because unlike many sides that have found themselves in Reading’s predicament at this stage of the season, there is no sense that things should be going better, the stench of underachievement around the club, the fear for what might happen should the worst come to fruition.
And the reason for that is simple – Reading are doing as much as they can.
Everybody connected with the club is giving their absolute maximum and no fault can be apportioned when that is the case. Not at the door of the players, who are doing everything in their power to arrest the slide, and certainly not at the door of manager Brian McDermott, who has done an excellent job in dragging the club away from the Championship trap door to the title since succeeding Brendan Rodgers in December 2009.
It was always going to be difficult for the former reserve coach, especially as he was given as little as £6 million net to enhance his squad for a top-flight campaign over the summer, and the club look like they will (rightly) stick with him during this tough spell.
But for all their efforts, it has become painfully apparent that Reading are not going to be good enough to stay in the division.
Marooned six points from safety (which will be more should Southampton avoid defeat in their game in hand), the Royals have won just one of their 17 league games this season – a slightly fortuitous victory at home to Everton.
So as you can imagine, I am not about to tell you that the 13/1 on them to go to the Etihad Stadium and beat Manchester City is something that you should be spending your Christmas money on.
Quite the opposite, in fact: Reading have absolutely no chance of getting a result against the champions (not even a draw, which is priced at 29/4) and what we have to do here is find a way to get better value on a home win than the 7/50 on offer with bwin.
Because make no mistake, City aren’t doing anything other than giving Reading a good going over here. The Citizens’ proud home record may have come to a dramatic and heartbreaking end against rivals Manchester United in their last home match, but a new run is about to begin.
It is unthinkable that Reading, a side who have lost their last six fixtures, will be able to get anything from a City side who looked, especially in the first half, back to their best in their 3-1 victory over Newcastle United at St James’ Park last weekend and who have a fantastic record against the Premier League’s lesser sides.
Roberto Mancini’s men won 16 and drew two of their 20 fixtures against sides that finished in the bottom half last season, winning nine and drawing one of their ten games at home, scoring 33 goals and letting in just eight.
This has continued this year, with City currently boasting a 7-2-0 record in matches against teams in the bottom half, winning all four of those matches at the Etihad by an aggregate of 14-3.
A Reading team who have conceded 17 goals in those six straight defeats and who have the worst defensive record in the league (36) are going to be no match for the expensively-assembled superstars of City and the evens that Mancini’s men win by more than two goals is must-bet stuff.
City managed this feat nine times at home last year, while the champions have won by three goals or more twice in the last six matches at the Etihad.
They will be doing so again on Saturday, so make sure you are on that even-money shout.