Skipper Graeme Murty admits it is Reading’s somewhat inconsistent start to the season which prompted him and his team-mates to dig deep for their supporters and donate £5,000 to fans’ travelling funds.
But reckons the gesture reflects a collective realisation amongst his colleagues that rapidly rising ticket prices mean some fans are being priced out of attending football.
Just days after Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe slammed Premier League players’ wages and soaring ticket prices, Murty said: "We know we’re massively inconsistent at the moment - it's not easy to justify spending so much money to watch us perform and this is giving something back to the fans."
"I’d be lying if I said that the poor start didn't enter certain people's thinking – because it can't be good going to places like Fratton Park and coming out after a 7-4 loss wearing a Reading shirt.
"More than that, though, there has been a growing realisation among the players of how expensive it is to watch football these days, especially for parents who bring their kids along to a game."
And the Reading players’ gesture has been warmly welcomed by the fans, according to S.T.A.R. (Supporters’ Trust At Reading) spokesman Jon Keen.
"It's a very nice gesture, much appreciated by Reading supporters, and even more so because we know it's something the players didn't have to do. It's great to know that they do appreciate the supporters and our efforts to support them, and that they're dipping into their own pockets to help reduce the ever-increasing costs of attending Premier League matches”, Keen said.
“One of the reasons that we love Reading is that, despite being in the Premier League, we still have that vital link between players and supporters which means so much to so many. Sadly for other sets of fans, the connection between club and community seems to have broken down, but at Reading both STAR and the football club always working hard to preserve this link.
“I hope for fellow fans everywhere that this gesture will be noticed and copied by players at other clubs - especially bigger clubs, where many players seem to be both better paid and less aware of their club's supporters."
The first 350 Reading fans who book the journey to Manchester City on the official Supporters’ Trust At Reading coaches will pay just £5 for their travel instead of the standard £20 fare, thanks to the players’ generosity.
"We decided that it would be a nice gesture if we could get behind the fans the way they get behind us, and try to alleviate that financial burden. The players had the ultimate say-so over whether we did it or not. It's not something we've been ordered into, it’s something that as a group of people we felt was right”, Murty said.
"We feel, not guilty, but that we a have a little bit of responsibility towards that cost. I'm not saying it's getting beyond a joke, the level of cost, but it certainly is almost taking the game away from its roots.
"But if that eventuality ever comes to pass then football is going to be the only loser. If you take the game away from the common person in the street then football is going to go downhill from there on."