Call me biased all you want, but I have a rare optimism with Reading this season. Here are five reasons why we should be playing top flight football next season.
This is probably one of the first ever seasons that I can remember, where Reading have had pressure on them to excel in a certain division. It`s a strange feeling, especially considering we always seem to be the underdog, but a number of reasons seem to be pointing to something special this season. Yes – the history books suggest it is very unlikely that a team recently-relegated bounces straight back up, but we are definitely a stronger team now, than we were twelve months ago. Call me biased all you want, but I have a rare optimism with Reading this season. Here are five reasons why we should be playing top flight football next season.
1. NIGEL ADKINS – The former Southampton boss is one of eight managers in the division that has won promotion from the second tier of English football, but only one of two to achieve it in the past four seasons – no prizes for guessing who the other man is! Does this give Adkins an upper hand? I think it does. The Championship is constantly developing and getting stronger, meaning you have to get stronger with it, which Adkins realised at his time at Southampton and is rectifying at Reading now. Managers of the past who have achieved promotion, the likes of Mowbray, Jones and McCarthy, have achieved it with direct, physical approaches, which are being severely outdated. Adkins` philosophy of football is fresh and moulding to the transition in the style of play in English football. As the man himself says, he is used to winning games, a claim well backed up by his impressive CV.
2. FINANCES – To outsiders, it may seem like we don`t have hoards of cash, especially as we have only spent money on one player so far this summer. However, it is very far from the case, Anton Zingarevich has a fair amount of money, but is abiding rightfully by the Reading way. We have the potential to splash £5 million for a player, but if you look at our current squad, is there any need? Having a second transfer window has many advantages, one being you can add to the squad considering your league position. If we are struggling to break the play-off barrier, then we react and invest in January. If we are sitting comfortably near the top of the Championship, if it isn`t broke, why fix it? It is our very secure financial situation that allows us to spend, in a word, appropriately.
3. DEPTH IN SQUAD – This point was strengthened on our recent pre-season tour to Portugal, where Adkins opted to play two different XI`s in each game. 19 of the 22 players used have experienced the Premier League before, while 14 had played at some form of international level. You need depth in every department to have any chance of success and when you look at the squad at the moment, it is one of the strongest in the club`s history. Our friendly with Olhanese on Friday, a game we drew 1-1 last season under McDermott, was a 5-1 win this time round – coincidence? I think not.
4. SUMMER EXITS & BEST PLAYERS STAYING – This summer saw a fairly big clear out, with the likes of Ian Harte, Jay Tabb, Noel Hunt and Simon Church all released – all great servants to the club. Despite their great work here, the time was right for everyone to move on. Besides from those exits, the core of the squad has remained largely untouched. Hal Robson-Kanu, Adam Le Fondre, Jimmy Kebe, Alex Pearce, Alex McCarthy and Pavel Pogrebnyak have all been linked with a move away this summer, but all look set to stay and that is a massive bonus. The majority of teams that are relegated lose the core of their squads, or if even if they don`t, the morale around the squad is very low. Neither of those factors have affected us at all, the squad looks very high on confidence. I feel that keeping the core of the squad together will prove to be a massive plus in our promotion bid for the upcoming campaign.
5. SUMMER SIGNINGS – Let`s all be honest, if we hadn`t of signed the trio of Royston Drenthe, Wayne Bridge and Danny Williams – would we still be all that confident about the upcoming season? I think the best acquisition out of the three has to be Wayne Bridge, maybe not for the long-term, but certainly for the short-term. He is a month short of his 33rd birthday, but Brighton fans are convinced that the former Chelsea man still has the legs in him to survive a couple more campaigns at the highest level. The signing of Drenthe screams quality, it is rare that a club like us see a player with such notable experience on the European stage, grace the Madejski turf. Let`s not get ahead of ourselves, Drenthe still has his fitness issues, but if he settles down and focuses, we could be in for a real treat this season. Danny Williams may not exactly be on par with the two names just mentioned, but a player very highly rated by Jurgen Klinsmann, certainly has a lot to offer the team. Adkins and Anton have been hinting there could be one more big signing this window, watch this space.