Reading have been here before. I’m not talking about the Premiership, although of course they have, but after the 2-1 win at Newcastle made it three wins in a row in all competitions, the Royals are entering the second half of the season with wind in their sails, just like last season.
After six games of the 2011-12 season, Reading sat second-bottom of the Championship. However, after only losing seven of their next 40 games, including a run of nine wins in 10, McDermott’s side won the league and secured promotion to the Premiership. If they can replicate that sequence, or something like it, they will surely fight their way out of trouble.
Just over a year ago owner John Madejski sold 51% of the club to Russian-born Anton Zingarevich, but apart from signing Pavel Pogrebnyak and being linked with a move for Arsenal’s Andrey Arshavin, McDermott has to make do with signings like Adam Le Fondre, the goalscoring hero against Newcastle, who cost only £350,000 from Rotherham. The former Chief Scout and reserves manager even had to overcome the sale of Shane Long to West Brom and captain Matt Mills to Leicester. The fact Reading are not only in the Premiership but also competing at England’s highest level, is credit to the manager.
Seven losses on the bounce in November and December would have seen the axe fall on most managers but the Reading hierarchy deserve credit for staying with their man, unlike fellow promotes Southampton. The Saints are only four points ahead of Reading, and the neutral may wish the controlled and loyal Reading owner, to be rewarded with Premier League survival at the expense of Nicola Cortese and Southampton.
Naturally, two wins does not mean the Reading ship has turned full circle, and both West Brom, who the Royals came from 2-0 down to beat 3-2, and Newcastle have found themselves in choppy waters recently. Reading are still in the bottom three and after a FA Cup tie with Sheffield United they face Chelsea, then host Sunderland and travel to Stoke. Benitez’s side have a fantastic away record so a point would be a fabulous result, but if they can add another win against Sunderland or Stoke there is every chance they can survive this season.
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