The Premier League is vicious and unforgiving. Reading are just one of its latest victims, chewed and spat back out into the Championship. However, unlike most clubs the Royals have been left in fine shape this season as they hope to immediately bounce back to England’s top flight.
Reading only lost central defender Adrian Marriapa and pacey winger Jimmy Kebe during the summer in a deadline day frenzy. But to make up for their losses, Reading brought in American international Danny Williams, former England and Chelsea left-back Wayne Bridge and former Everton and Real Madrid man Royston Drenthe.
All three players cost the Royals nothing. In addition, former Fulham captain Chris Baird joined them in September on a four-month contract.
With a squad spoiled with first-team international players, Reading definitely have the squad depth to do well this season. Although the defence consisting of Sean Morrison, Alex Pearce, Chris Gunter and Stephen Kelly contributed to Reading having the leakiest backline in the Premier League last season - conceding 73 goals - they have recently been reformed.
The midfield - with the addition of Baird - looks as solid as any other team in the Championship. Playmaker Danny Guthrie, has already notched four goals this term, more than he’s managed to score in the past three seasons combined.
The wingers - Hal-Robson Kanu and Gareth McCleary - are amongst the fastest in the division. In addition, Jordan Obita - who’s progressed through Reading’s academy - has increased the manager’s options out wide.
Reading’s attacking players would not look out of place for the clubs in the bottom half of the Premier League. Whatever you choose to call him - the Nyak, the Pog, the Russian Giant; Pavel Pogrebnyak leads Reading’s front line, partnering last season’s top scorer Adam Le Fondre whilst Nicky Blackman and Southampton loanee Billy Sharp provide useful back up.
So Reading have the brawn but do they have the brains?
Nigel Adkins, the gaffer, has experience of getting a club promoted; he’s done so with both Scunthorpe and Southampton. As a former physiotherapist at Scunthorpe, Adkins has the nous to get the best out of his players.
He was praised by the Scunthorpe massive after his appointment with the chant 'Who needs Mourinho, we’ve got our physio'. Adkins will be looking to push his side back into the Premier League and make amends for his poor performance at Southampton, which got him sacked less than a year ago.
As a diehard Reading supporter myself, it’s painful to see my club lose to easy opposition, a seemingly common trait with Adkins’ management. Already this season, we have lost 6-0 to Peterborough in the Capital One Cup and been depressingly crushed by the league’s bottom side - Sheffield Wednesday - 5-2.
Many of Reading’s players have previous experience of what it takes to win this league. The Royals won the Championship during the 2011-2012 season having only lost twice in their last 18 games.
The Royals now lie in fifth place, comfortably in the play off places, but it will be a long and gruelling challenge to reach the light at the end of the tunnel.
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