Déjà vu anyone? Cast your minds back to September 2010. It only feels like two minutes ago when Reading were struggling to get any kind of run together. After a deflating opening day defeat to Scunthorpe and the loss of Gylfi Sigurdsson to Hoffenheim, the future was looking bleak for the Royals. Even after this lacklustre start and an average at best mid season, Reading were still able to string together an impressive eight game winning streak to grab a play-off place. I still have flashbacks from Jem Karacan’s effort at 3-2 against Swansea and wonder what if, I’m sure I’m not alone. From a neutral point of view, the final was mouth-watering but for Reading fans, it was the similar taste of play-off heartbreak. Perhaps losing 3-0 may have been easier to take but to get so close to pulling off an amazing Wembley comeback was a bitter pill to swallow.
September 2011 and we’ve been here before; a poor start and the loss of last year’s Player of the Season. The sale of Shane Long was, of course, a massive blow for Reading and the Championship, but I can’t help but feel proud seeing him already terrorising Premier League defences week in, week out. A run of four league defeats is hard to take at any point in the season, especially after the promising defeat of big spending Leicester City on the 13th August; which I may add included several of their big money signings. But after this well deserved win, the season has seriously slumped resulting in two extremely disappointing home defeats to Barnsley and Watford. This is one of the first times in my 20 years of following Reading I have heard the chant of ‘spend some f*****g money’. This was truly a surreal – and worrying- experience especially at the Madejski Stadium where the vibe has always been positive.
Even after this disappointing start though, there’s still promise within the camp. The loan signing of Mikele Leigertwood was a massive influence on last seasons surge of results. Even though has hasn’t replicated any similar form yet, he still a very capable performer. There are also the skills and trickery of Jobi McAnuff and Jimmy Kebe to rely on – the pair who last season traumatised every full back the Championship had to offer. The chequebook has been opened, despite the fan chants with new players coming in. Possibly the most impressive being the capture of Kaspars Gorkss from QPR for a minimal fee. Gorkss made over 42 appearances for Rangers in their promotion season so its a mystery why he would drop a division after playing such an integral part. He has already added experience and strength to a shaky back four.
The signing of Adam Le Fondre is enough to excite any Reading fan. A record of 59 goals in 107 goals for Rotherham United is the sign of a hungry and prolific striker. I just hope he can step up to a tougher division and recapture that amazing form – a goal on his début was lacking in an inept 2-0 loss at home to Watford. These signings may not be on the same level as the Manchester Cities of the world but that’s what Reading are all about – Sensible! John Madejski has never splashed the cash – Kevin Doyle, Shane Long, Gylfi Siggurdson cost the club a total of £78,000 and were sold for a cool £18 million; good business indeed. Under Madejski, the club have always operated on a brick by brick foundation which I’m sure has frustrated a few over the years, considering the wealth of our chairman, but I’d prefer to do things the right way and have players who want to make a difference instead of making a dent in the club’s finances.
Most fans, and even players, would be quick to blame the manager when times are tough and their team are struggling, but at Reading its the players who are coming forward to hold their hands up for the uninspiring start. Brian McDermott is the last person the players will blame. They respect McDermott, as do I. He is the man who took the club from the pits of the Championship to the brink of the promised land in two years on a minimal budget. Possibly the most underrated manager in the division but at the same time, one of the best. Its easy to see why people have compared McDermott to Steve Coppell. His managerial skills cannot be written off as a one season wonder and Reading cannot be written off as nearly men.
Doncaster Rovers on Saturday could be the turning point and even an ugly win would give the team something to build on. Football is a game of confidence; just take a look at the newly promoted teams like Brighton and Southampton who are currently storming the league. But as the old cliché goes…its a marathon not a sprint. I suppose this is why we all love football, and why Royal fans love Reading so much; the ups and downs are part of being a football fan. Would I have it any other way? Not a chance! Roll on Saturday….
Written by Ashley Holloway, We Are Going Up’s Reading Blogger