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Reading show there's life after relegation

Paul Fletcher | 13:42 UK time, Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Reading boss Steve Coppell never really sounds particularly happy or upset about anything - and his emotional equilibrium was intact as he sat before the press following his team's goalless draw against Preston on Saturday.

Not many smiles and nothing really resembling a frown, although he did become slightly animated as he laid into the concept of the transfer window and demonstrated a wit drier than a desert rose.

Asked whether he would go anywhere given his team now don't have a game until 21 February, Coppell replied: "Croydon."

I laughed, it was a cracking reply, but in all seriousness it probably isn't a bad time for the Royals to take some time off as they prepare for the big push for an instant return to the Premier League.

They might be second in the Championship table but they haven't scored in four games (their victory over Wolves came courtesy of an own goal) and struggled to break down a Preston side that arrived at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday and promptly parked a bus in front of goal.

You've got to hand it to Reading, though, they are not making a bad fist of attempting to bounce straight back to the land of untold riches (or gluttony, depending on your perspective).

Steve Coppell watches his team in action against PrestonThe Championship - especially the lower reaches - are littered with 'big' clubs who have dropped out of the Premier League and failed to reappear.

But within days of Reading's relegation - the Royals only went down on goal difference at the end of their second season in the top flight - director of football Nick Hammond was discussing the path back with his chairman John Majedski.

Pivotal to their plans was retaining the services of Coppell, which wasn't necessarily going to be easy.

"Relegation is failure so there had to be a very quick period of reflection," said Hammond, a former Reading goalkeeper who started as an apprentice at Arsenal.

"But I sat down with the chairman and we decided Steve was the most qualified and the best candidate to get us back in the Premier League, although he had been fairly clear that if we got relegated he would walk away."

How refreshing and unusual that a club should want their manager to remain following relegation, rather than dispense with his services, as is often the case. The board went to work - as did the club's fans, who played a major part in persuading the 53-year to stay put.

Next on Reading's list of priorities in May of 2008 was the squad.

There are financial structures in place at the club Hammond and Coppell are left alone to buy and sell.

Last summer they looked at who was out of contract - whether to renew or reduce the wage bill - and quickly held discussions with those players under contract that they were desperate to keep.

From studying the experiences of other clubs who had been in a similar position, the Royals understood they would be vulnerable - and they also realised that the loss of four or five key players would have ripped the heart out of their squad.

Hammond had structured the contracts so that they were reduced in the event of relegation. But he had also ensured that the key bankable assets were on long-term deals, thus offering the club a measure of protection. "It put us in a position where, in the instance of Dave Kitson for example, we could negotiate a good transfer fee that allowed us to do things elsewhere," added Hammond of the striker who was sold to Stoke for £5.5m.

The likes of Stephen Hunt, James Harper and Kevin Doyle remained so the club succeeded in keeping the key figures on board.

"I think we lost a dozen professionals last summer but we felt that the core of the squad had remained strong," added Hammond.

A conscious decision was made to retain a Premier League feel in and around the squad even if the loss of their top-flight status necessitated unwanted changes elsewhere.

"In terms of commercial and marketing there is not as much to sell in the Championship but we felt it was important to maintain a Premier League standard for the players that remained and were brought in," said Hammond.

Yet in trying to switch from a relegation to a promotion campaign in a matter of months, the club recognised that other changes had to take place.

"Relegation means a need to freshen things up," said Hammond, who strikes me as a very switched-on individual - so much so it was strongly rumoured that Arsenal wanted him after David Dein left the club.

"One of the words we use more than anything is balance and we had to try to find that, between keeping our best players but freshening the team," he said.Reading fans feel the pain of relegation

Players such as Noel Hunt and Chris Armstrong have impressed after arriving in the summer while several academy graduates who spent last season out on loan have started to impact on the first team this season.

The impressive Alex Pearce was a solid presence in the centre of defence against Preston and looks a real prospect, while James Henry, Julian Kelly and Jem Karacan have played first-team football this season.

Reading have virtually a whole team of young players on loan and gaining first-team experience at various Football League clubs this season - and it hints at the planning, continuity and foresight that have in part helped to shape their push for promotion this season.

Hammond himself had been at the club for 12 years and Coppell for five. The spine of team that won promotion - Marcus Hahnemann, Ivar Ingimarsson, James Harper and Kevin Doyle - is still there.

So it is no surprise when Hammond says: "Continuity at Reading has been the backbone of success over the last 10-15 years."

I picked up on a genuine sense of pride when Hammond stressed that the Royals are a community-based club, hugely keen to develop a young and growing fanbase. They have a large catchment area and believe that they can continue to grow without spending recklessly on an all-out gamble on promotion. In any event, Madejski has made it clear he wants Reading to be able to stand on its own two feet when he does leave the club and would not sanction desperate forays into the transfer market.

The last time Reading entertained North End it was late Feburary 2006 and there was a feeling of triumphalism around the ground. Promotion was increasingly inevitable - they won the division with a record 106 points - and the atmosphere was rocking, the ground sold out.

There were plenty of spaces on Saturday and everything felt a little flat. Hammond is no fool and is quick to point out that this time around the club have an awful lot of work to do if they are to win promotion.

I cannot blame North End for adopting a defensive strategy - and manager Alan Irvine was well pleased with his team's disciplined display - but the onus is on Reading to respond positively to just such a tactic.

Coppell, himself, was quick to acknowledge that he might have to look at the way his team approaches home games from now on.

But despite their recent goal drought I wouldn't be surprised if the end of the season brought with it an outcome that forced even Coppell to smile.


  • Comment number 1.

    Although I only really watch the Premier League, I really enjoyed watching Reading in the 06-07 season, when they nearly got into Europe. Should they get into the PL again, I will be supporting them almost as much as I support my favourite team.

  • Comment number 2.

    I live in Reading so do keep an eye on there results. i must admit I thought they would struggle this season after a few key players left, but I guess you should never underestimate Coppell. he is a shrewd manager and I think Reading will just.....and only just, nick the second spot to get promotion, even though they are looking a little flat.

    Also isnt it wierd how when players leave the Royals there careers start to plummet. Sidwell, Sonko, Shorey, Kitson were all great players at Reading but have struggled (allthough Sidwell is starting to show a glimpse of promise now).

  • Comment number 3.

    So Paul,

    Who do you think will gain promotion this year?

    I really want to say my team (Cardiff) but fear that I am going to jinx us.

    We are the form team at the moment, whereas teams around us and more importantly above us are starting to faulter.

    I was a bit dissapointed to have such a gap between games for fear of us losing momentum.

    Our neighbours Swansea look a good bet for a play-off spot and on there day can beat any team in this division.

    Wolves seem to be suffering from the tag of being 'dead certs' to go up after such an awesome start. Reading don't seem to have scored in an age and Brum don't look overly convincing.

    So what do you reckon?

  • Comment number 4.

    I think we will go up as champions but there is a growing doubt that if we do go up Steve Coppell will leave as he might feel he has done what he has set out to do at the start of this season.

  • Comment number 5.

    The standard in the whole of The Championship is very high and there are a lot of quality teams there.

    I can't see Wolves blowing up and finishing outside the top 2 but i think it could be a good scrap between Brum, Cardiff & Reading for the other automatic place. My money would be on Reading... they have done it before.. most of the team know what they need to do and will be able to guide the youngsters! Guys like Stephen Hunt and Doyle are key to this being international players and give others something to look up to!

    I do think Coppel will leave once they have been promoted though. Scolari for a return to the Prem??????

  • Comment number 6.

    A good post PF. It was interesting to hear the Reading Director of footballs views as reported by you. I was also refreshing to have a a good straight report without having to introduce your 'personality' into the piece.

    There has been a lot of debate about the Director of football role. Your piece seems quite positive in this instance.

    I would be interested in your view as would I think many others in your take on this role. And not just from a Egomania Big 4 perspective. It would be interesting to take A Mr McNulty view on say The Top 10 Premiership clubs contrasting with yours elsewhere. And if the perspectives change outside the 'big ego/personality' manager.
    For instance is Mr Parry at Liverpool effectively A Director of Foottball under another name.

  • Comment number 7.

    Perhaps Steve Coppell's answer of Croydon was because he wants the Palace job back?

    Things haven't been going too well there of late, and Coppell is still much revered there.

  • Comment number 8.

    This was a really good blog Paul. It's so good when people in the game, such as Hammond, give journos a proper insight into football instead of the usual drivel that gets spouted out.

    I'd like to see Reading come back up. They remind me very much of Charlton a few years ago - local, loyal, decent sized fan base, good British manager (referring to Curbishley @ Charlton here), solid group of professionals, well managed in the boardroom.

    Unlike some of the other posters I think Wolves will implode. They seem to be running out of steam a bit and the two strikers, although on fire for most of the year, are not the best IMO. If Birmingham can concentrate a bit more and get some more work out of McFadden I think they and Reading will pip Wolves, with Palace (yes Palace) to sneak up through the play offs.

  • Comment number 9.

    Reading played very well at St Andrews however I feel that Birmingham will last the course.

    Wolves are already starting to pull up and come Easter will have blown it.

    From an ever optimistic Bham supporter,

    The How to Stop Stammering Centre

  • Comment number 10.

    I think the key point is not just that Reading did not dismiss a manager in the usual knee-jerk reaction but also the chairman and board seem to be level headed.
    It has become increasingly clear that you could swap six Premier teams for six Championship teams and the difference would be negligible. (Obviously I mean the bottom six and top six respectively.)
    Good luck to Reading and their pragmatic approach to a game which borders upon the ludicrous at times.

  • Comment number 11.

    The Dangle (cannot be bothered writing the rest) - I know a few people who have been very impressed with Cardiff and reckon they will have a really good go over the next few months.

    Birmingham keep picking up points even if their form has been scratchy, while Mick McCarthy is extremely level headed even if his team are also showing slight signs of the wobbles.

    It would be foolish to write off the likes of the Blades, while Reading are obviously very much in the mix.

    GOOD1878 - I think the director of football - and the wisdom of having such a position - is very tricky indeed. I think everything hinges of his relationship with the manager and whether they both have a clear and accepted understanding of each other's roles.

  • Comment number 12.

    Great to read...Lets hope we can start scoring goals again...I was devastated when the Royals got relagated...we managed to beat Liverpool in that same season..Luckily we did not sell any of our big players in the recent transfer market...I do think Reading will go up and stay up!!!

  • Comment number 13.

    I live and work in Reading and the reason their are empty spaces at the Stadium is because the fan base is small. We are only 35 miles from London and the majority of the population especially to the east of the town support London teams, in main due to family ties.

    I have lived in Woodley a suburb of Reading all my life, i am now 40, and am a Chelsea season ticket holder as is the whole of my extended family. My parents moved to the area in 1965 from West London. Talk down the pub is more about the fortunes of Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs and West Ham then those of Reading.

    I wish them good luck in the future, but given the proximity of London, their fan base is never going to be huge.

  • Comment number 14.

    There's all this talk of Palace, Sheff Utd, Cardiff, Swansea etc for play-off spots, but no-one has seemed to notice Preston yet. We've taken points off all the big clubs, and it's only our away form that has let us down so far. We've had a very tough run of 5 or 6 matches and we're still in 6th (although a game ahead of the teams below). We have one of the best managers in the league and play some of the best football.

    Don't be surprised if PNE are still up there at the end of the season!

  • Comment number 15.

    Devestated with relegation last season, it was little things such as loosing 7-4 at Pompey when a 7-5 loss would have been enough.

    Brum have let there fans down and look desperate. Every goal they have scored recently has been rather lucky, the Burnley goal was a joke and their goal at home against Cardiff. If they pull the strings they may sort it out, but I just dont see it.

    Wolves, Wolves Wolves, reputation for starting seasons better than ending them and the finaly will proove that once again, weak at the back too.

    Reading have woried me recently, I dont think its a huge problem because the right people are there to sort them out. James Harper for instance has been woefull this year, i'd love to give him cash to send him on his way at the moment and bag Andy Surmen from the saints.
    The attack deeply concerns me. People keep saying midfield but minus Harps thats our second best area (behind defence), we where reputated in the prem for a stronger attack than defence. In that area Coppell brought Dave Mooney who I have not seen yet.. Doyle hasnt scored recently, Lita seems hot n cold and Noel keeps getting injurys in matches. Shane Long seems to play much better in an Irish kit.

    Reading and Cardiff to go up..

    Swansea and Palace play-off final. Brum and Wolves on performances in the past months dont deserve to go up when you have the 2 welsh teams playing outstanding football at times. This article lists why Reading are 1 of the 3 going up perfectly.#

    Com'on the Royals, good to see a team in the blog who dosnt sack there manager just because they have had a string of "bad results"

  • Comment number 16.

    Stunned to see Palace mentioned as play off contenders, frankly at the moment we aren't good enough.

    Coppell is indeed revered at Palace, but our wise and mighty chairman pushed him out when he first came and is unlikely ever to admit to a mistake so I don't see him coming back to us (sadly).

    If we can't have him then I can't think of a friendlier club than Reading to get the benefit of his abilities.

    Regarding promotion, then on paper it should be Reading and Brum, but Brum really need to find some fluency and soon. Wolves are just about grinding out results, but realistically when we get to the end of April it starts to become a dog fight and all the leading clubs drop points left right and centre. I have a feeling that Sheff. Utd will go up from the play offs, with Reading and one from the midlands as the automatic spots.

    Hope I am wrong and Palace find form again!

  • Comment number 17.

    As Eewires says, Palace are not good enough right now, although in contrast to Wolves, we do have a habit of making late runs into the play-offs.

    Also agree that Simon Jordan will not admit to a mistake so it is unlikely we will see Coppell back at Selhurst until he hands over the reins and that Reading are a club worthy of his managerial skills.

    As for who the top teams are right now, I have them ranked in order as Cardiff, Reading, Swansea, Burnley, Wolves and QPR.

  • Comment number 18.

    Nice one Fletch well written piece it's always nice to see our little club get some credit.

    Relegation was horrible but the reason we didn't all end up in a totally suicidal depression afterwards wasn't because we knew we'd go straight back up, in fact that's nowhere near being guaranteed, but it was because we trusted our chairman and had faith that our club would still be in a position to compete, Reading wasn't gonna end up in a free fall because of it.

    Reading has never relied on big bux spending, we had the lowest wage bill in the prem less than half the size of the next lowest paying club. But we must be doing something right because we're not a selling club either, players have been comfortable staying even when things get hard. Maybe it's because there's been consistent growth since Madejski came along and players and staff like being apart of it.

    If we do get back up this year maybe it'll show other club chairmen that the knee jerk firing of managers is not always the answer.

    kevthered83 - with the exception of Sidders it's not only players careers that have taken a dip after leaving the club in recent years how about Pards, and McGhee! maybe someone's been mixing potions somewhere ;)

  • Comment number 19.

    Nice to see some recognition of our clubs decency and honesty in a game that seems to be rapidly losing such qualities.
    This season may prove yet to be a blessing in disguise, with the removal of players who felt they were bigger than the club and the emergence of some very talented youngsters (Pearce, Karacan, Henry, Kelly) as well as two more typical Coppell bargains in Noel and Armstrong, who have arguably similar abilities to Kits and Shorey, but still have the hunger and passion the latter began to lack.

    That being said we still need to secure promotion and i have a ever increasing feeling that it may well come down to the wire (our last game is against birmingham) as there really are 6 or so teams good enough to go up. Should we return to the premier league I think there will be even more pride felt for a team of players who didn't give up on the club and fought harder than the year we walked it. So much recognition and praise should be given to Kev who could easily walk into several first teams in the prem but commited to us before the transfer window opened.

    Should we miss out there is a large feeling of doom and gloom regarding Doyle and Hunt and several players who can't be held back forever. But hopefully the hunger and drive of what is a talented and determined squad should see us through. All the best to our rivals too. Hopefully see you in the prem next year.

  • Comment number 20.

    I hope that reading win championship, they deserve to get promoted due to the forward thinking of the board in highlighting the importance of keeping Steve Coppell.

    I am also looking forward to Reading playing the scottish champions(Celtic) at end of season.


  • Comment number 21.

    I'm glad there has been some good feedback about Reading. I have to say that every time I have been to watch them I have impressed by what a well-run and professional club they are.

  • Comment number 22.

    I think Reading will get promoted this season as they have a good squad that has kept players which have been consistent and have played for the club for a number of seasons. Its run simply with the manager left to look after the football side of things and its a real bonus that Madejski has done this in the best interest of the town. There is a good fan base, with fans all over Berkshire.

    I think Reading and Wolves will go up, Reading edging it by a few points. For the playoffs, Birmingham vs Swansea Final. Birmingham win 2-1. If Reading get promoted perhaps Michael Owen might be a transfer target...

  • Comment number 23.

    It wasn't a bus. It was The Beast

  • Comment number 24.

    i do think we're lacking a few goals of late but if you look at our last 4 games its not too surprising- away to an in-form swansea (who put pompey out of the cup a week later), home to the league leaders, away to qpr who have been notoriously tight at home and then at the madejski against a well-organised preston side who came for a point and got what they wanted.

    only a couple of times on saturday did we show glimpses of what we're capable of- that's football of a premier league standard and hopefully we'll be doing that next year.

    the reinclusion of leroy lita shows that Reading is an attractive club for players (although perhaps not all in wages) and how keen the club is to get good, honest players in who want to play for us.

    i'd say us and wolves automatic promotion and i'd fancy burnley or cardiff in the play-offs.

    c'mon urrzzzzzzzzz

  • Comment number 25.

    Whatever happens I am going to try to enjoy this season. There is so much negativity from some Reading fans at the moment: ones who seem to think we have a divine right to Premiership status and criticise Hunt and Harper for any performance that is less than Kaka quality. If we go up, I will be delighted. If we stay down, I'll just look forward to the next promotion season (probably back into the Championship in 2012).

  • Comment number 26.

    My mate supports reading, and, being mates, we always take the micky out of him. But, realisticaly, im really impressed with Reading. Most teams that get relegated you dont see again, but reading have proven that by sticking with the same manager that got a top half finish, and keeping most of the players that secured that finish, that anything is possible.

    There is 1 thing ide want to ask you Paul, what do you think on QPRs chances of getting into the prem. My father is a QPR supporter and i said if they came up ide take him to see them play spurs ;)

    Im just curious as to what your views would be on QPR.

    Again, well done Reading.

  • Comment number 27.

    spurs4everr - don't think for a moment that I am writing off QPR this season. I went to see them play before Christmas and was very, very impressed with what the new coach Paulo Sousa had to say and the football his team played. He was an intelligent man who talked a lot of sense and his team are just three points off the play-off zone.

    And if they go up how much money will be thrown at the project then.............

  • Comment number 28.

    Pyrennean and Pne dotie , we know but nobody else gives us a chance , not even a mention yet we are still there ! It would be a surprise to us if we did it and an incredible change round since last seasons fight for survival .
    I think Reading will win it with Wolves , Brum or Cardiff 2nd and PNE a fighting chance to get to POff final . Who knows but please keep forgetting we exist because we thrive off it !!!
    The real form teams at present are Swans , QPR and Bristol City !
    Good article , always liked Stevie Copple always seems in control even when under incredible pressure a bit like Alan Irvine in that respect .
    Up the Whites

  • Comment number 29.

    Great Article Paul Mate,

    I kinda like Reading, I had a lot of time for them when they were in the Premiership, they were definitely a team that I didnt want to go down as I liked their approach to games and the honesty that Steve Coppell had, and also as you say his Dry Wit - loved his comment when people were banding him around for(at the time) the vacant England job - and he replied along the lines of 'well the press and media keep pronouncing and speeling my name wrong by putting an O at the end' - haha brilliant

    Its really nice to see a team that has a very good structure on place, seems to be run very well and sensibly with a long term plan for success, wish them all the luck to achieve their goals and hopefully stay there?!

  • Comment number 30.

    Last game of the season -

    Reading Vs Birmingham.

    Thats the promotion clincher!

    As a Reading fan I am proud of the way the club is run - Coppell's transfer policy is so effective - he just keeps un-earthing new gems! Great to see the youngsters coming through aswell, the ones our on loan look very good, and we've already lost a couple of good players that have come from the youth team - Simon Church of Swindon came from us, as did Nathan Tyson of Forest.

    We may not have a big history, but we certainly have a big future, and that's why players like Kevin Doyle show loyalty to the club, because they believe in the philosophy aswell.

    We are a growing club, and like i said, i'm proud of the way we are doing it - not just throwing money into it like the likes of MK Dons!


  • Comment number 31.

    yes, great blog Paul, thanks, As a READING fan of nearly 46 years (even from New Zealand at present) it's pleasing to see the recognition for once. Sure, we're low on goals at present but look at the goal difference, shows we can score.
    Thanks to the Chairman, Manager, Director of Football, and not forgetting Wally Downes (and all the other staff), shrewd purchases and a a good flow of young players from the Academy and reserve, will, I hope, see us back in the Premier next season (and back on TV in NZ), WHERE WE SHOULD BE. A club with a genuine and honest approach, proving that spending big money is not always the it Chelsea? Holding onto great managers, and having faith, even in difficult times is a refreshing attitude.
    It's a shame to see Kitson & Shorey struggling, but Sidders is improving by each game.
    Yes, there are other good sides in the Championship and I am not sure who will be there at the end, but wouldn't be surprised to see Swansea, Cardiff or PNE, along with the Brum's and of course Wolves, after so many years out of the limelight. So long as READING make it without play-offs I will be happy.
    Thanks again Paul, and all those other bloggers kind words for our great club. Hope to see them more in the Premier when I return to the UK, hopefully next year.

  • Comment number 32.

    Great to see so many positive comments, I always suspected we were most fans' second club when we were in the top flight and its good to see that Coppell and the boys are still getting the respect they deserve even though we are outside the Premier League.

    Madjeski and Hammond have been absolutely vital in getting us to where we are today. I remember watching Hammond play for us at Elm Park (not the greatest keeper but his high pitched squeals never failed to entertain the Tilehurst Road End) and he has been instrumental in getting one of the countries oldest clubs out of the mire of lower league football. A lot of people wrongly accuse RFC of having no history, but we have been around since 1871 (albeit successful only in the last 10-15 years, unles you count the Simod Cup win in '88)

    We should go up (I don't really care if we win the thing, as long as we are promoted that'll do me) and I think Brum have a strong enough squad to take second, with Cardiff or Swansea winning the playoffs. Basically anyone but Wolves and I'll be happy!


  • Comment number 33.

    nice to see a club well run and positive.

    but they dont have a rep to interest me. and i really dont want to see any more clubs from the south east in the pl.

    so best of luck but hope you stay in the championship.

    rather see wolves and another midland team make it.

  • Comment number 34.

    Really good article!! I think Reading will finish in the top 2 with Wolves. Reading have the experience and If theres 1 thing Mick Mcarthy can do its get a team in the premiership. Birmingham have all the players but they lack a bit of spirit and I think top 2 will be just a bridge too far for Cardiff.

    Its shaping up for a quality end to the season!! Comon you Royals!!!!

  • Comment number 35.

    Phew - I'm much more confident about Wolves' chances now that you've given Reading your kiss of death, Paul! Every time you've said anything good about a club or a player this year their form and prospects have plummetted....

  • Comment number 36.

    Reading are a good club, they have a good manager and a nice ground and all the foundations to be "the next wigan"

    I hope they win the league. Wolves seem to be dropping off a little and Birmingham are just awful.

  • Comment number 37.

    Reading have a great record of plucking players from the lower leagues, like Kitson, Hunt etc and cast-off from bigger sides like Sidwell and Harper. Its great how many of the promotion team of three years ago are still there.

    They are a club I've always had a soft spot for ever since they failed to get promotion in the nineties despite finishing 2nd in Div 1. This was due to the reduction of teams in the Prem and so only the Champions of Div 1 went up automatically that year. Desperately unlucky.

    PS, my team (Bognor Regis Town FC) have a lad on loan from Reading at the moment. 18 years old and he's awesome. Reminds me of Tevez. Jahson Downes is his name and hes destined for decent things I reckon.

  • Comment number 38.

    Reading have been far and away the best team I've seen down at Ashton Gate this year. I'd be somewhat suprised if they didn't go straight back up this year.

  • Comment number 39.

    My earlier comment was meant to say Simon Cox of Swindon, not Simon Church - before i get ciritcised!

  • Comment number 40.

    Good artcile and reflects, I feel, what a well-run club Reading are. I have faith in what they do so I trust that all is in gear for a return to them Premier League. However, talk is cheap and they need to elevate their performances - teams simply defend against is now and we need to be able to break them down - eg, Preston who were time-wasting after 46 mins ! Cardiff are the main threat this season.

  • Comment number 41.

    Derby last year was a really strange match. Winning 4-0 meant for some reason going down didn't feel so bad. I think this is partly because I felt we would breeze to promotion, as looking at the Championship it seemed really weak.

    However the league is stronger than I thought. Although there are no stand out teams there are a lot of very good teams that can go on unbeaten runs as Swansea, Cardiff and QPR are doing now. I always thought we would win the league though, and still do because we have the best 'team' with some quality players (big shout to doyle who has always expressed his desire to stay and be loyal to the club which made him the player he is). Birmingham are just a bunch of individuals, while Wolves have a history of cracking up under the pressure. I still think Wolves will hold on for second though.

    We're going through our bad spell at the moment, but still aren't losing. We'll come though and win the league, with Wolves just getting second. If Swansea continue in their current form (by far the best team we've played recently) they'll come through the play offs. With Derby playing in the FA this weekend our match at Pride Park has been delayed until the third to last match of the season. Wouldn't it be ironic if promotion or the title were sealed there?

  • Comment number 42.

    Have been a Gooner all my life but when I moved in 2007 from India to the UK, I settled in Reading due to work commitments and have ever since followed Reading and attended quite a few games at the Madejski with my mates who are mostly locals.

    The biggest problem that Reading have in expanding their fan base is that lots of people who live in this area have their roots in London and therefore support Chelsea, Arsenal or West Ham...Also, the fact that it is a strong community-based club means that they need the visibility of being in the premier league. Having said that, their supporters are a magnificent lot and deserve to go right back up...

    Coming to the actual promotion battle, I think it will go down to the wire and Reading and Wolves will take the automatic two places with Cardiff running the latter really close. I fully expect Birmingham to drop to 4th or 5th with Preston and Palace filling in the other 2 places for playoffs.. who will get through amongst that 4 is anybody's guess....

    Having read most of the previous comments, I'm a little surprised that Steve Coppell has not got much flak from people for the disastrous 2nd half of last season's campaign...While continuity is good and consistency in team selection is often rewarded, no one could argue that he over-did it last season and (mis)placed his faith in quite a few players who let him down badly...It was good of him to coninue this year to help Reading get back but he cannot absolve himself of blame for the debacle of last season..

    I'd love for some decent investors to pump in some more money into the club so that the club can go to the next level and I'd love to see a new manager try to do it as I have a feeling Steve has taken them as far as he possibly can...

  • Comment number 43.

    I'm a Wolves fan and I have respect for Reading - mainly because I'm a big fan of Coppell. He has built a good team there and managed to keep your best players when you went down which in this day and age is not easy!

    I went to the Wolves game at Reading and wasn't very impressed though. As i'm sure most know on here you boys won thanks to an own goal from us in the 1st minute.

    I was pretty surprised with your tactics. After goal you got 10 men behind the ball and scraped the win. I expected after the own goal for you to smash us to be honest!

    Anyway, I still think that you have the best players in the division and apart from the last 4 games have been playing great football. Good luck to you for the rest of the season.

    I'd also just like to say that people need to stop knocking Wolves on here. We are top on merit. Apart from the last 7/8 games we have been a great advertisement for this league - playing fast attacking football, with a load of young English lads and I still think we will go up. Apart from anything else, the vast majority of teams to come to Molinuex this season have been ripped apart!

    Blues have been poor all season with negative tactics and ageing players. They themselves have only won 2 in 8 or and Reading, 1 in 7 or something similar.

    Yes, Wolves are going through a bad run but the clubs close enough to challange us haven't taken advantage. It won't be long before we will get back to winning ways.

    Premiership here we come!

  • Comment number 44.

    I think most teams in the Championship would like some decent investors to pump in some money.

    But that isn't going to happen in this financial climate.

  • Comment number 45.

    I could really do with a water feature in my garden. Could really spice it up. You know i might just get myself one.

  • Comment number 46.

    ok why are everyone on here knocking wolves chances. yes we do start season better and finish them terrible, but who in this league has ever run away with it.... thankyou nobody. The reason is becuase anyone can beat anyone.

    for me reading have been the best flare team this season but the table doesnt lie, tht why we are top.
    swansea are my pick for the playoffs if they get in them, this is because they play some fantastic football.... they cut us open when they came down our place but couldnt capatalise on there chances, all they need is another striker like scotland or in hte mould of a person who picks up the litter in hte box and outside then they would be unstopable in my eyes.
    ppl are tipping preston but i dont think htey have enough in there squad, burnley will do it next year in my eyes and cardiff yes are playing well but they cant dominate games and fail to win them, like when they played brum. that is all they need to do.

    for me its going to be

    wolves - champions
    reading - runners up
    swansea/cardiff - play offs

  • Comment number 47.

    lordtechnosmurf -

    "but who in this league has ever run away with it.... thankyou nobody."

    Got to pick you up on that one mate - when we (Reading) won it we finished with 106 points and totally blew everyone else out of the water. But I get your point, it is traditionally a tight division and certainly this year it will go right to the wire.

    I also agree about Swansea - they fully deserved to beat us and they play some great football. Not sure how they would fair in the Premier League but they would have the 'only Welsh team in the top flight' tag to drum up some extra support/resources. Just hope they keep hold of their gaffer!

  • Comment number 48.

    wolves are faltering, was always going to be the case!!

    Reading to win it
    Cardiff for 2nd
    Swansea in the Playoffs

  • Comment number 49.

    1. Wolves
    2. Reading
    3. Derby

    Best three squads and now Derby has the proper gaffer.

  • Comment number 50.

    Yeah, good blog, but I would like to know why on Earth I cant view much of the other content on the website? I keep getting re-directed to the Olympics home page.

    Not helpful when I want to read about 10 other stories all related to football!

  • Comment number 51.

    Besides, I wouldn't put it past Wolves to re-establish their form but be narrowly beaten to the title by Reading. As for the play-offs, well, take your pick.

    I would really like to see QPR make it to the Premier League as they have quite a bit of money at their disposal, they may indeed make a good go of it rather than sitting at the bottom of the table waiting to be relegated.

    Realistically I'd have to say I fancy Birmingham to make up the three teams coming up, and would fancy next season Derby, QPR and Swansea to all be challenging the mighty Middlesborough, Stoke and West Brom when they all take the fall!

  • Comment number 52.

    Basically you can say that Reading are a premiership side. If they don't go up this season it will be a shock as I think they are the best team in the Championship.

    Steve Coppell is one of the best English managers in English Football and along with the chairman he has steered Reading to a lot of success in recent years.

    Basically the whole squad is Premier League quality.

    I think Reading will go up as champions Wolves are slipping and Birmingham keep getting too many draws.

    I think Reading, Wolves and Sheffield United are going up this season.


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