This season in the Championship has already seen some surprise teams and some surprise results. One club who wasn’t fancied at the start of the season to make a promotion push was Reading, with many bookies pricing the club at 25/1 or higher to gain promotion. Once the transfer window closed the odds dropped for the club to make a real push for promotion some have the club at 10/1 or 12/1 now. So how come the club has now joined the promotion chasers according to the bookies?
In September 2014 Sir John Madejski sold the club to a Thai consortium. This way the club has had a healthy investment of money, the sort of money needed to mount a promotion challenge. With Steve Clarke at the helm, who many still consider to be unlucky to have been sacked by West Brom, they have a proven Premier League manager, who is tactically very astute. The club really didn’t set the league alight after the first three games of the new season, with an average return of three points out of a possible nine. Since then though the transfer window has been and gone, and the business done by the club at the end of this period was a stroke of brilliance.
Prior to deadline day the investment was concentrated on improving their defence, after suffering heavy defeats and conceding 69 goals last season this was the real priority for Steve Clarke and his bosses. The arrival of Paul McShane from Hull was a very pivotal signing for the Royals, making the Republic of Ireland international their club captain which shows just how much Clarke rates him. The signing of two top goalkeepers for a Championship club is difficult but Reading managed to sign Ali Al Habsi from Wigan and Jonathan Bond from Watford, both would not look out of place playing within the Premier League. Michael Hector was loaned back to the club after his dream £4 million move to Chelsea, he is a big player for Reading also but adding him and McShane with Anton Ferdinand, gives them a real stability at the back.
Steve Clarke set his sights on Stephen Quinn and signed him from relegated Hull, looking for his hard work and endeavour to impact on his teammates, another big signing for the club adding even more Premier League experience amongst their ranks. The arrival of Alex Fernandez on loan from Espanyol also gave the Reading fans a stir as the centre of midfield now looks strong for Reading, adding the highly rated Oliver Norwood, Danny Williams and Aaron Tshibola to the ranks this an area which Clarke can use certain players for certain games and tactically using formations and systems to beat teams. The attack got significantly improved which Clarke has come out and expressed his pleasure at the improvement in this area.
Last season Nick Blackman received criticism from the fans but he is now adored by the Royal supporters, his return of 8 goals from 11 goals playing from the right hand side has already surpassed his total of the last two seasons. The additions of on loan, Lucas Piazon the highly rated Chelsea attacker, Watford’s Matej Vydra for a loan fee of 2 million and Ola John on loan from Benfica. This has really given Reading an edge in the attacking third and gives them a lot of dimensions to their play, Orlando Sa a signing at the beginning of the transfer window gives them the muscle up front to retain the ball, and his instincts in front of goal are much improved from his first spell in England. Garath McCleary returning from injury adds even more pace amongst their attack with the Welsh international Hal Robson-Kanu really giving Clarke a wealth of options in attack which he will need to really overcome teams around the top of the division.
The club has now won 4 away games on the bounce and are improving all the time at home where they struggled for so much of last season. With the wealth of Premier League experience around the club they really have a strong mentality around the place as well as a winning mentality. With the board spending their money wisely, in terms of higher wages and not expensive fees the club is in a good position financially, next season if they gain promotion though the money could really implode on the club with the additional television money, the task to get the club promoted is really very rewarding all around. Can Reading and Steve Clarke get them back to the top? If they keep everyone fit and happy they will be no doubt in amongst the mix to gain promotion.