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          Written off by many, a Royal renaissance may be coming...

          SEASON PREVIEW | Reading FC

          2019/08/02 17:36
          By Matthew Batten | Playmaker Specialist - Reading FC
          E0

          They're the bookies favourites for relegation – so why are Reading fans so positive?

          That’s right, another season approaches where Reading are being tipped to end up in the bottom three. It’s entirely understandable: we haven't had a great time since our relegation from the Premier League in 2012/13 - and five finishes near the bottom of the Championship in the last six years tell their own story. 

          Financially, we appear to be recovering from a crisis of our own making. Parachute payments initally helped us after relegation from the top flight, but once they ended in 2017/18, our turnover dropped drastically. With salary costs ballooning after our play-off final defeat to Huddersfield in 2016/17, we have been hamstrung by bad financial management.

          Yet, there is hope this season. So, what has changed?

          Actually, the first place to look is off the pitch. After paying a high price for the financial irresponsibility and bad recruitment that characterised previous CEO Ron Gourlay's time at the club, the Royals finally appear to be on an even keel. Plans for a new training ground and academy are moving forward, and work has begun on the new train station for the Madejski Stadium. The owners have also offered to pay for travel from their own pockets for the fifteen furthest away days this coming season. The right intentions seem to be there, and with a sensible and experienced CEO in Nigel Howe I’m far more confident we’re being guided in the right direction. 

          ©Getty /

           
          In José we trust

          Since José Gomes joined the club in January this year, we have seen improvements on the pitch too. Marginally at first, with a further uptick as last season rolled on. Our home form became decent after a thoroughly miserable time at the Madejski, with us even starting to pick up results despite poor performances - a good sign evidenced by a last-minute comeback win against Wigan

          The fans have taken to the manager and this has instilled spirit and harmony, which was embodied last season by a group of loanees who wore their hearts on their sleeves more than most of the permanent players. 

          Recruitment

          Now we’re in the midst of a massive summer. Being able to get Chelsea's young central defender Matt Miazga back for the season is huge and young Portuguese goalkeeper Joao Virginia comes highly rated but does need to prove himself. 

          The rest of the recruitment so far hasn’t exactly been inspiring (Charlie Adam and Michael Morrison) but both of those players have shown in pre-season that they should be able to contribute. Adam, particularly, shut me up pretty quickly.

          Academy ready to bear fruit

          However, the real reason for optimism actually comes from within our ranks. We’ve been clear publicly that we aren’t going to let the financial limitations we face this season let us be asset stripped. Keeping Liam Moore is massive, particularly after the partnership that he formed with Miazga last year, along with John Swift who on his day is one of the best attacking midfielders in the league.

          ©Getty / Daniel Hambury

          Even more so is the emergence of academy players last season and over pre- season. Last season Andy Rinomhota’s emergence made him the first name on the teamsheet, with Gomes starting to blood other academy talents with centre-backs Tom McIntyre and Gabriel Osho, right back Teddy Howe, left back Omar Richards, central midfielder Ryan East, attacking midfielder Michael Olise, winger Josh Barrett and attacker Danny Loader all impressing – and all likely to play a role next season.

          Right back Tennai Watson, central midfielder Jordan Holsgrove and striker Andrija Novakovich have all also featured in pre-season. The real promise of the club comes from its academy, and this crop of youngsters needs to be supported as they blossom; this being the age group we’ve been waiting to see emerge for years. If anything, our financial limitations have come at the perfect time. We look like we now have a very fluid set-up at the top of the pitch and a decent sized squad with the right levels of enthusiasm and character. We’ll surprise a few people and I expect we’ll have very solid foundations in place when the financial issues ease up next year.

          Promising times ahead. I hope.

          Many thanks to Matthew for this article; be sure to give him a follow (@maffff) on Twitter.

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