Reasons to be Championship Cheerful

Ben Hoskins

To paraphrase the radio phone-ins: long time reader, first time contributor... For my first article I wanted to write a short note on what we've got to look forward to this upcoming season. So what's new for this year and why am I optimistic?

Signings and how we're doing it

We seem to have embraced the transfer window and taken the opportunity in a really positive fashion. Granted, there's a balance between a Tommy Burns 'have at it' approach but re-signing Alex Pearce was both surprising and pleasing in equal measure. Royston Drenthe, Danny Williams & Wayne Bridge are all, I would say, 'proper transfers' - they look like people we targeted to sign as opposed to seeing who was available on frees or mopping up a few leftovers. I like a positive attitude and the management seem to have a. had the money and b. the will to spend it. Both of which have seemed lacking at times over the past four or five years.

This is a contrast to Steve Coppell/ Brian McDermott's era (Brendan Rodgers brief stint doesn't count in an era does it?) where it appeared we were sometimes looking for bargains in the charity shop as opposed to heading to the Oracle to see what's in the window with the intent of maxing out our shiny high limit credit card. Please don't get me wrong - we've done VERY well in some of our transfers around the less exotic football fringes and we've done VERY badly in some of our marquee signings but I still like the way Adkins has just got on with it. I hope this positive approach rubs off across the club and that his signings pay off for him.

We may win some games

Personally, I felt 2012/13 was pretty horrible to watch, especially after the intense joy around our quite frankly surprise promotion 18 months ago. I felt the club never really committed to being a Premier League quality organisation. I choose the word 'organisation' specifically as opposed to team. The team is obviously the most important and visible sub group of Reading Football Club but only performing as a result of that wider organisation and its ambition, vision and desire.

Our performances on the park were mostly tepid affairs and I think this reflected the lukewarm and dare it say it, slightly anxious and bewildered corporate position: not quite feeling at home amongst the big boys and almost apologetically poking their nose around the door to see if the party was any good, only to slink off quietly early for a good sleep and some cocoa. There were probably reasonable reasons behind this approach, but it seemed that way nonetheless.

At this moment in time, we've cemented ourselves as a proper Championship side. This as a result of the last decade's sterling work by the club and this is our true contemporary milieu. We're bound to win a few games this season, certainly more than 5, and hopefully avoid a Wolves. It'll be good to see more games, more blood and thunder Championship matches and in a division that's a little closer and more exciting. Genuinely I don't think anyone will know who will win this league until late Spring. It'll be nice to have a warm and positive feeling as we leave the ground again. And I'm not talking about the steak and kidney pie after-effects.

The big reveal

Since Anton took over, it's hardly been a stable platform for him. The post Xmas promotion charge to the Premier League, a season in the top flight- these were in reality and over a reasonable timeline, unusual times for our club. I almost felt sorry for Anton - the project of running a football club and winning looked easy for a while and he may have been lulled into a false sense of security. Actually, scratch that, I don't feel that sorry for him seeking solace for the season's woes in the arms of his supermodel wife, relaxing by the pool in Miami, sipping vodka, eating beef stroganoff with diamond cutlery and no doubt supine on a bed of roubles stacked up to the moon while a dozen butlers attend to his every whim. This is probably exactly what he does in the close season.

So now we are back at our 'normal' level - we get to see how Anton actually performs in regular RFC circumstances. What happens when we go on a run of bad form, which invariably will happen? What happens when Nigel's signings don't come off 100%? What crazy walkabouts round the stadium pre kick off and bizarre rallying calls on the PA system? What resources are available between now and end of August and again in the Xmas transfer window? I remember when Leicester were relegated and Sven came in, spending millions (bye bye Matt Mills) and every team in the division raised their game when playing the Foxes. Will we suffer the same way? I suspect it'll be interesting and revealing to see what sort of owner we really have when it comes down to the nuts and bolts of a long, arduous Championship season without the razzmatazz of the Premier League.

What would I actually want realistically from this season? Honestly, promotion or a trip to Wembley in the play off final would be ideal indicating a commitment to the standards and what purport to be the aspirations of RFC. Something in the top 8 would indicate a stabilisation and regrouping ready to build again. Anything less would be a touch disappointing.

Whatever happens, as has probably been said around town for the last 141 years, "don't worry, there's always next season". It's going to be a fascinating and curious ride in 2013/14, can't wait to get started.

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