The 2013/14 Pre-Season: Well laid plans or a shot in the dark?

Jamie McDonald

So we're now a good couple of games into the pre-season and Reading have so far beaten League Two Wycombe 3-1 and drawn 1-1 with Portuguese side Belenenses. While it's great to have football back, how much should we read into friendly results and how much will it tell us about our squad going into the new season?

First thing's first, it's never bad to win a game. Whether that's a 15-0 win against a random team in Slovenia, or an impressive win over a Premier League side, it's always good to get into the winning habit before the season starts. On that basis, it was pleasing to see that Reading get a win in their first meaningful game of the season, while a draw just a couple of days after arriving on a foreign tour isn't a bad result either.

Despite that, it's important not to get too carried away either positively or negatively when looking at results or team lineups. Generally the pre-season is used to try and get players' fitness levels back up and maybe try a few different tactics, hence why you'll see 15,18 or sometimes 22 players used in certain friendlies.

The one that really seems to matter more than most is the final friendly, with last year's 2-0 win over Crystal Palace all but giving away Brian McDermott's team for the following week's opener against Stoke. However, the fact that the 2-0 win was the only time we beat a side in the top two tiers by two clear goals at the Madejski last season, shows how relevant the actual result was.

That day we were a side settled in the transfer department and building from Premier League strength. This season we have to keep in mind that we're down the pecking order and the team we put out come our final friendly against Swansea, could be vastly different from the team we end August with.

Our previous Championship pre-seasons have suffered from similar problems. Shane Long was a fixture throughout the pre-season in July 2011 before being snapped up by West Brom, the year before saw Gylfi Sigurdsson feature throughout the early league games before he went to Hoffenheim while other seasons have seen Dave Kitson, Stephen Hunt and Nicky Shorey all take part in pre-season games only to be gone before the first league game.

This problem is only likely to be worse this season, given the fact that the Premier League starts a full two-weeks after the Football League season. Reading could well find themselves having to sell someone on deadline day, five games into the league campaign. While Reading may say they don't have to sell and don't want to sell, would the club or a player want to turn down a move to a Premier League club who come calling on deadline day after a sudden injury or poor start?

With that in mind Nigel Adkins will be keener than ever to assess all aspects of his squad, hence why you're likely to see more from the likes of Jordan Obita and other youngsters this pre-season. With transfer rumours surrounding players such as Pavel Pogrebnyak, Mikele Leigertwood, Adam Le Fondre and Alex McCarthy, it would be foolish to build around one particular eleven in a set formation. So Nigel Adkins is more than likely going to experiment, hence why results and performances might not be as strong as some fans would like.

With just 17 days until Ipswich arrive at the Madejski, there's a lot to do in a short space of time and the early start might be more of a hindrance than a help this year.

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