So ten games down and it's fair to say we've already been on a bit of a roller coaster, certainly life is never dull as a Reading fan. From the last minute comebacks against Millwall and Bristol City, to losing to a fluke goal at Hull, beating Mills and mighty Leicester at the Walkers and delivering the killer blow to Sean O'Driscoll's reign as Doncaster manager.... just another typical season then!
After all of that we're in 15th place in the Championship with 12 points from a possible 30, 10 behind leaders Southampton and 6 clear of bottom side Bristol City.
Every game has an impact and every game is important but how much do our points and league placing today impact where we finish after a full 46 games? Below the jump I'll look back on our recent starts to the season and see if we have anything to worry about, or be optimistic about.
Reading points/position after 10 games and season's end
PTS (10) POS (10) PTS (FINAL) POS (FINAL) PTS
2002/03 13 12th 79 4th 63
2003/04 14 10th 70 9th 56
2004/05 21 1st 70 7th 49
2005/06 23 2nd 106 1st 83
2008/09 22 3rd 77 4th 55
2009/10 10 19th 63 9th 53
2010/11 16 7th 77 5th 61
2011/12 12 15th ?? ?? ??
So we've finished the season higher then where we've been at this stage 5 times out of 8. The bad news is that this is our second worst start to a season in our last eight seasons at this level, behind only Brendan Rodgers ill-fated spell at the club.
On the bright side, Alan Pardew's 2002/03 side were just one point better off at this stage and still finished fourth, and last season we were only four points better off on our way to a fifth placed finished.
Even a great start doesn't always lead to glory. In 2004/05 we were top of the table after ten games with 21 points, but could only manage 49 the rest of the way to finish outside the play-offs.
But what do we need to do to make the play-offs from this point on?
Since 2003, the average to make the play-offs has been 73 points, meaning we'd need another 61 points from 36 games to make the play-offs an average of 1.7 a game, a significant increase from the 1.2 we're averaging right now. We've managed to earn that many points or more three times in the past though, in 2002/03, 2005/06 and most notably last season, when we managed 61 points from this point on to finish in the top 6.
It would be wildly optimistic to expect this current crop to replicate the form of our Championship winning team, but this squad has the same potential as the team from 9 years ago, and contains 9 of the 11 who went all the way to Wembley last season. In both of those seasons we had to make adjustments to our playing style to succeed, with Pardew's move to 4-5-1, and McDermott's move to 4-4-2 occurring well into the start of the season and with significant success. Personell wise both teams had a mid season aquisition that also helped turn the tide. Pardew signed Steve Sidwell in the Januay of 2003, while last year's loan signing of Mikele Leigertwood proved key for Brian.
So the stats show us that it's not time to panic just yet. Three times in eight years we've managed the points that will probably be needed to make the play-offs and with a bit of luck and a signing or two, we might just be able to repeat the trick again.