Reading's return to the Premier League has been pretty depressing, I personally think we are relegated. Some fans are blaming the manager, some fans are blaming various players, lack of investment and so on. In 2006 it was so different. If this season has been like a bad dream 2006/7 was something I never dreamed would happen in my lifetime. Reading in the Premier League and thriving.
Clearly that 106 team was superior to the current vintage. This has been shown by the results though I don't think this is down to poor management. With exception of Nicky Shorey the summer signings in my opinion have failed. I still don't think that this is the issue, In the summer of 2006 we signed very little, Seol, Dela Cruz, Mate and Bikey from memory, hardly relegation saving signings.
For me Brian and Stevie Coppell are the equal of each other as managers. Both have made some terriable signings, Keown, Ferdinand, Halford, Fae and Brooker are players that spring to mind from the Coppell era. While at the moment you could take your pick of the summer signings, with the notable exception of Shorey, for some of Brian's duds.
I don't think the current players can be accused of not trying and I also disagree that the style is too different . There were some terrible lump it performances under Coppell and also under Alan Pardew during their early years.
I think the problem is the period before our latest promotion. When the team failed to get promotion in 2009, much as it hurts to say it probably needed breaking up. After a false start under Rodgers the rebuilding took shape under the guidance of Brian. This is where I think the route of our current problems lie.
When Reading lost the 2001 playoff final I think it may have been a blessing in disguise. It meant that they did not get a lot of the extra money from the ITV sports channel. When this failed the next year and Reading gained promotion they had not counted upon the ITV money. In my opinion this gave Reading a financial advantage over a lot of the other teams in the league.
This combined with the financial backing of Mr Mad meant that Reading were not in the business of selling their best players. When players left the club generally it was on the clubs terms. The only players that left when the club really wanted to keep them was Jamie Ashdown and possibly Andy Hughes in the summer of 2005. The club didn't really spend big in that period. But were able to hold onto their best players such as Dave Kitson, Steve Sidwell etc. They were also able to spend £1m on Lita in the summer of 2005. Reading then managed to add depth to the squad with the signings of the raw Long and Doyle, Gunnarson, Makin and Stack.
Fast forward to the summer of 2010 Reading no longer had this financial advantage, with the recession hitting Mr Madejski very hard. Despite selling Auto Trader in 1998 he has a lot of interests in the printing industry which is seen as an industry in decline. Further to this he was invested in property which as been hit hard by the recession. I would argue that he simply no longer had the money to support the club in the way he did before.
Reading signed Andy Griffin from Stoke and Marcus Williams from Scunthorpe. Shaun Cummings had not managed his amazing turn around in fortunes yet. These players were basically essential and were seen as main stays of the team going forward. That team struggled a little, though we managed to get victory at Leicester with a patched up defence. In part this was due to a piece of magic by Siggy and one of Matt Mills best games for Reading where he made a goal line clearance and scored the winner with head whilst playing with an injury. The thread bare nature of that squad was exposed with Griffin and Williams missing. Gunnarson went off injured, Jobi ended up at right back and Shaun Cummings played at left back. Just as we started to think here we go, we're up and running again, Siggy was sold and Harte was quickly signed along with Zurab on loan. Eventually Reading got their act together but suffered another playoff heartache.
The next summer was again one of upheaval. Matt Mills and Shane Long were lost and again the team struggled. It was not until Jason Roberts arrived in January that the corner was really turned and the rest is history.
To me the reason for our current woes is clear. We were not able to build a team over time like in we could before 2005/06. If our current defence had been together as long as of the 2005/06 model would things be different now? I think to a degree they would. The same can be said all over the team.
We had to add 6/7 signings in order to get numbers for the Premier League campaign. Many fans of other teams told me this summer that we were buying for the Championship and expecting to go down this time. In hindsight they may be right.
I think if we still had Long, Siggy and maybe Matt Mills or Zurab we would be looking at a different position in the table. Unfortunately we couldn't hold onto these players, and I would argue that was for 2 reasons.
2) After 2 years in the Premier League Reading had a higher profile and so attracted greater interest in our players than our last run towards the Premiership before.
Consequently, we couldn't build a team over time that gained steady momentum over a number of years. Brian has constantly had to rebuild in his time as manager. We may or may not have rich new owners that are able to hang onto our best players if and when we get relegated only time will tell.
However for this current Reading Premier League team the new owners have arrived too late as the damage was already done. You could well argue that we got promoted too early and just when we weren't ready for it. Were we ready in 1995? I think 1995/96 would have been a long hard depressing season and as I recall, it wasn't too great anyway.
So if and when relegation comes, don't blame the players, don't blame Anton and don't Blame Mr Mad. Don't blame Brian, blame the recession. Depending whose fault you think the recession is you may even want to blame the bankers. It's amazing how you can blame everything that is wrong in the world on the bankers....