On The Road Again
So it's back to the grind of the Championship, with 23 trips to make instead of last year's 19. In all Reading supporters will have to travel over 7,000 miles if they're to watch every game away from home next year, that's nearly a thousand more than the 6,130 miles we traveled during the 2011/12 Championship season.
(all distances are round trips in miles, midweek away games in bold)
The various ups an downs of the past couple of seasons have hurt Reading in terms of friendly journeys. With short trips to Crystal Palace, Southampton, West Ham, Portsmouth and Bristol City all gone from our schedules and replaced by long trips to Wigan, Bolton, Blackburn and Huddersfield. The promotions of Brentford and Yeovil as well as the relegation of QPR has helped things a bit, but there's still an overall distance increase of 15%.
On the positive side, there's currently only four midweek away trips scheduled and with one of those on Boxing Day, Reading fans will hopefully avoid the need to take too many days off in the week.
Fast Start or False Dawn?
Reading were notoriously slow starters under Brian McDermott but it never did them any harm, with finishes of fifth and first achieved with just 12 points in 2010 and just eight in 2011. Throw in a fourth placed finish with just 10 points from 24 in 2002 and you can see how open the Championship really is.
In terms of this year we'll be facing teams who generally finished the past campaign well. Ipswich were on a steady upward curve under Mick McCarthy, Bolton just narrowly missed out on the play-offs and both Watford and Brighton lost out in them last season. Yeovil will be hoping to keep up their momentum after coming up while a certain Leeds manager will need no extra motivation when his side arrive at the Madejski in mid-September. Throw in two tricky trips to Blackpool and Derby and you begin to remember just how tough the Championship really is.
The Final Countdown (do do do do)
Again, just as they were slow starters, Brian McDermott's recent Championship sides were notorious for strong finishes and this season offers a good opportunity to repeat such feats with a relatively decent looking run-in.
Our final eight games include home games with Huddersfield, Leicester, Middlesbrough and Burnley, while games away at Charlton, Bournemouth, Wigan and Doncaster are reasonably kind in Championship terms.
Sir Steve Coppell used to bemoan us being away after international breaks, and last season we were beaten in three out of three after an international break, so here's some to avoid....
Watford (H) August 17
Brighton (H) September 14
Blackburn (A) November 23
Brighton (A) March 8
So Reading haven't got it too bad this year, with the exception of the trip to Ewood Park in November that isn't exactly an easy trip at the best of times.
Obviously all of these dates are subject to change due to cup dates, tv and rainy days in August, while who knows who will be a strong or a weak team come the end of the season. What's nice above anything else is the simple fact that we'll be playing regular games and avoiding the sort of ridiculous scenario that left us without a game for nearly three weeks.
So what have you made of the fixture list this year? Which games are you looking forward too and which will you be avoiding? Let us know in the comments below.