I've tried to avoid some of the more obvious talking points about this season; ownership troubles, injury lists and Garath McCleary's fantastic strikes this season (which you can see on our goal of the season vote article here), are all well-documented, especially here on the Tilehurst End!
1. Similarities to 2008/09
One of the big things that stands out for me about this season is how remarkably similar it was to Steve Coppell's last season, the ill-fated attempt to bounce straight back after our first relegation from the Premiership. Having been relegated, the side stayed in the promotion race for all of the season without ever cementing a place in the targeted spot (the top two or the playoffs). Throughout that period, a solid and dependable left back emerged as the man in form who would eventually go on to win player of the season. However, an inability to win at home in the second half of the season after a heavy home win at the end of January led to the Royals dropping out of the race despite a good away record. With promotion attempts ultimately killed off by Burnley, several long-term players were released at the end of the season. Uncanny, isn't it?
2. Bouncing back
The logical extension of that 2008/09 analogy is that things are going to get worse before they're going to get better. For the next few years after that season, we bounced around the Championship on a tight budget whilst established players left, to be eventually replaced by academy graduates and bargain buys from the Premiership's player car boot sale. But, as we all know, that ultimately led to a return to the big time, and I wouldn't bet against history repeating itself. At the moment, we look to be in a pretty weak position due to failing to seal promotion (or new ownership), but I'm confident that things will get better. Why do we fall? So that we can learn to pick ourselves back up.
3. Did the fans play their part?
One thing that emerged several times this season was the negative atmosphere that creeps over the Madejski when things aren't quite going to plan. In particular, the booing of players over the Christmas period and throughout the winless streak at home must have had an effect on our fortunes this season - I even remember some booing the team off after the 1-0 win at home to Charlton in December. When such a hostile, negative aura fills the stadium, for me there's no question why the team struggled to pick up points at the Mad Stad. In contrast, it was a supportive, positive atmosphere from the fans that saw the Royals break that winless streak with a 2-0 win over Middlesbrough - Garath McCleary said as much to the press following the game. In other words we, as fans, have a responsibility to help the players perform. If every stray pass or unsuccessful attack is greeted with groans and jeers, why do we then expect the team to win at all?
4. Overrated Alfie?
It might seem odd to criticise the club's top scorer when he's finished the season with 15 goals despite having relatively few chances, but I still feel that Adam Le Fondre, the fan favourite for many supporters of the club, had a poor season. When you look at the break down of his goals this season, some alarming things stick out. Excluding his back-to-back hat tricks in January, there's a five month gap in scoring between December and April, and in total Alfie only managed three away goals all season - all of them from the penalty spot. As long as he sticks the ball in the net that's the important thing, but I'm not convinced that he's as good a striker as some make him out to be. He may be the goal-scorer that Reading deserves, but he's not the one that we need right now.
5. The best manager for the job
As sure as the sun rises every day and sets every night, so too does the #AdkinsOut movement strike up when Reading loses, and die down when we win... except that that's how it used to be. The closing weeks of the Championship campaign for Reading were as painful and heart-attack inducing as ever, but there now at least seems to be a consensus amongst the fans that wasn't there for the earlier parts of the season - that Nigel Adkins is the best man for the job. His unrealistic expectations at the start of the season and tactics employed until the New Year drew the mockery of many, but few would lay the blame for this season's failings at his feet. With the academy playing the brand of football that Nigel craves, we could start to see some effective passing football at the Madejski over the next couple of seasons.
Bonus 6. The Tilehurst End Rises
It's been a great year for the Tilehurst End as a whole, with visits to the site rocketing and some really lovely pieces coming up - Jon Keen's excellent piece on the Reading Chronicle story certainly sticks in the memory. For various reasons though, this season's been one of new adventures for the blog. I myself have only been here since January as one of three new assistant editors alongside @ThatMarcMayo and @RoyalHoops, and we have lovely new shiny features like the News Desk and a couple of debates up on the site (safe standing and Jobi's legend status). Plus, this is also the first season in which we've had the very ‘5 Things' feature which you're reading right now! You can see the first edition of it here. All in all, it's been a great year for the site, onwards and upwards!
What were your key talking points from the season?