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The State Of The Reading Nation - Christmas 2015

A very merry Christmas & happy holidays to all of our readers & podcast listeners. To mark the day, Wimb looks at the state of Reading Football Club in 2015.

It was a year of incredible highs and fairly miserable lows for Reading fans who were taken on a more bumpy rollercoaster than usual in 2015.

Our lowest league finish in more than a decade was mixed in with our greatest cup run in nearly a century as we came within minutes of earning a penalty shoot-out that could have earned us a place in an FA Cup Final.

Steve Clarke saw his stock rise, fall and rise again before an ill-fated decision to speak to Fulham saw his reputation with fans damaged beyond repair and results fail to save him. That opened the door for a former hero to return and lift the gloom before a tricky Christmas schedule that could go a long way towards directing our destiny in 2016.

On the playing front we've also had to wave goodbye to a trio of long-serving players, all of whom helped create some wonderful memories. Alex Pearce, Jem Karacan and Adam Federici all had their critics but to see a trio who between them had about 700 appearances all leave in one summer did feel like an end of an era. All three were given their debuts in the club's golden era of 2005-07 and all three had played big roles in the unlikely rejuvination under Brian McDermott in 2011/12. Sadly all three were tainted by the decline that followed but each deserves a warm welcome the next time they pitch up at the Madejski Stadium.

In their place saw a new group arrive and some including Paul McShane and Stephen Quinn have already begun to fill he void and endear themselves to Reading fans. Not all of our signings have hit (Zak Knight & Paolo Hurtado anyone?) yet the very fact we're able to spend again after years of cutting the cloth has been exciting for the fanbase.

It was also a great year for the club's academy as players including Jake Cooper, Aaron Tshibola, Tariq Fosu and Dominic Samuel continued to progress alongside tantalising glimpses of potential from a wider crop of younger footballers. The club's under 21's are now playing at the highest level while it's also worth recognising the efforts of the Reading Women's team who also secured promotion to the top division and saw one of their own represent England's most successful women's side of all time at the World Cup.

Off the pitch it's also been an exciting time for the football club as our Thai owners launched an ambitious redevelopment project in Royal Elm Park, while continuing to win over the fans with solid levels of investment even if some of it hasn't been directed as we'd have liked.

Then we've also had the outright bizzare. From the pitch invasion during the Bradford game, DJ MegaParty & THAT song, there have been a fair few moments to make us smile. However the nasty scenes at the end and during the Bradford game have also reminded us that football isn't always fun.

So where does that leave the football club heading into 2016?

For me, it's in a pretty solid if not spectacular place.

McDermott's reappointment has at least settled if not thrilled the fanbase and he's certainly a manager that knows how to get us back on track in this division. It'll be fascinating to see how he begins to reshape both the team and the squad in January, before a wider rebuild gets underway in the summer. With six loanees on the books plus contracts expiring for Nick Blackman & Chris Gunter, it gives him a lot of flexibility ahead of what'll be our final year of parachute payments from the Premier League. While promotion isn't the expectation this season, the club needs to be seriously contending by this time next year or else McDermott will likely find himself in the same unwanted position as Nigel Adkins & Steve Clarke in Decembers before.....

Finally for us as a website I really feel we've made big strides in the past 12 months. Both the site and podcast continue to grow and we've also been able to welcome on board several very talented new contributors in 2015. Special shoutout must go to WilliamOwain who was a worthy winner of our first annual Writer of the Year award. Also have to say a big thanks to the rest of the senior editorial team here of Jonnafon, MarcMayo, BucksRoyal, Royal Hoops & Olly_Allen without whom the site would run out of energy quicker than Yakubu on a boggy pitch.  Likewise thanks to Jonny, Westy, Handbags & Charles Watts for keeping me sane through some 80+ podcasts over the last 12 months. It was great to be able to head to Manchester for the FBA's last month and celebrate how far we've come since starting back in 2011.

However none of that growth and success would have been possible without each of you reading this. It's been great to interact with so many Reading fans and for everyone who's given us a click and especially to those who've left comments or written pieces for us, you have my heartfelt thanks.

Anyway that's enough from me for now, we'll of course aim to be even better next year but for the mean time have a cracking Christmas.