We had one happy manager yesterday after the Royals crushed Derby at Pride Park with a 3-0 win on the final day of the 2014/15 season. With the Rams in a situation similar to what we were a year ago, they fell at the final hurdle and missed out on the play-offs. As for us, we have ended our disappointing season on a high and I'm sure we are all looking forward to next season already!
Kwesi Appiah, Michael Hector and Garath McCleary scored for the Royals, Adam Federici also saving a penalty at 1-0. Steve Clarke was absolutely delighted, he told the Official Website, "It's a long overdue win but a terrific performance.
"I'm really pleased for the players because they've not had the breaks that they have deserved. For the supporters that came today, I'm delighted. Everybody thought that we were coming to Derby County's party but we knew that if we played anywhere near our potential then we could cause them a few problems."
"We had almost complete control; very few scares. Obviously the penalty was a big moment in the game, a big save from Adam. He deserved to make the save after the crowd, in my opinion, had given him some 'banter' or whatever you want to call it. Whenever the crowd is like that and tries to wind you up the best way to have retribution is to be involved in a key moment in the game. Adam produced a penalty save and it was a key moment."
This season has seen lots of Academy players make their debuts for the club and Tariqe Fosu made his yesterday after he replaced another debutant, Jack Stacey. Clarke said: "This type of thing is important for the club. This is a club that produces good young players. Our Academy and U21s have been really good this year and, Tarique, Jack and Jake Cooper have all been a apart of that. They all got on the pitch today and that is important for us going forward."
"It was unfortunate that Jack got injured but I was pleased that he went in for the tackle. He was strong and showed that he is committed to Reading Football Club. We want players like that. When I had to turn to the bench to make the change I had six choices and I thought that Tariqe was the best one. He's lively, direct, he runs at defenders and I enjoy that. I used to be a defender myself and I didn't used to enjoy players that run at you with the ball."
Appiah scored his first goal in his final appearance for the club before he returns back to Crystal Palace, Clarke added: "I knew Kwesi would cause them a few problems because Derby's full-backs tend to push on a bit and leave a bit of space. It came off a slack pass from them that Kwesi intercepted and it was a really good finish. It was a big moment in the game and moments like that change the whole complexion of the afternoon."
So, that's it, the 2014/15 season is over. There have been plenty of ups and downs but lots of lessons learnt. The pain of this season will hopefully put us in a better position this time next year. Clarke has been extremely appreciative of the support from Royals fans this season, and yesterday was no different, "We appreciate their support and it's important for them to stick with us."
"I mentioned the other night that I was 100% confident that we wouldn't be at the bottom end of the table next season. You see today why I came out with that statement. This is something to build upon. We have to make sure that next season the performance level is more like this and maybe on the final day of next season we'll have 6,000 supporters following us. That would be fantastic."
"We haven't won enough games since I came here, so I'll enjoy this tonight. Tomorrow, though, I start work on next season."