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How Important Is Momentum For Reading FC From One Season To The Next?

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As we stare into the abyss of an inconsequential run-in, Marc takes a look at how important momentum has been for Reading teams in the past, and how this current squad can relate.

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The High-flyers

If there was one thing you could guarantee with Brian McDermott teams of old, it was a strong sprint to the finish line. It's fair to say that each of his original three seasons in the Championship saw Reading generate serious momentum in the latter stages, starting with his first campaign in 2009/10.

With survival assured by a near-flawless February and unbeaten March, the Royals tailed off slightly with just three wins in their final nine games. Nevertheless, the following year saw them keep their spirit and finish fifth. Once again, they took momentum from 2010/11 into the next campaign, bar a jarring play-off defeat to Swansea.

Four straight losses early on in the 2011/12 season were paid off by an unbeaten September and October as the Royals rediscovered their touch, remembering how good they'd been last season, to win the title. At the time, much was made of how Reading were top of the table on a calendar year basis, proving their momentum, which they took to the top of the tree for real in May 2012.

The Drop-offs

There was something up with Reading in 2009. While the lack of momentum from the season previous is skewed by dropping down a division, all form deserted them from February onwards and Coppell's men famously finished fourth in a three-way title fight. There was no momentum whatsoever for new boss Brendan Rodgers to capitalise on.

Forgotten a season? Angry at my sympathy for Rodgers? Comment below.

Say what you like about Brendan, but he joined a team that hadn't won at home since January, something that clearly took the squad's mind hostage as the Northern Irishman extended that run until November. Coming into a losing team is desperately hard and perhaps Rodgers was doomed even before he'd signed the contract.

Similarly, Steve Clarke had made his own bed with a woeful end to the 2014/15 season, winning just five league games in the 2015 segment of the season. Taking that into the current campaign, Clarke went the first four games without a victory before a promising September flirt with the play-offs turned out be the exception rather than the rule. Consequently, the Royals won only two of their final 13 Championship games in the wretched year that was 2015.

The Blooded Youngsters

One of the more popular calls, certainly in this day and age, was given a go as the 2003/04 season ebbed away, with final day hopes of a play-off break-in foiled by Watford. It appeared manager Coppell had one eye on the following season some time before that, with Bas Savage, Jamie Ashdown and Dean Morgan all given a good go in the latter weeks. Sadly, this doesn't always come to good effect as none of those players would play a big role in the following season or ever again in Berkshire.

A word also to the 1996/97 side that gave Neville Roach and Byron Glasgow their debuts on the final day, again two players who went on to careers less impressive than this year's Reading Festival line-up. Also, the following season saw Reading finish bottom. Sorry.

The New Guards

Finally, there is one type of seasonal transition that is perhaps even more pertinent in 2016 than the others. That is, when squad turnover is so massive that there is exceedingly little room for momentum to have any impact. When Reading sat top of the Championship table on September 25 2004, it seemed that Steve Coppell had assembled the perfect squad.

All that was needed was a touch of experience and the Royals would have a real shot at the Premier League. In came Les Ferdinand and Martin Keown; Reading won just five games in their last 20, and they finished seventh. What followed was a changing of the guard. Middling talent such as Lloyd Owusu and Paul Brooker were sent packing while Ferdinand was released along with Ricky Newman and Arsenal legend Keown.

A big shift in the dressing room had been made, in came younger and hungrier players, a total of 12 signed in the summer of '05. I need not recount what happened next. Alas, with six loanees heading home and nearly as many out of contract in the upcoming summer, a good summer in the transfer market may be more important to a positive 2016/17 than anything else.