"We've got the record, 106."
That's one of my favourite Reading chants. Sure, it's hardly the most inventive of songs to come out of Y26, but I love it for another reason. It's a proud, succinct reminder of the club's finest hour, when Steve Coppell's 2005-06 side steamrolled the second division to establish themselves in the history books as the finest team ever seen outside the Premier League.
But now, with Newcastle United back in the second division, our record could very well be under threat. The relatively new manager Rafael Benitez has, in part thanks to parachute payments, probably the biggest budget to play with the Championship has ever seen. Already this summer, the Magpies have brought in Dwight Gayle, Matt Ritchie and several others for a combined gross spend of £45.5m.
With figures like that going around, it's no surprise that Newcastle United are the firm favourites to win the division. Indeed, some have speculated that they could very well break Reading's 106 points record.
I'm not convinced, and here's why.
Are they actually that good in the first place?
Can you really say with strong assurance that a team that's just been relegated is actually that good? There is without doubt plenty of quality in the Newcastle squad, with the likes of Matt Ritchie, Dwight Gayle, Tim Krul and more proved at Premier League or upper Championship level. On paper, last season's Newcastle side was good enough to avoid relegation.
And yet they still went down. Despite the arrival of Benitez, a very talented squad simply didn't perform well enough to avoid the drop. At the very least, that shows that it doesn't go without saying that he will be able to get the most out of his players. Speaking of Benitez...
Is Rafa Benitez the right man for the job?
His managerial CV speaks for itself. In an illustrious career, the Spaniard has taken charge of Valencia, Liverpool, Inter Milan, Chelsea, Napoli and Real Madrid, winning silverware in Spain, England and Italy.
But this is a very different challenge for Benitez. Although it's quite clear that he's suited to getting high-profile players to perform at the top level of the game, does that translate well to Championship football? Perhaps not. Unlike at any of the previously mentioned sides, Benitez now has to organise and motivate an under-motivated, under-performing squad.
It's straightforward enough to get players pumped up for a big game against Chelsea, Juventus or Barcelona. Can you say the same about a mid-week trip to a rainy Rotherham?
The pressure is on
Here's one of the biggest differences between today's Newcastle United and the Reading of eleven years ago: expectation. The Reading side that Steve Coppell took charge of would have been happy with a Playoff finish, let alone automatic promotion, let alone a record-breaking season. Because of the pressure very much being off them, the 2005-06 Royals were able to play without fear.
The reverse is true for the Magpies, for whom anything less than a title win would be a major disappointment. Despite relegation, expectations have been ramped up by the retention of Rafa Benitez as manager and the vast investment of funds in signing new players.
With every point dropped, or even with any sub-par performance, comes mounting pressure from both the media and the club's large fanbase. That could have a big impact on the field, especially in matches at St James' Park in front of 52,000 disgruntled Geordies.
Recent history doesn't bode well
When well-funded Premier League sides get relegated to the Championship, they don't always do that well. As I mentioned earlier, getting players who've recently played in the top tier to perform in the second tier can be easier said than done. That's happened several times recently, for example with West Ham (2011/12) and Queens Park Rangers (2013/14).
Of course, this is ignoring the last time Newcastle United were in the Championship, back in 2009-10 when the Magpies racked up a very impressive 102 points. You can quite reasonably interpret that as a precedent for Newcastle to do the same again, but I'd take the opposite view.
A big team, with plenty of resources, a good squad and a very capable manager in Chris Hughton, couldn't beat Reading's points total. Out of the two Newcastle sides, if any of them could, I'd have thought that the former would have been able to break the 106 tally. It was a well-organised, effective side that got the most out of its players. It's to be seen whether or not this current Newcastle team can repeat that.
All of that being said...
The Magpies will very probably win the Championship. Despite what I've written above, Newcastle do have a highly talented squad that should be able to grind out plenty of points.
Nonetheless, breaking our points total is another matter entirely. At least I hope it is.