I’m sure you haven’t missed it, but things have been a little glum with Reading recently. The team have had an, ahem, ‘disappointing’ start to the season, meaning we currently sit in a lowly 20th place in the table. Another defeat at the weekend, this time against high-flying Sheffield United, made us all even more grumpy.
But let’s have less of that. As a man once said, ‘the positivity of being positive is so positive’. Things aren’t that doom and gloom, are they? No, they’re not - here are five reasons for all of us to be a little more cheerful.
We’ve been here before
A struggling campaign towards the bottom of the Championship? Been there, done that. Six years ago, Reading were second from bottom under Brian McDermott after a Playoff Final defeat to Swansea City, and we all know how that season ended up. Emulating that turnaround may seem far-fetched at the moment, but we were similarly negative after a 2-0 embarrassment at home to Watford - the last in a five-match losing streak.
Even when a campaign has started well and gone to the dogs later on, we’ve still had a lot of fun doing it. In the two years before Jaap Stam’s arrival, Reading finished 19th then 17th, but had fantastic FA Cup runs each time. A semi-final against Arsenal and a quarter-final against Crystal Palace are more than almost every other Championship side has enjoyed in recent years. And, despite our lowly positions and uninspiring performance back then, in reality we kept ourselves away from a relegation fight quite easily.
Stam’s still learning
OK, the tactics and team selection both seem pretty confusing at times - but isn’t it to be expected a little? It’s easy to forget that the Dutchman has only been in charge of a senior football team for just over a year. The third-placed finish last season has, quite rightly, raised expectations for this campaign, but it obviously hasn’t made him a complete management expert.
Mistakes have been made, but they’ll be ironed out. Stam’s a clever man, after all; every win and loss is a lesson learned. We’ve already seen he’s capable of doing that - the 1-0 win at Leeds United was a fine example of Jaap proving his adaptability. We’ll see more of that.
Key injured players will be back soon
Reading have missed two of last season’s three top scorers this campaign quite a bit: Yann Kermorgant and John Swift. Between them, the pair contributed 26 league goals - more than a third of the team’s overall output. Both have had well-documented injury problems in 2017/18, but they’ll be into action again this weekend.
Starting this Saturday, the Royals have back-to-back home games in which to get points on the board. First up is Middlesbrough, struggling a little bit after heavy summer spending, then Nottingham Forest. Not only are both teams beatable, but they’re also great chances to get the key duo of Kermorgant Swift into match practice, and scoring goals.
The youngsters are pretty damn awesome
Danny Loader made all of us proud this week when he reached the U17 World Cup Final with England. The 17 year-old even scored a brace earlier in the competition against Iraq, coming in the group stage. He’s obviously not only impressed at international level - Loader also featured in the League Cup for Reading this season against Millwall, becoming the first to play for the Royals after the Madejski Stadium was opened. Luke Southwood also helped his country win the U20 World Cup in the summer.
However, to give a proper indication of just how well Reading are helping to shape England’s future, here’s an excerpt from FourFourTwo, dated back to September this year:
“At the opposite end of the scale, Reading have eight call-ups between the U16 and U17 groups, a tally only beaten by Manchester City (9). In fact, those two are part of a group of four clubs who make up over half the U16 contingent, with Chelsea and Arsenal the other big-hitters in the youngest competitive age group.”
Not bad at all.
What are your reasons to be cheerful? Let us know in the comments, or tweet us @TheTilehurstEnd