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Was Reading FC's 2016/17 Campaign Actually Exciting?

We made it to Wembley, but did we enjoy the ride?

Huddersfield Town v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Play Off Final Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images

So that's how it came to be. For all the pre-match build-up, analysis, stats and predictions, Reading's season came down to one man booting the ball over the bar after two hours of football against Huddersfield at Wembley Stadium. All that's left is for us to pick up the pieces and to try and form some sort of opinion on how we got there, and whether it was actually an exciting season.

What constitutes an exciting season? Incredible comebacks, glorious achievements, entertaining football, and of course the most important factors: points and goals.

When it comes to the first two factors, Reading delivered. The ignominious two seasons beforehand had doubtful fans cast glances again towards the lower half of the Championship table with those optimistic hoping to simply 'be in the mix', both of whom were swatted aside by a third-place finish that our appreciation of will doubtlessly only grow as the years go by. It is an achievement in itself, to tally as many points that would often see you gain automatic promotion, even if 2016/17 contained a comparatively weak division.

Taking that further, beating Fulham in the semis and the aura that surrounded them was the highlight of the campaign. Tense, nervous games were played out for both legs but Reading took the lead at Craven Cottage and, decisively, at the Mad Stad. There was genuine excitement, as there was in the wins over Leeds and Huddersfield in the regular season. All three, however, could have done with a second goal.

Herein lies the issue, and the third point of what I believe constitutes an exciting season. The wins over our rivals were often rollercoasters of emotion, and ultimately satisfying, but the wins over those below us (bar the 3-2 triumphs over the Bs of Blackburn, Bristol and Brentford) were often turgid, staple affairs.

Squeezing past Rotherham and Wigan at home by the odd goal, either side of a loss at lowly Nottingham Forest, is the footballing equivalent of a plain bowl of rice served alongside a glass of tepid water. We, as fans, were fed, but there were rarely the pinches of spice that come with dynamic flowing attacks or the daring dash of a throat-busting liquor, a lung-busting run into the box, or a traditional 6-0 womping of a weaker being.

I have no doubt this is the simple fact of having Championship quality players. Jaap Stam has himself grown as a coach immeasurably over the campaign, as evidenced by his pragmatic approach in the later weeks, but his style demands a little too much of what ingredients he does actually possess.

The result of this was going almost the entire season without scoring four in a single game, that on less than five occasions did we really hammer home our superiority through the medium of goals, and that we were left with little comeback to the too-high tally of wallopings our opponents laid on us throughout the season.

Is this too dim a view? After all, we got our day out at Wembley but the fans were vocally less up for it by extra-time and penalties than our Yorkshire opposition. Huddersfield were the kid playing in the year above their age at school. We knew we were as good or better, but felt bad to lay a glove and ended up showing ourselves up at the crucial moment. Of course, this came on a stage we know all to well - and fail on all too regularly.

I just fear that the memories of years gone by; the '95 away leg at Tranmere, Pardew's plucky underdogs, the sheerly imperious 106 team, and McDermott's comeback kings all had that entertainment factor that has largely gone missing, overshadowing what has otherwise been a genuinely successful season for the Royals.


Was the 2016/17 campaign actually exciting?

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  • 43%
    (66 votes)
  • 56%
    (85 votes)
151 votes total Vote Now