I'm not sure I'll ever get over the disappointment of losing to Huddersfield on penalties. We were so close. It's the hope of victory, once Al-Habsi made that save, that made the pain that much worse.
It wasn't long before my optimistic side started trying to get in on the headspace and help me get over the slump I'm sure we've all felt this week.
There are at least five good reasons why this could be better for us than promotion would have been.
1 - History suggests we'll be automatically promoted
The past two times we’ve failed in the play-off finals, we’ve been automatically promoted the season after.
That’s a definite possibility for this side, providing Jaap Stam stays and the new owners open up their purses. Stam and Tevreden have done extremely well with the limited Thai resources this season, and if the new Chinese wonga comes in this summer, expect to see an influx of high quality, possession-comfortable, ball-loving technicians come through the gates of Hogwood.
And then... The title is ours.
2 - The Stam Philosophy deeply ingrained
Jaap Stam spent his first season at Reading Football Club switching the playing philosophy. Give him another season, and it’ll be second nature to everyone.
The players, the fans, the outside world: until Stam’s arrival they all expected Reading to be the typical 4-4-2, run down the wings, lump it in the box type of team. Which is fair, because for so many years they did that—and they did it ruddy well too, thank you very much.
However, this season was supposed to be a transition season. The fact Stam did so well in his first season is not only a credit to the man, but to the players for taking to his methods so quickly.
With his side more comfortable in possession next season, he’ll be able to start adding additional layers to the tactical system. Which’ll be fun.
3 - Better prepared for the Premier League
We’re ahead of plan. Nobody at Reading expected a play-off push this season, let alone getting to the play-off final.
So imagine another season of adding quality, of learning and progression for the inexperienced Tevreden and Stam, of the development of the likes of Liam Moore, John Swift and Liam Kelly. Imagine what that could do for a Reading side that ultimately wishes to be a stable Premier League club.
They’ve laid the foundations, and the foundations got us to third place. Now all they have to do is build a beautiful, majestic, blue-and-white hooped Ajax-lite club on top of those foundations.
4 - New owners have a chance to get settled
It was announced midway through the second leg of the Fulham game that Reading have new Chinese majority shareholders. They’re rumoured to be billionaires—yes, billionaires—so the Reading expenditure may be about to go on an upward curve.
But, in a sense, it’s a good thing Reading stayed down. The owners now have a chance to get their feet under the table and not panic about preparing for the gigantic leap into the stratosphere of Premier League football, and can instead help to build slow and steady on top of the good work done under the Thai regime.
Imagine the panic in the boardroom if Reading had been promoted, and the backroom staff were all saying they need a multitude of new, expensive, flashy signings to guarantee they stay up. It’s unlikely to have happened.
Another season to adapt and get used to surroundings sounds like a positive to me.
5 - More games
Being in the Championship means we get to play 46 games, rather than the meagre 38 of the Premier League.
That’s a lot more bang for your buck. And a whole 720 additional minutes for you to pour into The Greatest Team In The World.