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What's Up With Reading FC's Pre-Season?

As the club take their summer away from the fans, Marc looks at how we were condemned to pre-season purgatory.

Cagliari Calcio v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A Photo by Enrico Locci/Getty Images

"The calibre of the squad and the opposition these days requires pre-season to be focused more on the squad and less on the fan. Every pre-season now is geared towards ensuring that we face not one but nineteen Premier League sides at the Madejski each year."

There is a poignancy to hitting the nail on the head both at the time and six years down the line, and that's what TTE's Jonny achieved on this day in 2011 as Reading's pre-season schedule drifted away from the fans and towards the type of shut-off summer we experience today.

Back then it was a lack of luxury home games against the likes of Chelsea and Spurs to whet the whistle before a new season, but in the age of mega money global tours and increased suspicion of the media, the detachment between fans and friendlies has only grown.

Anyone making plans to hop along to Holland this month and watch the Royals take on the odd local side or fellow touring team, as in year's gone by while gracing climes such as Portugal and Slovenia, founds themselves tersely disappointed this week.

Not only did the club take a relative epoch to announce their pre-season games, they all take place behind closed doors. It's a shame too, given the interesting opposition and our lofty ambitions for the new season. But, there's nothing we can do.

Typically, the saving grace for this would be a pleasant July trip to Didcot or Farnborough but once again these friendlies have been shunned for a double header with QPR - you guessed it, behind closed doors.

Again, typically the saving grace for this would be a decent home friendly with a Chelsea, Feyenoord, or even a Bournemouth in early August. Indeed, we do play Vitesse Arnhem, but it's been banished to Wycombe (perhaps due to the Mad Stad's pitch revamp).

All this serves to reinforce that detached feel between the fans and club as we search for the first signs of life after Wembley. It can be said that even the most dedicated supporter may not have watched a kick of live football between whoever it was scored the winning penalty for Huddersfield and the Championship home match versus Fulham, some 75 days later.

Finding justification for this sort of summer isn't too difficult. From a strictly business point of view; paying for stewarding, policing and hot dog stands for Reading v Cercle Brugge at a neutral venue isn't particularly advantageous.

From a footballing point of view, two back to back games in the same locale is a tightly condensed and very informative approach to gauging both fitness and performance levels across a large squad. In addition, Jaap Stam will get away from the prying eyes of scouts and the media whilst he tinkers with certain tactical facets that may not be worth the coverage they'd subsequently receive.

Finally, we can all accept that Premier League teams would far sooner use friendlies to spin money than do anything convenient for their own fans, so why would they bother tending to a Championship club bearing the promise of a few overeager academy upstarts and a sparse crowd?

It all makes quite a lot of sense, until you remember the fans. The appetite must be raised, especially after a disappointing end in the play-offs, and entertaining kit launches don't quite cut the mustard by themselves.

The irony is that complaining about things now is irrelevant. Reading are in pre-season purgatory. Go up, and the team is whisked away to the edge of the earth to play at three in the morning. Go down, and we're back to playing Didcot and Reading Town because that's all that wants us. We'd probably lose, too.