So here we go again. Three months on from that Wembley heartbreak, we find ourselves facing the prospect of another arduous season of Championship football.
Despite May’s disappointment, many of you seem optimistic that this time out, we can match, or possibly even better our run to last season’s play-off final.
Our first glimpse as to where the squad currently stands will be this Saturday at Loftus Road, as we kick-off our 2017/18 campaign with the blue-and-white hooped derby against Queens Park Rangers.
Form (all comps): -
Reading of course begin their 2017/18 challenge having lost two central figures from last season’s run to Wembley, with both Danny Williams and Ali Al-Habsi leaving the club. It is therefore understandable that considerable uncertainty exists amongst some fans as to how large of an impact this may have on the team’s progress this time out.
The transfer window remains open of course, but reinforcements have been few and far between. Vito Mannone and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson should both make their Reading debuts, with the Royals’ only other summer signing Pelle Clement also most likely to be pushing for a place in squad.
A huge blow will of course be the loss of last season’s talismanic top scorer Yann Kermorgant, who is out of Saturday’s game through injury. Therefore, the pressure will be on Reading’s depleted front line of Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Joseph Mendes, currently the club’s only two fit and recognised strikers, to fill this void.
Queens Park Rangers
Form (all comps): -
The honeymoon period that followed the re-appointment of Ian Holloway at Loftus Road, which included victory in one of the drabbest and dreariest games of all time at the Madejski in January (played on a Thursday night as well, just to add insult to injury), had very much come to an abrupt end by the climax of the 2016/17 campaign. One win and seven defeats in their last eight meant that their season finished with a whimper and an 18th-placed finish.
However, as we all know here, a bottom-half position in one season can become a top-three one in the next, and so to write off the Hoops based solely on their showing last year would be foolish. Yet unlike the Royals in last summer’s transfer window, additions to the QPR squad have been limited, with Barnsley midfielder Josh Scowen being their only first-team signing of the window at the time of writing.
Reading can also take heart from two friendly wins over their London opposition this Summer, as well as an unconvincing pre-season campaign that saw the Shepherd’s Bush outfit win just twice in seven games.
What do the stats say?
Both managers can consider themselves strong starters
- Ian Holloway has never lost a season-opening game as QPR manager (W3, D2). His touchline counterpart Jaap Stam remains unbeaten in all five of his season openers in English football, as both a player for Man Utd and manager for Reading (W3, D2).
QPR claim the bragging rights in recent ‘Hoop Derbies’
- QPR have become somewhat of a bogey team for the Royals in recent years. They have lost just one of their last 10 league encounters against Reading, winning four and drawing five. You have to go back as far as February 2014 to find the sole Royals victory within that sequence.
Away? The Opening Day? Reading usually royally in trouble
- Reading have won just one of their last 12 opening day matches on the road (D6, L5), a 2-0 win against Blackpool at Bloomfield Road in 2001. On the team sheet for the Royals that day were the likes of Adie Whitbread, Matt Robinson and Nicky Forster, who also found the net that day. So yeah, it has been quite some time.
What about the history?
Head to Head
Last 5 meetings
12 January 2017: Reading 0-1 Queens Park Rangers (EFL Championship)
15 October 2016: Queens Park Rangers 1-1 Reading (EFL Championship)
23 April 2016: Queens Park Rangers 1-1 Reading (EFL Championship)
3 December 2016: Reading 0-1 Queens Park Rangers (EFL Championship)
16 February 2014: Queens Park Rangers 1-3 Reading (EFL Championship)
Reading 2-1 QPR, 30 April 2006, Madejski Stadium
It was party time at the Madejski when QPR arrived in Berkshire at the end of April 2006. With our first-ever Premier League promotion and Championship title already in the bag, all that was left was to try and claim was the all-time second-tier points record.
Needing a win to overhaul Sunderland’s figure of 105 points, the Royals entered the last ten minutes with the scores at 1-1, with Dave Kitson’s first half tap-in being cancelled out by Paul Furlong’s equaliser in the 72nd minute.
Then, in the 84th minute, a penalty. Step up skipper Graeme Murty, the only regular outfield player to have not found the net that season, who slammed the ball into the back of the net with just his second goal in 280 Royals appearances.
Like a scene out of a Hollywood film, (well ok, maybe not Hollywood, more like a heartwarming British sports comedy à la Wimbledon), the Royals were record holders, an achievement that they still hold to this day.
How can I follow the game?
For those who subscribe to the new EFL iFollow service, audio commentary of the game will be available from 3pm on the app, as well a full match replay after the game.
Audio coverage will also be available on BBC Berkshire at 104.4FM, but not online.
An opening day fixture is always a difficult one to call, with so many unknown variables to take into account. Given the cagey nature of season openers and our recent record against QPR, I would have to plump for a 1-1 draw. Very boring I know, but on week one of the season, and with 45 more of these to come, there’s plenty more time to be sticking my neck out.
Do you agree with our prediction? Let us know by taking part in the poll below and by leaving us a comment with your thoughts!
Who will win the Battle of the Blue and White Hoops?
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