The familiar adage that little old Reading are punching above their weight doesn’t fit the narrative that is created by £7.5 million signings. Make no mistake, the Royals now simply have to be part of the promotion picture, and missing out is a failure.
While the club have invested in the little-known, in Pelle Clement, and the wily, in Dave Edwards, the fact is that Reading have broken their transfer record twice in eight months.
When domestic play resumes in a fortnight’s time, around seven first-team players will have arrived for not-inconsiderable amounts of money. Fees such as £2m may not sound like much these days, but it should serve to remove the notion of the Royals being the plucky underdog in the face of larger promotion rivals.
These deals come amidst Sheffield Wednesday, Fulham, Norwich and Derby being among those spending less cash than Reading in this window.
And it could grow, if Nelson Oliveira becomes the second major player of a divisional rival to move to Berkshire in the space of a week. One thing’s for sure, it’s hard to remember the last time Reading pinched such a key player off a fellow contender in this manner.
This season now has a serious feel of the 2015/16s about it. That summer, hopes were raised as Matej Vydra and Lucas Piazon were the big name arrivals, setting the club’s stall out without question. It started well, but faded swiftly as the squad’s lack of mental strength was ruthlessly exposed.
Jaap Stam’s Reading side have certainly proved their fortitude and togetherness but they now risk becoming victims of their own success. After this outlay, anything less than promotion is a failure. That’s a fact, it just depends how long you’re willing to allow for it.
It’s exciting, no doubt. Indeed, if the Royals’ newboys hit the ground running then a top-two finish should well be a realistic ambition, but it’s worth bearing in mind that this club doesn’t tend to thrive under pressure. The sodden memories of those campaigns when expected the most, and received the least, stand out as reasons to be a little skeptical in this mad age, to which we are now a fully-pledged member of.