With eight games left, and Reading sitting in 20th, the weeks that follow are some of the most important in the club’s recent history. With a tough run of games coming up, we could be looking at the daunting prospect of League One football next season. If all goes well, we look forward to another period in the Championship, where we can try and move ourselves up to the middle of the table.
Big performances are needed individually, and as a team, to ensure we see another season of second tier football. Here are four men whose performances will be key in ensuring that Royals survive this season.
After the sacking of Jaap Stam, the former Swansea City and Derby County manager has big boots to fill. Whilst not popular with most of the fanbase, Stam was popular with a decent proportion of the players with numerous members of the playing staff thanking him for his guidance over his near two year reign on social media.
This leaves Clement with a tough job. Winning over half the dressing room, at least, will not be an easy task. Not to mention getting his tactics across to the players as well as motivating them and getting them up for the fight ahead.
He has the huge task of tightening up the defence, making us better in attack and motivating the players for the final eight games. This will not be easy by any stretch of the imagination but, if he proves to be the right appointment, Clement could go a long way towards helping Reading maintain their Championship status.
After a great start to the season, Liam Moore has arguably let his high standards slip in recent games with a mistake in the game against Bolton Wanderers summing up his performances currently.
Moore has been a vital part of Reading’s defence since joining the club at the beginning of last season, being one of the Royal’s top performers and real leaders in the team. His play at the start of the season was significantly better than a large proportion of his teammates, making him standout as an important player in what was to be a relegation scrap.
If the Royals want to stay up, keeping goals out is vital and no-one is more important to this than Liam Moore. A turn-up in form for Moore could really help Reading’s attempt to maintain their place above the relegation zone.
Now this may be a controversial one, but I believe the skipper’s return could help the Royals stay away from relegation. Reading’s captain has been injured for over a month now and, in my opinion, has been missed at the heart of defence.
Despite the emergence of young Tom Holmes, a combination of Tiago Ilori’s poor performances, Tommy Elphick’s injuries and Tyler Blackett’s abysmal form have left Reading short of credible options at centre-back in a crucial time like this.
McShane’s no-nonsense tackling, organisation and aggression in winning headers is something that is missing at the minute. The Reading defence, at times, look like they are scared to tackle and lack organisation in a time when this is simply not acceptable.
The partnership of Moore and McShane has proven the best centre-back pairing at the club, and the return of McShane could help turn around Moore’s performances subsequently helping the Royals move away from the relegation zone.
Swifty, on his day, is the best player in this team. His ability to dribble effortlessly past players, play a Hollywood pass and find pockets of space between the lines is vital in Reading’s play.
But this season has been a frustrating one for Swift. The odd start here and there since Christmas, because of injury, and a string of substitute appearances haven’t helped the attacking midfielder regain his fitness.
If he can re-capture his form of last season, creating chances shouldn’t be a problem for the Royals. With Jon Dadi Bodvarsson in good form recently, there is definitely someone who can put them away, so Swift’s ability to create chances will be vital.
If Swift can re-capture form, and more importantly fitness, his ability going forward can really help the team get the goals they need to keep them in the division.