It’s hard to see where Reading’s next win will come from on current form, but Paul Clement’s appointment may give us fresh impetus. I predict that the Royals will survive by the skin of their teeth, relying on a win against Sunderland and draws with Preston, Ipswich and Sheffield Wednesday to secure safety. Burton Albion, Barnsley and Sunderland to go down - in that order.
Wednesday and Hull look like they have enough of a cushion with goal difference included, so I think it's three from six. It's tough to call as there's so many crunch six pointers, but here goes. Sunderland look doomed and have a horror last couple of games in Fulham and Wolves. Birmingham City have an absolute stinker of a run-in with four of their last five against genuine promotion/play off contenders. Barnsley have a relatively kind schedule and I think they'll overtake us, but it's Burton Albion who are the wild cards with four matches against teams in the bottom seven. Despite this, I can still see them falling into League One. I think winnable home games and the safety net of goal difference will see Reading safe by a point, on something like 42.
Whilst Paul Clement’s arrival in Berkshire has given me a renewed sense of optimism around Reading’s survival hopes, we still have a very tricky run ahead of us so I think it will be very, very close. I think the only thing that may save us will be the poor performances of other clubs. Sunderland look like a team in free-fall, Burton Albion probably don’t have quite enough quality to stay in the second, whilst we are fortunate that Birmingham City have a difficult final few games. I do think Garry Monk is a good coach though and the Blues may be buoyed by their 3-0 win over Hull before the international break, so if any team is to replicate Fulham in 2008, it will be them.
I’m pretty confident of a lift in Reading’s fortunes coming about thanks to Paul Clement’s arrival, but I worry that it may be too late. If we’d given him a few more months, I’d be much more assured of Championship football next season, but the gaffer has the unenviable task of getting wins quickly - out of a team that can’t win. Bolton Wanderers, Hull City and Sheffield Wednesday should all have enough to avoid being sucked back into danger, but I do fear for Barnsley. Similarly, Burton Albion and Sunderland have both left any revival far too late despite not being a million miles away from safety. Meanwhile, Garry Monk is likely to have a positive impact at Birmingham City, so I expect them to cling on to their second tier status by the skin of their teeth.
Following Jaap Stam’s sacking and Paul Clement’s appointment as Reading manager I am more confident of Reading staying up then I was last week. But as Simeon said, it may be too little too late. This is a squad that is depleted of confidence and has played some of the worst football that I have witnessed since supporting Reading. Clement now has to rally the troops and get this under-performing squad to get points on the board.
Looking at the fixture list, realistically the games against QPR, Sunderland, Ipswich and Sheffield Wednesday are games where we need to get points. However, I do think whilst being cautious Clement can do more than what Reading can expect and get one or two surprise results. Sunderland in my view are finished and Burton Albion have left it too little too late for a revival. Having looked at Barnsley’s fixtures for the remaining part of the season, I think that Reading will survive and finish in 21st position but it will right to the very end.
Tallying that all up:
Burton Albion: 5
Birmingham City: 2
Now you’ve read this, check out our full coverage of Jaap Stam’s sacking and Paul Clement’s hiring.