And relax! It’s over.
This season will not be looked back on fondly. In truth people associated with Reading Football Club will have already moved on and being trying hard to erase it from memory.
I have already told The Tilehurst End editor that we should have our post-season coverage rounded up as soon as possible. No one wants to dwell on a season that saw us win less times than the team that was relegated in 1998.
Except moving on too quickly would be a mistake. We fans might want to enjoy the summer, but the club need to take a long hard look at itself.
That last relegation to the third tier, came on the back of two seasons when we had flirted with relegation. This season is our third lower half of the table finish in four years.
Even last season cannot be looked back on that fondly. Jaap Stam might have taken Reading to within a kick from promotion to the Premier League, but my god was it boring to watch.
So boring that Reading fans only really got excited in games against Leeds and Fulham. Even in the playoff final the atmosphere was muted.
Statistically the team was nowhere near as good as its third place finish. Some horrendous and embarrassing defeats were masked by momentum, which goes a long way in the Championship.
Without it, Stam’s team reverted to their true level and then found momentum can go both ways.
The season started with a pathetic display away at QPR and never got much better. By winter attendances were reaching their lowest this century.
Throw in spending around £15m last summer, 1 win in 18 games, tedious football and criticising the fans and it is amazing that Stam wasn’t sacked sooner. He was saved by two things.
Firstly, Brian Tevreden presumably realised he needed to keep his head down in case anyone remembered that he was the Director of Football who sanctioned so many terrible signings.
Secondly, Ron Gourlay’s ill advised interview before the Birmingham City game, when he said Stam was not close to being sacked. A first away win for Birmingham made him look stupid, but he could have looked worse if he had sacked Stam shortly after.
And finally the fact that six disappointing years and tedious football meant Reading fans had mostly stopped caring. Stam was never hounded in the way Terry Bullivant, Alan Pardew or Brian McDermott were. Fans didn’t boo, they just stopped going.
Thankfully Stam was eventually sacked. He left no legacy and Paul Clement with little to work with.
When Clement took over Reading were on 36 points. They finish the season on 44 and Clement’s record of a point per game isn’t much better than Stam’s record.
Crucially the new manager bounce helped Reading secure a hard earned win over QPR and fight back to claim a point against Sunderland. Those four points were crucial and it’s hard to think they would have come with Stam in charge.
That this mess is largely down to Stam was shown by only one player who started against Cardiff not being his signing.
One of those signings, Tommy Elphick, came in to make just his second start since arriving in January. That meant Tiago Illori moved to right back and Chris Gunter left back.
In midfield, Clement went with experience and players with a presence, after last week’s failed experiment of a lightweight attacking central midfield. Cardiff knew they only had to match Fulham’s result to win promotion, while Reading knew a draw would be enough to keep them up.
For the first five minutes, Cardiff couldn’t get out of their own half. After that, Reading barely entered the final third and time wasted at every opportunity offered. Even at a thrown in on six minutes.
The home supporters were tense. Reading fans less so, knowing a freak set of results would have to take place to send their team down, and if that happened few would disagree that it was not deserved.
If they were nervous then they didn’t have to wait too long for them to be settled. Just 14 minutes in Barnsley fell behind. There wasn’t time for the news to spread before the home fans erupted into cheers.
Fulham, the Barcelona of the Championship, had gone behind to perennial final day escapees Birmingham.
That goal was bad news for Reading, but in the end proved a blessing. With Fulham behind, Cardiff never got too anxious.
A few set pieces and a Junior Hoilett shot aside, Cardiff never looked like scoring in the first half. It didn’t matter, because just before half time Fulham, the best team over the last two seasons in the Championship, conceded another goal.
By that point Burton were losing as well, which meant both teams started the second half in Cardiff knowing everything was going there way.
It led to a strange 45 minutes in which Cardiff seemed so confident that Fulham, the best passing team in the league, would lose they didn’t even make much effort to press Reading, which was odd given how often this season the Royals have conceded comical goals when the opposition put them under pressure.
With about five minutes to go, Cardiff fans were suddenly reminded that this was not supposed to be such a relaxing day, when Fulham, who play the best football in the league, pulled a goal back.
If Reading and Fulham both scored then Cardiff would drop out of the automatic places. Neil Warnock was so concerned he sent on Gary Madine, a £6m striker who had yet to score.
So not too concerned, and why would he be, Reading had had one shot the whole game. We didn’t need to win.
And then Birmingham got a third surely sending Fulham to their first defeat this calendar year.
What followed was a premature pitch invasion and a couple of minutes of walking football, as Reading didn’t bother passing forwards and Cardiff didn’t bother running.
The mandatory promotion pitch invasion followed with some fireworks let off outside the stadium.
In the end neither Cardiff or Reading were made to sweat. Fulham’s sad collapse meant it was in everyone’s interest to have a nice relaxing day in the sun.
Cardiff and Warnock deserve their promotion. There is still a sizeable number of fans, who have not returned to the club after Vincent Tan’s moronic red shirt experiment.
The lack of the old call of “Do The Ayatollah” or “Bluebirds” is a sign that Cardiff are still getting their old identity back.
It’s a warning that the difficult years for Reading may not be over. Thankfully this season is though.