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Stats Corner: Reading’s Nightmare League Starts

Back-to-back league defeats have Reading nervously looking at the history books.

Reading v Crystal Palace - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

The Birmingham City win in the Carabao Cup may have helped ease some pressure and instilled some cautious optimism amongst fans. However, with the next Madejski Stadium match day zooming up on us rapidly, nerves will be shredding over what could happen if we fail to beat Bolton Wanderers on Saturday, or worse don’t manage even a draw.

Well, if that is a fear that is gnawing away and interrupting any end-of-week happiness you may have, I’m here to comfort you with stats. Ahh, lovely stats that will ease the pain.

Ease the pain it might, as history suggests that we must surely be in for at least a draw on Saturday. Why? Because the opposite has never happened at the Madejski Stadium. You’d have to go back to the last season at Elm Park as the last time the Royals lost back-to-back opening home league games - a 1-0 defeat to Swindon (shudders) and a 3-0 reverse to Bradford in August 1997.

That stat is both a comforter and a kick in the groin. If we lose this weekend then parallels will start to be drawn with that season again, the end of which saw Reading’s last relegation from the second tier of English football.

And of course, while defeat will spell back-to-back home defeats, it will also mean no points from our opening three games. Did I say this article would comfort you in the opening paragraph? Oh dear… Well ‘oh dear’ for now, as you’ve got to rewind a whole lot further than 1997 to the last time that happened.

No, not to 1991 when we last lost our opening two matches. No, further back than 1986 when we lost the first two games before grounding out a 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion. No, we have to go waaaaaay back to just ten days after my dear mother was born (sorry mum, Happy Birthday this Sunday and everything…) and to August 29 1959 where a 4-2 defeat at Carrow Road meant we lost our opening three matches.

The following week the Biscuitmen would make it four on the bounce in ye olde Division 3 at home to Newport – ah the good old days. But that’s not even the most shocking revelation from that season. No, it’s that we played Newport County in the league twice in our opening four games and lost both times. Christ.

And people complain about supporting the club now, when fans in 1959 had to see us open the season to Newport twice in the space of a month like some weird FIFA glitch. Boy I hope someone got fired for that blunder in the fixtures department at the FA!

So, anyway, if we lose on Saturday we’ll be on course to break a 59-year-old record. No biggie…