A few years ago, there was a common understanding that Reading just didn’t win the game after an international break. This was often mentioned on local media and press, such as BBC Radio Berkshire, and it did seem we always seemed to flounder after two weeks off. This may alarm Paul Clement, who certainly seemed to be of the opinion that the break couldn’t have come at a better time, and he’s had two weeks to work with the team (of who was left) and to try and solve what’s gone wrong this season.
But is the first game after an international break the best time for Reading to get our first win of the season? Is it inevitable that we’ll lose just because of the match’s timing, or is this whole internal break hoodoo just an over-exaggerated misconception? I’m going to have a look back at the last decade’s worth of relevant games, that being about the time this stat emerged, to see how fearful of a defeat we need to be against Preston North End.
Well, across the last ten years, two very distinctive periods emerge with one far more successful than the other. Ironically, our worst record when it came to post-international break games coincided with arguably our most successful period from the last ten years.
In the five Championship seasons between 2008/09 and 2013/14, Reading’s average finish was fifth in the table, with the other season of course being contested in the Premier League. Between September 2008 and September 2013, we lost nine out of a possible 16 post-break games, winning four and scoring just 11 goals too, at an average of just 0.68 goals a game.
It’s pretty easy to see why a stigma became attached to our inability to win after these two weeks’ breaks. You can see how the results break down below.
Before and including Reading’s last Premier League spell
Lost 2-0 at Ipswich Town (September 13)
Lost 2-1 at Preston North End (October 18)
Drew 0-0 at Coventry City (April 4)
Drew 0-0 at home to Doncaster Rovers (September 12)
Lost 3-1 at West Bromwich Albion (October 17)
Won 2-1 at home to Blackpool (November 21)
Won 3-0 at home to Crystal Palace (September 11)
Lost 1-0 at home to Swansea City (October 16)
Won 2-0 at home to Portsmouth (April 2)
Lost 2-0 at home to Watford (September 10)
Won 1-0 at Burnley (October 15)
Lost 2-1 at home to Cardiff City (November 19)
Lost 3-1 at home to Spurs (September 16)
Lost 1-0 at Liverpool (October 20)
Lost 4-1 at Arsenal (March 30)
Following relegation from the Premiership in 2013, however, it’s been a different story entirely, despite it coinciding with what has probably been the most depressing time to be a Royals fan since the mid to late 1990s. In fact, between September 11 2015 and April 1 2017, we won seven out of eight post-international break matches with one draw, slaying the previous record comprehensively.
In total since relegation, 11 wins out of a possible 19 with just four defeats is pretty good going, not to mention the 27 goals we’ve scored.
Drew 0-0 at home to Brighton and Hove Albion (September 15)
Won 4-1 at home to Doncaster Rovers (October 19)
Drew 0-0 at Blackburn Rovers (November 23)
Won 3-0 at home to Fulham (September 13)
Lost 3-0 at home to Derby County (October 18)
Lost 2-1 at Cardiff City (November 21)
Drew 1-1 at home to Cardiff City (April 4)
Won 5-1 at home to Ipswich Town (September 11)
Won 1-0 at home to Charlton Athletic (October 17)
Won 2-1 at home to Bolton Wanderers (November 21)
Won 1-0 at Bolton Wanderers (April 2)
Won 2-1 at home to Ipswich Town (September 9)
Drew 1-1 at Queens Park Rangers (October 15)
Won 3-0 at home to Burton Albion (November 19)
Won 1-0 at home to Leeds United (April 1)
Lost 1-0 at home to Bristol City (September 9)
Won 1-0 at Leeds United (October 14)
Lost 2-0 at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers (November 18)
Won 1-0 at home to Queens Park Rangers (March 30)
Hope for the Preston game
So, with just two defeats from our last 13 post-international break games, perhaps there’s more cause for optimism than initially thought for Saturday’s match away to Preston North End. That’s especially true as the only times we’ve won away from home in post-international break games have come in the north - at Bolton Wanderers, Leeds United and Burnley.
I’d best not mention our Deepdale record then, as our last three visits have resulted in zero points and zero goals. In fact, we’ve won just twice there in our last 15 attempts.
It’s probably best just to focus on our recent post-international break stats then.