Steve Clarke’s time as Reading manager ended extremely sourly, with the Scotsman talking to Fulham about their managerial vacancy before rejecting the Cottagers. In doing that he severely damaged his relationship with the Loyal Royals and didn’t last much longer in the job.
However, the beginning of the 2015/2016 season was one of the most exciting times at the club in recent years. Clarke had made some an extremely big signings, acquiring the services of Matej Vydra, Ola John and Lucas Piazon amongst others, and got them playing some very good football before it all went downhill in traditional Reading Football Club style.
On Friday 11th September 2015, Mick McCarthy brought his Ipswich Town side to the Mad Stad sitting in third place. However, they left Berkshire having been torn to shreds by the the destructive trio of Nick Blackman, debutant Matej Vydra and hat-trick hero Orlando Sa.
The Portuguese frontman netted either side of a Freddie Sears goal to have the hosts in front at the break before Nick Blackman thumped one into the roof of the net to add a third. Sa then completed his hat-trick with a tap-in at the near post before midfield maestro Oli Norwood produced one of the best Reading goals of recent memory.
I remember that game I was standing right next to the scoreboard in Y26 and was perfectly positioned right behind Norwood as he struck it sweet as a nut into the top corner. At that point I genuinely believed - and I’m sure many other fans were with me - that we had assembled a squad capable of getting promoted to the Premier League. Oh, hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn’t it?
But let’s not focus on the shortcoming of that Reading squad - there have been far too many of them over the past decade, far too many indeed. This was a night that provided one of the biggest wins of the entire decade for the Royals; I can’t remember many more times where we’ve seen our team score five goals.
It was one of those famous ‘nights under the lights’ and marked the start of what could’ve been a hugely promising era for the club. How different things could’ve been if Clarke hadn’t have gone and talked to Fulham midway through the season - and the irony of the Fulham away game being the catalyst for our self-destruction that season...
P.S. Aaron Tshibola and Danny Williams - we still miss you.