We’ve had some varied entries to this series, and Ben Thomas’ article was no exception. He went for Cardiff City away in May 2018 not because it brought back any good memories, but instead because it marked the utter low point of Reading’s decade. He made an excellent case, and I can’t say I disagree.
So what about the opposite - Reading’s high point? Statistically, that should come in the 2012/13 season when the Royals were plying their trade in the Premier League for the only time in the 2010s. Specifically, that should be at half time at Stamford Bridge on 22 August 2012, when goals from Pavel Pogrebnyak and Danny Guthrie had given us an unlikely lead and sent us to the top of the table - at least temporarily.
But that moment, and indeed other mini successes in 2012/13, all felt hollow. The Reading Football Club of that season was badly out of its depth, and in the end did well to give itself a fighting chance of survival with a new-year fightback and at least finish 19th - rather than rock bottom of the table.
Instead, for my ‘high point’ of the decade, I’ll rewind to 29 April 2012, which wasn’t actually a matchday. It was the moment that captain Jobi McAnuff raised the Championship trophy to celebrate Reading winning the league, marking an incredible achievement. The Royals had bounced back from a Wembley hangover to charge up the division, nip ahead of Southampton and West Ham United and snatch the title.
The celebrations on 29 April 2012 weren’t just a formality though. At the exact point that Jobi raised the trophy to the Berkshire sky, Reading were at the very peak of their status in the 2010s. A united club - boosted in the second half of the season by the cash of a Russian ‘billionaire’ - had conquered all before it.
Indeed, the fact that Anton Zingarevich played such a visible role in the celebrations that day feels weird when you look back at it.
He was a very popular guy and, at the time, seemed to be the future of the club. It was, at least supposedly, his cash injection in January 2012 that had funded the arrivals of Jason Roberts, Benik Afobe, Hayden Mullins, Matthew Connolly and Tomasz Cwyka. All of them played at least a small part in getting the team over the line.
A wealthy young businessman investing in the club to push it into the Premier League - what wasn’t to like? By the contribution he’d made, he’d earned the right to carry the Championship trophy onto the Mad Stad pitch with Sir John Madejski, the man he was essentially supposed to succeed. Past and future, united as one.
Of course, after this point everything started to unravel. Reading didn’t strengthen enough in the 2012 summer transfer window, ultimately dropped out of the Premier League with a whimper, and a severe lack of cash dented any hopes of an immediate return. Those financial woes - and the instability on and off the pitch that went hand in hand with them - go back to Zingarevich.
In the end, Reading were fortunate. Adam Le Fondre was sold in the summer of 2014 in the nick of time to pay a tax bill, and the Thai consortium of Sumrith ‘Tiger’ Thanakarnjanasuth, Sasima Srivikorn and Narin Niruttinanon (I’m amazed that I could type all those names from memory) kept the club going. When you consider just how badly things have gone for other clubs - not least Leyton Orient who were crippled by Francesco Bechetti, a man who reportedly tried to buy Reading in Spring 2014 - it’s easy to take Reading’s Championship survival for granted.
The last few years have nonetheless been an extended decline for Reading, one that - for me at least - started after those Mad Stad trophy celebrations in April 2012.