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Hunty’s Column: Ending The Year In Style

How far can Mark Bowen’s men go?

Preston North End v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images

Happy New Year’s Eve Everyone!

It’s been one of our most positive end of years in a long while hasn't it? Whatever you think of Mark Bowen, he has done a pretty amazing job so far. To finally turn a group of individual players with talent and attitude into a collective unit takes some doing. To do it so quickly is even more impressive.

Yes, it is still early days. However I don’t think even the most positive of fans would have said we’d have got three wins and conceded no goals against some tough opposition over Christmas. Maybe a couple of injuries to key players like Andy Yiadom and George Puscas have helped change the way we play. Liam Moore admits he is happier in a back four, and maybe Chris Gunter is a better old fashioned defender at right-back.

Charlie Adam is getting better game by the game and with John Swift and Ovie Ejaria able to create havoc, we are a potent threat in attack. Lucas Joao, Pele and Yakou Meite have found a roles that suit them too. In Rafael we have an absolutely class keeper. We have a formula that works and is simple and effective.

Bowen has installed the pride, passion, fire and commitment not seen in a long time. He has made us hard to beat, players are putting in that extra 10% in to win us games and it is enjoyable to be a Royals fan again. Talk of the play-offs is exciting...until we actually get there, when we all know what happens. A solid top ten finish is a definite possibility.

With so much quality out injured and due back soon, maybe we could go on one of those New Year runs again, just as Brian McDermott did a decade ago when he took over in similar circumstances. He built a team spirit and attitude that has similar attributes to what Bowen is doing. Having the ability to play well and win is one thing, but to grind out results is another. These things haven’t changed in the history of football. Even the lack of hair on Bowen’s head could be a lucky omen!

As a final thought, over the past ten years we have slowly started to see the stigma around mental illness change. People are starting to be more open, not only in football but in society too. We are off on a little stroll to Fulham for New Year for the third and possibly final time - all in the name of mental health awareness. Come and say hello!

In ten years’ time when I’m writing this, let’s hope we are reflecting on another dominant Christmas for the Royals in the VAR league. Maybe even that stigma around mental illness has been ruled out as well.