Guest writer Jamie Fry thinks relegation - despite not being a good thing on the face of it - could have a positive effect for Reading.
There is a stigma in football that a football club is too big to get relegated. In previous seasons when Reading have been threatened with dropping into the third tier, I have heard some fans utter the words that we’re too big to go down, and to me, that is nonsense. Regardless of a club’s stature and size, if the team have not played well enough throughout the season, they deserve to be relegated - it’s as simple as that.
Bar that playoff final season under Jaap Stam, the last few league campaigns for Reading have not been pleasant viewing, finishing no higher than 17th in three of the last four seasons. The last one was perhaps the worst Reading fans have had to endure for a number of years, with the club only avoiding relegation on the last day of the season. With the way the table currently stands, and looking at the fixtures the Royals still have remaining this season, it looks like it could go down to the wire once again.
Should the luck not fall on the side of Jose Gomes’ men, then this would be Reading’s first season in the third tier since 2002. No doubt, this would be devastating for the club and the fans, but you have to wonder: could Reading getting relegated actually be a good thing?
The first question that would need to be asked is whether or not Jose Gomes stays as the manager. For me personally, I don’t know whether he would stay or not, through his own choice, or that of the board. Regardless, a major rebuild would be needed.
It is almost certain that a large portion of the current squad are earning a decent wage, probably more handsome than most of the top-end League One stars. With the club having struggled financially for a long time, dropping down to League One would only further strain the finances, so a lot of these more established players would need to be sold to free up some cash.
The options for the rebuild are: rely on youth, try and operate on a small budget to bring in players with League One experience, or perhaps even more experienced players who are happy to take a pay cut.
We’ve already seen the likes of Danny Loader and Andy Rinomhota breaking through into the first team this season and become a mainstay. That’s not to mention that Reading have one of the most reputable and successful academy setups in the country, so giving these players a chance at a lower level may give them a better opportunity of breaking into the first team for good, and this is potentially the avenue the club should be looking to go down.
One prime example of a club being relegated to the third tier and seeing the benefit is Southampton. Led to back-to-back promotions by former Reading boss Nigel Adkins from League One to the Premier League, the Saints have been a top-flight side ever since, even qualifying for the Europa League in that time.
Southampton didn’t bounce back from relegation from the Championship at the first time of asking, and it’s a much more challenging task than people think, so Reading fans shouldn’t perhaps expect immediate success should the club get relegated this term. To follow the old saying however, this might be one step back, but we could make two steps forward as a result.
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