This opinion piece comes from guest writer Jordan Seward. If you want to have your say on a Reading-related topic on this site, get in touch with us on Twitter or over email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This will seem timely after Saturday’s defeat at Hull, but Reading were always going to come crashing back down to earth.
Reading’s business this summer incited excitement and hope, but with it came an inflated new vision of what could be achieved this season. As ambitious and shrewd as some of the signings have been, it was never going to be enough to transform relegation battlers into title contenders overnight.
That is just not how things work, especially in the Championship. As good as the signing of Lucas Joao is and as good as the additions of George Puscas and Rafael are, neither of those three - or any of our acquisitions for that matter - are world beaters. They will make Reading a better team, no doubt, but they will not make Reading one of the best in the Championship.
And that is no disrespect to them. Seldom do any new signings, in any league in the world, make such an impact that they completely shift the tide and take a team from one end of the table to the other in one season. We have seen teams - particularly in the Premier League - spend millions and not necessarily scale up the table. We are talking about special players who have that capability to influence. Someone like Virgil Van Dijk. Even Jason Roberts when he inspired Reading to the title in 2012.
In relative terms, Reading haven’t signed anyone in that bracket this summer. That is not to say we’ve not done good business. Lucas Boye, Pele and Ovie Ejaria are solid recruitments as well and will bolster the squad, but let’s be honest, it was Puscas that had us all staring at the screens of our phones and refreshing Twitter over and over again for his announcement. Who, though, would be willing to stick their neck out on the line and put money on him to be top scorer in the league this season?
We can all pretend we know what he brings to the table and say that he’ll be a success... because we all watched him regularly in Serie B last season, but at the end of the day, how he will adapt to a new league and handle many other obstacles that come with a move to a foreign country is unpredictable. We hope he will justify the price tag, but Puscas is a bit of an unknown entity.
It’s probably not a good omen either that whenever Reading have spent big, it’s not worked out. The fact Puscas has played on the international scene and represented Inter Milan suggests he is more than capable of doing well in the Championship, but it would be unwise to think he will be firing Reading to the league title this season. After all, his best return in a season of senior football is 10 goals, which came in the 2017-18 season.
This may all sound a bit negative and cynical, it’s not, it’s being realistic. There is genuine reason for optimism; the owners have spent money and we have some promising prospects coming through but Reading cannot expect any more than an improvement on last season. That would have been the goal at the start of the campaign and it still has to be. Reading have spent well, but we still haven’t got the squad to start talking about promotion. You don’t necessarily need the best team to get out of this league, but we can’t expect it of this group of players or become disillusioned when they don’t deliver.
Jose Gomes did the right thing by bringing in both Joao and Puscas. We needed more firepower and depth up top but at the back we remain vulnerable. Our defensive frailties have already been highlighted in the two games this season. Despite their start, few would have Sheffield Wednesday finishing anywhere near the top six come the end of the season, but they stuck three past us on our own patch, and it could have been worse.
We had the 17th worst defensive record in the league last season and still have the same pool of players to choose from at the back with the exception of Michael Morrison. You can’t be successful in this league if you ship goals as regularly as Reading have recently.
It is a problem that will need addressing, whether that’s looking for replacements next summer, or trying to get more out of some of the under-performing players. History tells us it would have been foolish to overhaul an entire team in one window and you can’t expect to solve all your problems by throwing money at them, so Reading were right not to bring in too many bodies despite needing reinforcements in defence.
The signings we have made have all been positive. We have been starved of summer windows like the one just gone and perhaps it all went to the heads of some. Saturday’s loss is a sober reminder of where we are.
We are a club that has been on the decline over the past couple of years, so why try and run before we can walk again? Gomes has built a talented squad and established a playing style that can bring back brighter days, but don’t have your eyes on the Premier League yet, you’ll be left disappointed.