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Reading FC in 2013: A Year in Review

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So thus endeth 2013, a year that has seen some highs but sadly a fair few lows from Reading Football Club. Lets take a trip down memory lane to look back on the year in football from our favourite club in Berkshire.

Micha Will

Results

League Games: 41  Won: 13  Drew: 10  Lost: 18

Before we delve into a wider analysis, let's just look at the cold hard stats of a year that saw Reading beaten in just under half of their games while winning less than a third. Reading fans saw just 13 league wins in 2013, with alarmingly just seven at the Madejski Stadium. Still, that's better than 2009, a year which saw just THREE home wins.

Our poor run of results led to relegation from the Premier League and so far a mediocre Championship position of ninth. However, there were a few good memories,  the comeback wins against West Brom and Newcastle plus Adam Le Fondre's late brace to stun European Champions Chelsea being notable highlights.

That being said, the lows were dreadful in 2013.

From Wigan's 3-0 win at the Madejski Stadium in February, to Wigan's 2-1 win at the same venue in December, we've seen some awful performances from Reading that really have tested fans' patience to the limits. Humblings by Bournemouth, Southampton and Villa were low points at home but I feel for any Reading fan who had to witness the 6-0 demolition at Peterborough, the 5-2 reverse at Sheffield Wednesday or the pitiful 3-0 loss at Middlesbrough that ended our year.

*****

Players: The Highs

Hard to believe it now but Reading actually had the Premier League's best player in January, Adam Le Fondre. The former Rotherham striker had a magical start to the year, scoring five Premier League goals in just three games to help us earn seven points. While some of those goals were scrappy, others were just brilliant and as mentioned above, the two against Chelsea are up there with some of the best.

Elsewhere we saw Hal Robson-Kanu and Jem Karacan both really flourish as players in our doomed final few Premier League months, while Alex McCarthy has been awesome ever since he returned from injury to deny Liverpool with a string of sensational saves at the Madejski Stadium.

Pavel Pogrebnyak and Danny Guthrie both turned from villains to heros, with one of the pair claiming Player of the Month honours in each of our first four months back in the Championship.

*****

Players: The Lows

Hal Robson-Kanu took a giant step back as soon as we dropped a division to take our least improved player of the season award in the podcast Christmas special, while just about every major signing in 2013 has had issues (more on that later...)

Injuries have also blighted the club this year, with an injury list longer than Paul Brayson's goal drought. Jason Roberts, Mikele Leigertwood, Jem Karacan, Wayne Bridge, Royston Drenthe, Sean Morrison, Billy Sharp, Danny Williams, Chris Baird and Alex McCarthy have all missed significant time on the treatment table, with Karacan, Roberts and Leigertwood all missing multiple months and in Roberts case, the entire of 2013.

Our defenders have had a miserable year it must be said. Alex Pearce looks like he's never bounced back from his contract troubles, while Adrian Mariappa jumped ship shortly after a 6-0 thumping at Peterborough. Kaspars Gorkss got relegated twice and Sean Morrison took the captain's armband only to suffer a major injury in November.

We've had five different players start league games at left-back this year while  Shaun Cummings, Stephen Kelly and Chris Gunter have all had a go at right-back.

Transfers

With so many undisclosed transfer fees these days it's all but impossible to judge exactly how much (or should I say how little) Reading have spent in 2013 but whatever they've spent it's been too much given the actual output of those signings.

None of our January buys, Hope Akpan, Stephen Kelly, Nick Blackman and Daniel Carrico have established themselves as regulars, with Blackman and Akpan in particular having miserable years and Carrico featuring for less than 90 minutes before deciding he preferred La Liga to the Championship.

The summer started well with a trio of internationals arriving in the form of Wayne Bridge, Danny Williams and Royson Drenthe. Sadly injuries have meant that the three have only managed to start 27 of a possible 69 league games so far, with all three failing to find the back of the net so far.

Chris Baird and Billy Sharp both arrived on short-term deals to shore things up but both have also dealt with injuries and Sharp has managed just two goals since his loan move from Southampton in a spell that saw him miss a key penalty against Wigan.

On the positive side of things, Reading have done pretty well once again with deciding who to let go from the club. Major summer departures included Noel Hunt, Ian Harte, Nicky Shorey, Adrian Mariappa and Jimmy Kebe with none of that five really impressing at their new clubs and few likely to haunt Reading in the same way that the likes of Simon Cox have done.

The Managers

Brian McDermott lost his job in March after a home defeat against Aston Villa left our survival hopes hanging by a thread. After Eamon Dolan did a commendable job overseeing a narrow defeat at Manchester United, Nigel Adkins was given the job but he couldn't stop us sliding back into the second tier.

Since relegation he's had a fairly dour start and the club is playing the worst brand of football we've seen since our return to the second tier some 11 years ago.

Brian McDermott might consider himself somewhat unfortunate to have lost his job, especially if he wasn't given significant backing in the transfer market last January. Given the recent developments with TSI I think it's fairly safe to assume that Reading weren't that close to rumoured targets Glyfi Sigurdsson and Tom Ince. Given how the team has failed to perform under a new manager even after the additions of Bridge, Williams, Drenthe, Sharp and Baird, could McDermott have done that much better last season? Once again I guess it depends on how much Brian was actually given to spend and how much he actually believed in the players he signed.

Moving on to Adkins and so far he's very much failed to connect with the Reading fanbase. He lacks the down to earth charm of McDermott and results wise he's done nothing to convince us that he'll be a better manager than the man who now sits in the Leeds hotseat.

There's obviously reasons for optimism given how Adkins turned around clubs like Scunthorpe and Southampton but I doubt he'll look back on his first nine months at Reading with any real fondness.

Most concerning of all is that the team seems to be no better off than it was under Brian despite Nigel having had nine months to stamp his authority on the team. I can understand that there's going to be some roadbumps, especially given the injury list and off-field problems, but there's seemingly no road map to progression, just random teams thrown on the pitch week after week.

*****

The Worst of The Rest

How things can change in just two years.... In January 2012 the fans were stunned when Anton Zingarevich bowled into the Football Club and gave us funds needed to take us back to the Premier League. Now heading into 2014, Zingarevich has been absent for four months with Sir John Madejski admitting he has no idea when we'll see the Russian again.

While it's not a crisis in the same category as Portsmouth or Leeds, it's safe to say we're no better off than we were pre-TSI. Any Premier League financial gains are likely to have been swallowed up by an inflated wage bill and while plans for a new training ground are wonderful, it's not actually been built yet.

So while the club may be no better or worse off two years later, it's the fans who are the real losers having had their hopes inflated by ridiculous talk of Europe, worldwide scouting and long-term Premier League ambition. There's a lesson here folks. Talk is cheap.

*****

The Best of The Rest

It was nice to see the Football Club receive praise from away fans for the matchday experience last season while the continued progression of our Academy is always nice to see.

Our return to the Championship also saw the return of some fun away days and the chance to sample some new ones, with a trip to Yeovil a personal highlight given the friendly attitude of the officials and stewards (not to mention £2 parking!)

*****

Overall

2013 will go down as a memorable year but sadly for all the wrong reasons. It's the year that we were relegated from the top division and the TSI era abruptly began to collapse.

Results wise we've seen precious few highs, although those magical few games in January will long live in the memories of those who witnessed them. Sadly by the same token, few will ever be able to live down the embarrassment felt at London Road or The Riverside.

Transfers have been mediocre at best, with neither the big names nor the rough diamonds contributing to an entertaining brand of football on the pitch. As much as fans may hate Nick Blackman and love Royston Drenthe, the fact is that between them they've scored two goals and both have come from Blackman. Wayne Bridge has started as much as Ian Harte, while Billy Sharp has fewer goals than Jem Karacan who's been crocked since September.

Thankfully we've seen some encouraging performances from youngsters Alex McCarthy and Jordan Obita but beyond those two, few have really kicked on over the past 12 months, with the possible exception of Jem Karacan.

The ownership has been dire, the change in managers hasn't worked so far and really we're playing worse than at any stage since Brendan Rodgers ill-fated few months in charge had us mired in a relegation battle.

So forgive me if I don't look back on 2013 with any real fondness, it's been an interesting year but enjoyable? Far from it.

GRADE: D+