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Madejski Moments: Reading FC 0-0 Nottingham Forest

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In the second in the Madejski Moments series, Matt Williams heads back to the opening day of the 2009/10 season, and wonders what might have been...

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I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about Brendan Rodgers. His Liverpool has buckled under the pressure and missed out on the league championship this season, but the job he's done to elevate them to serious title challengers is phenomenal.

It's hard to have any real dislike of him. Sure he's somewhat of a walking cliche, and his faux-humbleness leaves a bit of a sickly taste, but he's not as bitter as some of his managerial counterparts, and we know that deep down Reading will always hold a place in his heart. He was here for a decade after all.

Yet you won't find me actively cracking open the champagne and toasting Rodgers' success anytime soon either. His time managing my football club proved to be six of the most disappointing months of our recent history, and I've still not quite got over it.

I'm probably bitter. And more than a little bit embarrassed. Bitter that he's taken the success that he promised and has had it at other clubs. Embarassed that we didn't give him the time to finish the job that he started. Perhaps if we'd given him a few more months, we could be Swansea now. Playing sexy football in European competitions. Winning trophies at Wembley and gaining the admiration of neutrals.

But hindsight is a wonderful thing. And you certainly wouldn't have found me complaining when Rodgers was eventually sacked by Madejski in December 2009. Even when we try and be more rational, level-headed football fans, you can get very short-termist when something bad is happening to your own club.

And of course, we didn't do too badly out of the move. McDermott came in, and 18 months later we were in the Premiership ourselves. By that time though, Rodgers was already there, and had made it at our expense.

It all started so promisingly for Brendan at Reading. He promised smarter football, greater unity between the club and fans, and an opportunity for the talented academy players.

And there was a chance it could be bloody brilliant. Just check out the pre-session friendly against Chelsea, where a very strong Premier League side had to battle and scrap for a 2-2 draw after the Royals took a 2-0 lead.

The star of that friendly was Scott Davies, a tenacious young academy graduate who everyone agreed with absolutely certainty was going to be the next Steve Sidwell.

And Davies was just one of a number of youngsters given a chance when Rodgers kick started his reign properly in our first Championship match of the season at home to Nottingham Forest.

It was a blinding hot day - one you always recall the first day of the season to be like. And I'm not going to lie, I was feeling positive. The average age of the team on the field was less than 22 years old, and included not only Davies but exciting youth team graduates Hal Robson-Kanu, Simon Church, and the newly installed captain Alex Pearce, who Rodgers assured us was going to be even better than John Terry.

And the game's opening minutes were thrilling. Not because of anything happening on the field - that was as boring as sin - but because of the way we were playing. We were knocking it around the back, stubbornly refusing to hoof it long, and trying clever flicks and through balls even when there was space for a clear shot on goal.

Sure it was dull to watch, our players looked uncomfortable trying to execute it and certainly never really looked like scoring that way, but who cares? This is what teams are meant to be doing, the press had said so.

I can't admit to recalling too much from the actual match. There were a couple of decent chances - Jimmy Kebe was thwarted by the Forest keeper on the one occasion our passing game carved out a goalscoring opportunity, whilst Scott Davies came close after he got bored of the lack of movement in front of him and smashed in a shot from 25 yards that had the keeper scrambling.

Forest, meanwhile, looked most likely to score as a result of any sort of defensive slip up that the Reading back four would make as they nervously passed it around the back. On more than one occasion Federici would pass it short to Rosenior, who would turn round, miscontrol, and cause 15,000 Reading fans' buttocks to clench.

Other than that it was all very forgettable. Even a late sending off of Forest's Luke Chambers has slipped from my memory.

But this was still very encouraging. We all accepted that this was a new era, and having only been scarred by one Premiership relegation, Reading fans were still feeling generous enough to give something new and different at least a couple of games before they voiced their disdain.

"Just give it time," we'd tell each other. "Soon Alex Pearce will be will be playing like Franz Beckenbauer, not like a cow on roller skates. And Davies will be orchestrating our central midfield for years to come as this type of football takes us into the Champions League."

Things didn't get better. Alex Pearce is a commanding centre half when the ball is in the air but still plays football like a drunk baby goat, whilst Scott Davies is playing for Oxford United after a career touring the lower league teams covered by BBC South.

And as for Rodgers, well his time at Reading came to an abrupt end in December. His Royals record reading: 6 wins, 6 draws and 11 defeats. The main highlight simply being a 2-1 home win against Blackpool in November, the only time we won in the league at the Madjeski during his tenure.

Should we have given him more time? Some say that if Rodgers had remained in charge, we'd have certainly been relegated that season and never recovered. Others say that what he was trying to do doesn't happen overnight, and a second transfer window would have been enough for him to bring in a few more players, keep us up (even if it was just narrowly), and then build a successful legacy from there.

As it is, the manager is now by far the most successful of any of those involved that day. Only Long, Rosenior and (at a push) Bertrand are Premier League regulars, although Kebe is technically contracted to a Premier League club and Sigurdsson was on the bench for us.

In fact, it shows the scope of change that's taken place since 2009 that of the current Reading side (I.e. The 11 who started against Burnley in our most recent game)', as many were playing against us for Nottingham Forest that day (Gunter, McCleary) as they were Reading (Pearce, Robson-Kanu).

But 'water under the bridge' and all that. And because McDermott came in next and worked miracles, the whole sorry scenario is a little easier to stomach. Even so, as Rodgers wins plaudits for his brilliant work at Liverpool, it is intriguing to think what might have been.