Despite a sensational cup run that took them to the verge of an FA Cup final, Reading’s league campaign was underwhelming to say the least. Steve Clarke now has a real chance to put a squad of his own together and ensure Reading are back fighting at the top end of the Championship.
Last Season: Championship (19th)
Manager: Steve Clarke
GKs: Stuart Moore, George Legg, Jonathan Bond
DFs: Chris Gunter, Stephen Kelly, Anton Ferdinand, Michael Hector, Pierce Sweeney, Sean Long, Sean Griffin, Niall Keown, Jake Cooper, Lasha Dvali, Paul McShane
MFs: Oliver Norwood, Hal Robson-Kanu, Jordan Obita, Garath McCleary, Hope Akpan, Aaron Tshibola, Danny Williams, Jake Taylor, Aaron Kuhl, Jack Stacey, Liam Kelly, Tarique Fosu, Stephen Quinn
FWs: Pavel Pogrebnyak, Simon Cox, Nick Blackman, Craig Tanner, Dominic Samuel, Andrija Novakovich, Orlando Sa
In: Stephen Quinn (Hull City), Orlando Sa (Legia Warsaw), Paul McShane (Hull City), Jonathan Bond (Watford)
Out: Adam Federici (Bournemouth), Alex Pearce (Derby County), Mikkel Andersen (Midtjylland), George McLennan (Cheltenham Town), Jem Karacan (Galatasaray)
First Six: Birmingham City (A), Leeds United (H), Sheffield Wednesday (A), MK Dons (H), Brentford (A), Ipswich Town (H)
Likely Lineup: (3-5-2 Bond – Gunter, Hector, McShane – Obita, Norwood, Quinn, McCleary, Robson-Kanu – Pogrebnyak, Sa
A word from…Trevor Senior
On life in the football league We’re going back a few years now but I did notice a difference when you started coming up through the leagues, no disrespect to those playing in the lower leagues, but you’d have centre halves who were stronger. They had a bit more experience whereas in the lower leagues you might be the one with more experience.
All of a sudden you’re coming up against Hansen, Bruce, Moran and the truth is I wasn’t quite up to that standard anyway, but they just have that know how to make a difference. Even in training when I moved to a top division club, coaches and players read what you’re doing a bit easier and you have to try and improve that, but I had some really good years at Reading and enjoyed my time there.
On needing consistency I think a lot of it is confidence, when we had good spells at Reading it gave us belief, we didn’t have massive squads so there was never a lot of rotation. It helped because you knew each other’s game and we always had a game plan at Reading. It wasn’t always pretty, it would be get the ball forward, get the ball on my head!
But we had that mentality that we’d never lose, a bit like Man United under Ferguson that we’d go and get a last minute winner and we’d never get beat!
On returning to the club It was a bit of a whirlwind, I only had about 14 months away from Reading, we’d gone to pre-season in Germany and I came back and Watford wanted to speak to me, that was done and dusted really quickly and I was soon out to Sweden for their pre-season.
But there was a lot of turmoil at the club back then and I was close to giving it up, but Steve Harrison came in and said he’d give me a chance. To be honest I didn’t want to hear it but things turned around a little and then it went back to normal. On deadline day I went to Middlesbrough and it was a breath of fresh air. I lived in Durham which was alien to me coming from the south but I loved it there. Great players, great coaching staff, my game really improved and I can’t speak highly enough of the club.
I’m not the most technically gifted footballer but it was all ball work and it really brought my game on, I scored a few important goals there in the play-offs and made a bit of a name for myself. It wasn’t planned to come back to Reading because Middlesbrough had gone up and it was an exciting squad, people like Pallister and Mowbray coming through but I wasn’t going to figure much.
I remember it like it was yesterday, I was having a shave and Bruce (Rioch) rang. He said Reading had made an offer, he told me I didn’t have to move but the club wouldn’t stop me, so he may as well as just told me I could go! We’d just had new carpets fitted in the house and the family had just settled but at least I knew what I was going back to!
On following the side I do keep an eye out on the results and how they’re doing, not so much Watford, I still get invited up once a year to do various bits and pieces in hospitality for a home match, it’s a lovely ground now but I still have great memories of the old stadium.
To be honest, if you look at the last few years they’ve never had bad managers, for some reason it just hasn’t quite worked out. Brian McDermott had a good spell, Brendan Rodgers was there, it wasn’t as if they were bad managers but it just never worked out with Reading.
I keep in touch with the people there and speak to fans on social media so I’m always up to date with what’s going on as I manage a local side so I’m tied up most Saturdays.
On recruitment You do always need experience and that pedigree, I would have thought most Reading fans would just want an improved season as opposed to just looking down at relegation.
They were under quite a bit of pressure most of the time bar a good cup run, I know a few season ticket holders who found it difficult to watch at times. I think the manager has made a few good signings so far and hopefully they can find a bit of stability and move up the league table this year.
The Offside Rule Podcast Prediction: Steve Clarke has enough experience and guile to guide Reading to more than mere safety this season. Quinn & McShane bring plenty of experience, expect Reading to sit neatly in mid-table this year.
Key Player: Michael Hector – With Alex Pearce gone, Hector stands tall as the youngster alongside the likes of Gunter and McShane. But the Jamaican international is a huge talent at 22 and was part of the Jamaica side that faced Messi and co at the Copa America this summer, he’ll only get better for it.
One to Watch: Aaron Kuhl – The 19-year-old made several appearances in the Championship last season as well as making his U19 debut for England. With youth getting more than a chance in the Championship, Kuhl could gain even more game time this season.