News and Views

New Season Fixture List In Full: Royals Face Tough Start

21 June 2017
By Hob Nob Anyone?

Reading's fixtures for the new 2017/2018 season have been released this morning and see the Royals kick-off with an away trip to QPR on Saturday 5 August. Reading face a tough start to their new Championship campaign with games against Fulham and Aston Villa at home following immediately after.

The end of the season isn't much kinder with games against Fulham, relegated Sunderland, Sheffield Wednesday, Ipswich and Cardiff away to wrap up the season. The trip to Cardiff means that Reading both start the season and end the season playing away from home.

The traditional boxing day game is away at Bristol City this year, with a home game against Burton Albion on 23 December. The games are really packed in over the festive period with a trip to Barnsley on 30 December, followed up by a home game against Birmingham City just two days later on New Years day.

Having narrowly missed out on promotion to the Premier League after the defeat at Wembley on penalties in the play-off final, Reading might be considered as genuine promotion candidates this season. However, a look down the fixture list shows that promotion out of this league is a very tough job indeed. There are some big names in the Championship aiming for a top two finish - and we will certainly be hoping to avoid the play-offs this season.

Historically Reading always lose in play-off finals - but recently we have followed it up with a successful automatic promotion campaign the following season. For once, we will be hoping history repeats itself. We went up to the Premier League as Champions in 2011/2012 after defeat in the play-off final the season before. The same was true in 2001/2002 when we finished second in Division Two after losing to Walsall in the play-off final the season before.

Play-Off Final Defeat: Things We Learned

30 May 2017
By Alex Bower

An exceptional season for Reading FC came to a devastating end on Monday afternoon when they lost the 4th play-off final in their history. Neither Reading or Huddersfield could get the ball in the net in normal or extra time, meaning the dreaded penalty shootout was required to separate the two sides. An Ali Al-Habsi save against Michael Hefele was enough for Reading fans to start believing Premier League football awaited them next season. Unfortunately that was not meant to be with defenders Liam Moore and Jordan Obita both failing to convert their spot kicks.

Here are some of the things that came out of the game.

A Season To Remember

After the dramatic and somewhat depressing end to Monday's final, it may be hard to focus on the positives. The Royals finished third in the league. They beat the favourites for promotion over two legs. They lost the play-off final on penalties. It is something that is going to hurt for a little while yet before focus has to turn to going one step better by achieving automatic promotion next season (as has happened before).

Amidst the disappointment, we must remember the achievements of the players this season to get the club in the position they were. No one expected Reading to be anywhere near the top of the table and fans have Jaap Stam and his squad to thank for that. At times it has not been pretty or exciting to watch but a lot of the time it has been effective. This season was only meant to be the start of a learning curve for the Reading squad as they adapted to the Dutch style of football. Ultimately it nearly became so much more.

Tactical Troubles

Jaap Stam must be praised for his tactics against Fulham in the semi-finals, nullifying the dangerous Fulham attack to good effect. Against Huddersfield, however, that was not the case. From the off, Reading were second best. Huddersfield were seeing the majority of the ball and looked threatening while Reading couldn't string two passes together and were far too narrow.

The press that was highly effective against Fulham was also non-existent at Wembley, with goalkeeper Danny Ward and his Huddersfield teammates allowed all the time in the world to play the ball out of defence. It didn't help the Reading cause that there were a couple of individuals in their ranks that were having particularly poor games and Yann Kermorgant struggled to win his aerial battles against a strong and resolute Huddersfield defence. As time went on the game evened out with both sides lacking quality going forwards. The substitutions of Garath McCleary and Liam Kelly helped the Royals somewhat but it was not enough to help them make a breakthrough.

Sorry Swift

Along with Joey van den Berg, John Swift had a day to forget at Wembley. Unfortunately Swift has been a player I have singled out on several occasions in recent times due to a marked decline in his performances. When it mattered, he still could not conjure up his spectacular form earlier in the season. It is clear that Swift has the ability to be a great player, but has lacked consistency as the season went on. Earlier on in the season he could have taken on defences almost single-handedly. At Wembley he couldn't pass to teammates, got nudged off the ball far too easily and even managed to trip himself up while under no pressure. It has been a time for Swift to forget over the last few months but here's hoping he bounces back from this a stronger player next season.

The Atmosphere

The atmosphere at Wembley was incredible for the Championship play-off final - at least, on one side of the ground... Anyone who goes to the Madejski Stadium knows that the Reading fans are not the loudest. Anyone who went to the Fulham semi-final knows, however, that they are capable of making a heck of a lot of noise when it counts.

With many Reading fans creeping out the woodwork to bring their numbers at Wembley to 39,000, the place should have been rocking. In reality it was at the Huddersfield end from start to finish. Won a corner? The crowd were up on their feet cheering. Won the ball back? Straight back up again willing their team on. It was not the most exciting game to say the least but the Huddersfield fans cheered the entire time while the Reading fans were comparatively lacking somewhat. They say that players feed off the energy their support gives them. If that is the case, Huddersfield's supporters may have given them the edge.

Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

It has only been a matter of hours since Reading's defeat, but talk has already turned to transfers. It is well known that Danny Williams is out of contract and is wanting to play in the Premier League. Based on his performance in the final, he deserves it too.

Unfortunately, Reading are currently not in a position to offer that to him and may not be able to justify his high wage bill for another year in the Championship. It is clear from his reaction after the game on Monday that he loves the club almost as much as the club loves him. That, however, may not be enough.

The other transfer story will inevitably be Jaap Stam. Stam nearly worked a miracle in his debut managing season and has clearly started something special at Reading. Anyone who had their doubts at the beginning of the season will now surely be behind the majority in wanting the manager to be at the club next season. There will inevitably be demand for Stam but he has said that he wants to stay at Reading. Only time will tell but with Stam at the helm and the full backing of the new owners, next season could be even better.

Onto The Next One

This result will take a little while to get over, but there are plenty of positives to take into next season. The most important is that Jaap Stam and his team have instilled belief back into the fan base after a troubling few years. While another year in the Championship may not be what many wanted, it could be a blessing in disguise. If the Royals can keep Stam and the rest of the coaching team in tact, bring in a few new faces and hold onto the majority of the squad then you have to think they have a real chance of challenging again next season. Here's hoping a large proportion of those Reading fans in attendance at Wembley on Monday come along for the ride week in week out.

More Play-Off Disappointment As Huddersfield Go Up

29 May 2017
By Hob Nob Anyone?

Reading suffered more Wembley pain as Huddersfield Town made the leap into the Premier League, defeating the Royals on penalties. After 46 league games, 2 play-off semi-final legs, and 120 more minutes at Wembley, promotion to the Premier League was decided by five penalty kicks each. Huddersfield managed to score four of theirs, while the Royals were on track after scoring the first three only to see Liam Moore's penalty blasted over the crossbar and Jordan Obita's weak effort saved to send Huddersfield up.

Reading's fourth play-off final ended in a fourth disappointment but, despite leading in the penalty shoot out, feelings of inevitability were stronger than those of disappointment as thousands of Reading fans trudged out of the stadium in silence. We seem destined to come out second best in every play-off final, but the Royals had themselves to blame after failing to score, or seriously trouble the Huddersfield goalkeeper after 120 goalless minutes. Unlike the excitement of Reading's previous play-off final appearances, this would have been poor for the neutral, in a game that went long periods without much action as the two teams cancelled each other out. Both sides had moments when they threatened, but by the end of extra time there had been nothing between them. Penalty shoot outs are brutal, but it was the only way to separate two sides.

Both Obita and McCleary were missing from the starting eleven, limiting Reading's forward play, but were included on the bench to be called into action later in the game. At the end of extra time it was Reading that had edged both both possession and shots. However those statistics hide the Terriers better start to the game. It took the Royals a long time to settle down, and they weren't helped by some poor decisions as the linesmen missed both an offside and a Huddersfield player walking the ball off the pitch but being allowed to play on. As Reading struggled to keep hold of the ball they resorted to some heavy challenges to hold Huddersfield back, and that resulted in two early yellow cards for van den Berg and Kermorgant. Huddersfield had created a couple of early chances but failed to find the target with either of them, going wide from close range and high from a header.

Reading weathered the storm and then began to settle down and work their way into the game. Defensive nerves calmed and both Moore and Illori grew into their roles to contain a lively Huddersfield. We began to see more of the ball - a lot of that was thanks to Danny Williams, who was everywhere on the pitch to win the ball back and help calm things down for the Royals. We eventually had long range efforts from Swift and van den Berg but it was a quiet half for Ward in the Hudersfield goal.

The second half saw Reading start on top. Huddersfield had sold out their allocation and packed more supporters into Wembley, with some blocks going unsold in the Royals half of the stadium. However, playing towards their own fans in the second half the atmosphere improved as Reading took control of the game. After a lively start to the second half and after our early match panic, we eventually managed to return to Jaap Stam's style of football with the ball being passed around and the possession stats swinging back in Reading's favour. We struggled to create chances through with a few long passes finding their way out of play. Obita was introduced for van den Berg on 64 minutes and McCleary replaced Grabban ten minutes later. They were sensible substitutions with Reading creating little down the wings and van den Berg always a likely candidate for a second yellow card.

The games between the two sides in the regular season had both been close contests decided by a single goal. At any point during this game a single goal would have won it again. It was nearly Reading that game up with the goods when a cross from the left saw Gunter with a great chance to head Reading into the Premier League - however his effort was narrowly over the crossbar. If only that chance had fallen to Kermorgant then we might be heading for the Premier League. However, extra time seemed on the cards a long time before it eventually got underway.

Liam Kelly was a welcome addition from the bench on 100 minutes replacing John Swift but it failed to swing the game. It was Huddersfield that could have won it before penalties as Wells put his effort just wide of the left post as Huddersfield counter attacked. Although we dreaded penalties it was almost a relief when they did eventually arrive.

Penalties got off to a bad start with Huddersfield winning the first toss of the coin, allowing them to take them in front of their own fans. However, it was Reading that went first, with Kermorgant going first. After a very long wait with the ball on the spot, Kermorgant confidently smashed it into the bottom left corner to put Reading ahead. Danny Williams put his straight down the middle, but thankfully the keeper didn't read it. When Ali Al Habsi dived to his right to save Huddersfield's second kick and make it 2-1 to Reading after two kicks each there was jubilation down the Reading end. When Kelly made it 3-1 the noise was deafening and we were all jumping around like lunatics. Now we really were within touching distance of the Premier League. Huddersfield made it 3-2 before Liam Moore sent the ball over the crossbar and all Reading fans back down to Earth in an instant. Joy turned to gloom in a second. 3-3, with one penalty left each. As if on cue, and to no suprise at all, Jordan Obita's penalty lacked power and was easily saved. Reading fans started leaving even before the last penalty was put past Al Habsi to send Huddersfield up. Huddersfield joy. Reading misery.

And so, Huddersfield have the summer to look forward to the glamour and excitement of the Premier League. Meanwhile, Reading will have to prepare for another season in England's second tier, and hopefully a push for automatic promotion. If we can't go up automatically next year then I'll settle for seventh or below. As long as we can avoid a play-off finish - it never ends well.

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Misery Or Joy Waits For Royals At Wembley

25 May 2017
By Hob Nob Anyone?

The whole season comes down to one massive game on Monday, when the Royals head to Wembley Stadium for a 3pm kick-off to face Huddersfield Town in the Championship play-off final. It'll be misery for one half of the stadium and huge joy for the other half. The winning side will head off to the Premier League next season, and earn multiple millions of pounds in the process, while the losers will face another season in the Championship. A defeat will be very hard to take after getting within touching distance of the big time. The play-offs are exciting and cruel in equal measures. But surely after five defeats in the play-offs, three of which came in play-off finals, Reading are due that elusive joy at Wembley this time?

One thing is for certain, whoever comes out top between Reading and Huddersfield Town, they will become a surprise addition to the Premier League. Both sides started the season unfancied after failing to impress last season. Both teams rose high in the table but were still written off. After securing play-off positions they found themselves as outsiders with no-one paying much attention to either side until they upset the bookies and made their way into the play-off final. Reading secured a place in the final, thanks to a Kermorgant penalty, with a dramatic 1-0 home win over Fulham in the second leg. Huddersfield needed a penalty shoot out to edge past Sheffield Wednesday.

The winner of this fixture will be immediately installed as favourites for the drop next season - but will get such a big boost in income next season that it will all be worthwhile. It is a massive opportunity which both sides will be desperate to take. It couldn't be any more 50/50, with neither side a clear favourite. It was Reading that finished higher in the table - two places above Huddersfield - and it was also Reading that knocked out overall favourites Fulham. So, it still seems strange that Huddersfield are slight favourites with the bookies as you can currently see on CrownBet's EFL odds.

Both teams have been allocated approaching 40,000 tickets each for Monday's final after going back to the FA to request more tickets. Huddersfield are set to entirely sell out their allocation despite the inflated ticket prices. The Royals appear to still have tickets on sale having failed to shift all their availability so far. After tickets initially went on sale to season ticket holders and members with points only, they have now been released on general sale where anyone can now snap up a pair of tickets. As was said before day one of ticket sales - anyone that wants tickets will be able to get them without difficulties. Reading fans have until tomorrow (Friday) at 3pm to buy through SEE tickets, and the game could yet be a sell out.

It feels like it has been a long time since Reading fans spilled onto the Madjski Stadium pitch to celebrate victory over Fulham. Reading fans will be hoping it has been long enough for Jordan Obita to make a recovery from the injury he picked up in the first leg. The Royals owe at lot to Obita whose amazing performance in the first leg, including the vital goal in the 1-1 draw, set-up Reading nicely for the second leg. There has been some good news with Obita re-starting training today and Jaap Stam confirming that he may be fit for Monday. So Obita remains a maybe. Meanwhile McShane is a definately not as he remains suspended following his straight red card for a high tackle in the match at Craven Cottage. All the players that earned our place at Wembley last Tuesday will be available for selection - and Gareth McCleary will be back to full strength after returning from injury with an appearance off the substitutes bench during that game.

Reading's Previous Play-Off Final Appearances

30 May 2011 Championship Play-Off Final Swansea City (Wembley) L: 2-4 Read report...
27 May 2001 Division Two Play-Off Final Walsall (Millenium Stadium) L: 2-3 Read report...
29 May 1995 Division One Play-Off Final Bolton Wanderers (Wembley) L: 3-4 Read report...


Recent Meetings With Huddersfield Town

21 February 2017 Championship Huddersfield (Away) L: 0-1 Read report...
24 September 2016 Championship Huddersfield (HOME) W: 1-0 Read report...
08 March 2016 Championship Huddersfield (Away) L: 1-3 Read report...
19 January 2016 FA Cup Huddersfield (HOME) W: 5-2 Read report...
09 January 2016 FA Cup Huddersfield (Away) D: 2-2 Read report...
03 November 2015 Championship Huddersfield (HOME) D: 2-2 Read report...
24 February 2015 Championship Huddersfield (Away) L: 0-3 Read report...
03 January 2015 FA Cup Huddersfield (Away) W: 1-0 Read report...
19 August 2014 Championship Huddersfield (HOME) L: 1-2 Read report...
29 March 2014 Championship Huddersfield (HOME) D: 1-1 Read report...
14 December 2013 Championship Huddersfield (Away) W: 1-0 Read report...