Saturday, 20 January 2018

Side should deliver on its early promise

“MAKE hay while the sun shines”, the farmers say. Well, starting against the Tractor Boys this

“MAKE hay while the sun shines”, the farmers say. Well, starting against the Tractor Boys this weekend, Reading should be holding a harvest festival this month.

Can history repeat itself? Reading fans, Sky TV execs and neutrals will certainly be hoping so. A year ago the Royals dismantled the Tractor Boys in spectacular fashion.

It was a Friday night at the Madejski Stadium, in front of the TV cameras. Steve Clarke’s team had just returned from an international break and were powering their way up the table. Ipswich could not keep pace, being swept away by a wave of attacking brilliance led by Nick Blackman and Oliver Norwood. Quite how Reading could look so magnificently dominant that night, and yet finish the season 10 places below Ipswich in the table, remains baffling.

Reading return from the international break this Friday night, and the BBC local radio station, for one, is hoping for a repeat. Insert your own jokes here about repeats on the BBC. Jaap Stam’s side have won seven points in their first five games. They have shown glimpses of great promise, particularly at home. Now is time for them to strut their stuff and put a run together.

There should be few distractions. The transfer window is closed, the off-pitch politics seem to have quietened down, Stam has had time to drive his messages home to the players, and there is no concern over injuries or fatigue. This next period of games between now and the international break in October ought to be an excuses-free zone, during which the points are racked up and the momentum is gathered.



Whenever a football commentator dare suggests a team is about to take on weaker teams the answer is guaranteed to be “there are no easy games in this league”. Of course, that is complete tosh. Burton at home will be a lot easier than Newcastle away.

Look at the relative spending of opponents. Those clubs who have spent peanuts ought to offer less resistance than those who have spent the equivalent of a small European nations gross domestic product during the previous transfer window. That is not to say results will go entirely according to spending, but there is a distinct correlation by the end of any season.

Based on recent spending, the up-coming games against Birmingham, Barnsley, Huddersfield and Brentford should be far easier than Newcastle, Brighton, Wolves and Cardiff, all of whom Reading met before the international break.

In the same way the arrival of Her Majesty the Queen on the opening day of Royal Ascot marks the start of the summer, the September international break always marks the end of the summer for me. All the schools are back, we have the Henley and Royal County of Berkshire shows upon us, and the cricket season is drawing to a close. It will be quite a shock returning from this work trip in Barbados working with the West Indies cricketers for Friday night’s game. Just thought I’d unnecessarily mention it!



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