By Simeon Pickup –
Reading know how to end a season on a sour note, don’t they?
Just under a year ago, it was a heartbreaking penalty shoot-out defeat to Huddersfield Town at Wembley. Fast-forward to the present day, and the Royals have limped over the line to Championship safety.
An unlikely clean sheet and point at Premier League-bound Cardiff City, combined with convenient defeats for Barnsley and Burton Albion, meant that Paul Clement’s side ended a dismal campaign with a three point gap to the League One trapdoor.
However, the fact that we were in that position going into the final day of the season in the first place speaks volumes about the mess the club is currently in.
Both on and off the pitch, Reading Football Club lacks direction, and has done for years. Make no mistake, the seeds for the horror show of 2017/18 were planted by the likes of Anton Zingarevich and Steve Clarke as much as they were by Jaap Stam, Brian Tevreden, Dai Yongge and Dai Xiu Li.
A lack of stability and long-term planning has hamstrung the Royals throughout their Premier League exile, and that is exactly what the club’s owners must now put right over the summer. To do that, former Chelsea duo Paul Clement and Ron Gourlay must convincingly solve three issues:
- Revamp a recruitment system that hasn’t delivered in years
- Win fans back with much more entertaining football than we’ve been used to recently
- Take advantage of the impressive talent on offer in the club’s academy
Achieving all of that will be no mean feat, but all of it is vital if the club is to address major problems that have held back the side’s fortunes in recent years.
In truth, I’m cautiously optimistic that Clement and Gourlay are the right men for the job. Their working relationship is strong, with them having worked together at Stamford Bridge, but they also bring an intriguing mix of experience. Clement has also coached at Derby County, Swansea City, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, whilst Gourlay was previously a director at Manchester United.
How well this pairing turns out could very well define the fortunes of Reading Football Club for years to come.