Royals one striker short of a complete team

Posted by Jon Keen

Chris Brunskill/Getty ImagesNick Blackman scored Reading's goal on this penalty kick, but otherwise had a tough day at striker for the Royals.

Twenty-four hours after Reading's 1-1 draw against Bolton at the Reebok Stadium, I've been reflecting on how much more this match has taught us about whether Nigel Adkins' team is developing into one ready to bounce back straight to the Premier League.

And my immediate reaction is that they're certainly getting there -- this was a highly entertaining match between teams very likely to be in the promotion mix at the end of the season. While some of Reading's play at times was simply sublime, some of it was anything but that. Continue Reading...

Guthrie the key in Royals' work in progress

Posted by Jon Keen

Ben Hoskins/Getty ImagesDanny Guthrie scores the winning goal for Reading in their Championship opener against Ipswich Saturday.

After considerable speculation, Loyal Royals got the chance to see how manager Nigel Adkins would deploy his new signings on Saturday, as well as how those signings would fare in a competitive match. And, they would have liked what they saw -- after a shaky start in their Championship opener, Reading beat Ipswich 2-1 looking more in command the longer the game went.

Deploying a highly flexible 4-2-3-1 formation, Adkins showed that no one's place is safe, relegating last season’s captain, Jobi McAnuff -- who seemed undroppable under previous boss Brian McDermott -- to the bench. Continue Reading...

One piece in jigsaw missing for Adkins

Posted by Jon Keen

Ben Hoskins/Getty ImagesReading, shown before their recent friendly against Swansea, is looking to regroup and return to the Premier League.

The day Loyal Royals have been waiting for will be here Saturday -- the day that heralds the end of 74 days without competitive football for Reading FC. But many cynics would suggest that for the vast majority of last season Reading were anything but competitive as they were relegated from the Premier League, and so Saturday's Championship home opener against Ipswich is the start of a new era for Nigel Adkins' team.

He arrived at the club too late to make any difference to the outcome of last season, but Saturday is the one day of the season when all the clubs in the Championship are equal and there is a completely blank slate, so everyone is feeling optimistic for the new campaign. Continue Reading...

International faces show MadStad ambition

Posted by Jon Keen

Royston DrentheGettyImagesDutchman Royston Drenthe, who had an ill-fated loan stint with Everton, is back in England with Reading.

Even before the players returned from their summer break this week, Reading had made a statement of intent by signing four internationals who manager Nigel Adkins will be hoping will play a major part in the team's push to return to the Premier League at the first attempt.

The first of these, left-back Wayne Bridge, was signed as a free agent from under the noses of QPR, and also by out-bidding Brighton, the team for whom Bridge was outstanding on loan last season, and was voted onto the PFA's Championship Team of the Season. Continue Reading...

Nolan hammers final nails into Royals’ Premier League coffin

Posted by Jon Keen

Kevin Nolan celebrates with Andy Carroll after putting West Ham into the lead against ReadingGettyImagesKevin Nolan celebrates with Andy Carroll after putting West Ham into the lead against Reading

Reading's Premier League season ended with a whimper as they lost 4-2 to West Ham at the Boleyn Ground on Sunday. Despite the fact that over recent years Reading have seemed to nearly always beat West Ham, they couldn't even meet the obligations as West Ham's bogey team, although a brief recovery in the second half did keep hope alive.

The pre-match talking point was the recall of Kaspars Gorkss in the centre of the defence at the expense of Adrian Mariappa -- a surprising move as Gorkss has received less than rave reviews for his on-loan performance a tier lower, at relegated Wolves. Continue Reading...

Mixed feelings over McCarthy call-up

Posted by Jon Keen

Warren Little/Getty ImagesAlex McCarthy's England call-up could be a doubled-edged sword for Reading supporters.

One of the few bright sparks of a pretty dismal season for Loyal Royals was given official confirmation today with the announcement that England manager Roy Hodgson has called young Reading goalkeeper Alex McCarthy into his squad for the end of season friendlies at home to the Republic of Ireland and away in Brazil.

Regular followers of my blogs will already know just how highly I rate the 23-year-old McCarthy, so I have never had any doubts that McCarthy would make the full England squad one day -- my only surprise is the timing, and that this has happened quite so soon. Continue Reading...

Damp squib as City too strong for Royals

Posted by Jon Keen

Manchester City celebrate after Sergio Aguero put the managerless side in front at ReadingGettyImagesManchester City celebrate after Sergio Aguero put the managerless side in front at Reading

With Reading already relegated and Manchester City now managerless, licking their wounds from the FA Cup final defeat to Wigan, and no doubt waiting for season's end and a new hand on the tiller, there wasn't much enthusiasm for Tuesday's match. Even more so as this game was played on a horrible evening -- grey and cold with a swirling wind and torrential rain.

So it's a great credit to the supporters who did turn up, even though there were appreciable gaps in the stands. Those who were there saw Manchester City beat Reading 2-0 in a nondescript match -- but one which did show glimpses of the improvements manager Nigel Adkins has made. Continue Reading...

Fun to be a Royal again as Adkins claims first win

Posted by Jon Keen

Adam Le Fondre celebrates putting Reading 3-1 up at FulhamGettyImagesAdam Le Fondre celebrates putting Reading 3-1 up at Fulham

A fellow supporter likened Saturday's match to a round of golf - in the same way that it's a nice walk spoiled by all the golf, Saturday was likely to be a nice day out in the sun spoiled by a game of football. But in the end it was anything but that. A hugely entertaining match, which you couldn't take your eyes off for a second, saw Reading triumph over Fulham 4-2 on a day much enjoyed by all those Loyal Royals present.

Now that relegation is confirmed, the pressure seemed to be lifted from both players and supporters, and the latter were loud and proud on a great day out - suddenly, so close to the end of this long, dismal season, the fun is back and it's enjoyable being a Reading supporter again. Continue Reading...

The impact of relegation - fatal or recoverable?

Posted by Jon Keen

Alex Pearce was Reading's Player of the Season in 2011-12AssociatedAlex Pearce was Reading's Player of the Season in 2011-12

Previously, I looked at whether Reading's relegation was inevitable - now I'll discuss what it means to the club in the short-term. There are two key areas where this relegation impacts the club.

The first area is player retention. Almost invariably, when a team is relegated from the Premier League the remaining top flight teams, and sometimes those going up to the higher division, pick over the carcass to asset-strip the players who they think can do a job for them. Unless a relegated team is prepared to match Premier League wages, it's almost impossible for them to hang onto key performers. Continue Reading...

Reading relegation inevitable - or just bad transfers?

Posted by Jon Keen

Mike Hewitt/Getty ImagesDanny Guthrie was just one Reading signing that didn't deliver

Two days after Reading's relegation back to the Championship was finally confirmed, there are three main subjects on the lips of Loyal Royals.

The first is one that's been under discussion for most of the season, as this slow-motion car-crash relegation has played itself out, is it has happened, and what - if anything - could have been done to avoid it.

- Impact of relegation - fatal or recoverable?
- Reading set sights on promotion

Many had been predicting this relegation from the point that Reading were promoted just over a year ago. Continue Reading...

Wooden spoon shared as Royals relegated

Posted by Jon Keen

Reading v QPR woeGettyImagesA goalless draw between Reading and QPR sent both sides back to the Championship

So the day that was long expected has come at last. The lack of quality on show from Reading and QPR put them both out of their misery and saw the duo relegated from the Premier League as they played out a tame, goal-less draw.

No one should really be surprised because the writing has been on the wall for most of the season, and perhaps the campaign is best summed up by the familiar phrase "Reading NIL." And so this result is perhaps a fitting one for a game that was the football equivalent of two bald men fighting over a comb. Continue Reading...

Relegation a step closer for Royals after second-half sucker punches

Posted by Jon Keen

Jamie McDonald/Getty ImagesA spirited comeback by Chris Gunter and Reading came up just shy at Norwich.

Reading's relegation moved one step closer to reality today as they lost 2-1 to Norwich at Carrow Road, a defeat made so much more painful as they had been playing with a greater confidence than for many matches, looking a much better team than Norwich and had the lion's share of first half possession. But football is a cruel game, and all their promise was swept away by two sloppy goals in two minutes at the start of the second-half, a setback from which Reading never recovered.

- Match report: Norwich 2-1 Reading

It's clear that manager Nigel Adkins is starting to get a handle on who his preferred team is. Continue Reading...