Season Preview: #12 Reading

The Royals have arrived back in the Premier League after a five year absence since being relegated in 2007-08. Brian McDermott has done an exceptional job, particularly after the disappointment of the play-off final defeat to Swansea last year to lead Reading to Championship triumph the next. The Royals were the form team across England’s top divisions last season, particularly in the second-half of last season – winning 17 of their 23 games (only four defeats in 2012) saw Reading win the league finishing one point ahead of Southampton.

As Norwich and Swansea proved last season, you don’t necessarily need to spend millions in order to achieve top flight safety and despite now being bankrolled by Russian tycoon Anton Zingarevich who bought out John Madejski earlier in the year, just Adrian Mariappa and Chris Gunter have arrived for a fee. The Royals have managed to snap up Pavel Pogrebnyak on a free, who scored six goals in 12 games for Fulham last season, and Danny Guthrie and Nicky Shorey have also arrived on free transfers.

Reading did have a slow start to last season drawing and winning their opening two games before four straight defeats which left them in 23rd place. Keeping it tight at the back will be key for the Royals, as last season they kept the most clean sheets in the Championship at 20, also conceding the fewest goals with 41. One thing that Brian McDermott’s side has experience, Adam Federici, Alex Pearce, Jem Karacan, Jobi McEnuff, Jimmy Kebe, Simon Church, Noel Hunt and Brnyjar Gunnarsson have all made in excess of 100 appearances for the club and have been regular mainstays in the club’s starting-eleven.

Adam Le Fondre was the clubs leading goalscorer last season with 12 goals, but other strikers, Noel Hunt, Simon Church and Jason Roberts contributed 21 goals. If Pavel Pogrebnyak starts the way he finished at Fulham last season, Reading should have a top goalscorer on their hands, something which a newly promoted side struggles with is goals and hopefully the Russian will be able to solve that problem for the Royals. Ian Harte, at 35 will be making his return to the top-flight and despite his age, he still has a deadly set-piece in him.

Under McDermott, Reading should be a difficult team to beat in the top-flight; he was recently linked with Wolves last season, but chose to stick with the Royals and lead them to promotion. The last time Reading were promoted to the top-flight they managed to finish in 8th place, but the league has become a much more competitive place since then, which millions of pounds being invested in many teams. Achieving safety should be their immediate aim for the season ahead.

Opening five fixtures: Stoke (H), Chelsea (A), Sunderland (A), Tottenham (H) and West Brom (A)

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