Reading were only a penalty shoot-out away from returning to the Premier League in May – but so far this season they have not pushed themselves into contention for another tilt at promotion.
The Royals lost on spot-kicks to Huddersfield at Wembley after finishing third in the table – eight points behind promoted Brighton – and then beating Fulham in the play-off semi-finals.
They have been inconsistent so far this season with two wins, one draw and three defeats in their six league matches.
They lost 2-0 at QPR on the opening day of the campaign and then drew 1-1 with Fulham before earning their first victory against Aston Villa (2-1).
A 1-0 defeat at Preston followed and they then won 2-0 at Birmingham before losing 1-0 at home to Bristol City last Saturday.
They have a game in hand on their rivals after Tuesday’s match with Barnsley was postponed because of the Tykes’ rearranged fixture with Derby in the Carabao Cup, a competition in which the Royals are still involved.
They beat Gillingham 2-0 in round one and then overcame Millwall in round two 3-1 after extra-time. They have their third successive home tie next Tuesday when they take on Swansea.
This is Reading’s fifth consecutive season in the Championship, and eighth in nine years, following relegation from the Premier League in 2013.
Last season was their first in the play-offs since returning to the second tier, although they only missed out by a point in 2013/14.
Two bottom half of the table finishes followed before Jaap Stam revived their fortunes last term.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
Jaap Stam became Reading’s first overseas manager when he joined the club in June last year.
This summer, he signed a new contract which commits him to the club until the middle of 2019.
Stam is best known in England for his time at Manchester United where, in his first full season, he helped the club win the treble of Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup.
United also won the Premier League title in each of his other two seasons at Old Trafford and only lost 17 of the 127 games in which he played for them in all competitions in his three-year stay.
Sir Alex Ferguson has since admitted he regretted selling Stam, who went on to more success – winning domestic cups with Lazio and Ajax and helping Milan reach the 2005 Champions League final.
The 44-year-old, who started his career with PSV Eindhoven, also won 67 caps for the Netherlands – playing in the 1998 World Cup finals and three European Championships.
After retiring in 2007, he held various scouting and coaching roles at United, PEC Zwolle and Ajax before returning to England last summer.
Former Reading captain and now BBC Radio Berkshire sports presenter Adrian Williams tells us how the Royals are bouncing back from play-off disappointment, discusses the influence of Liam Moore and reveals this season’s expectations.
Q – How hard has it been for Reading to bounce back from the heartache of Wembley?
A – I don’t think there’s been a hangover from the Wembley game. I think there has been very good reason for a couple of indifferent performances already this season. I put this down to injuries and suspensions. The first game of the season away to QPR we had 10 first team players missing, for example.
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Q – Did last season exceed expectations and once the pain had finally gone away, how was the season assessed by fans and the club?
A – Last season I believe was a surprise for all Reading fans – a welcome surprise. We would all take third again!
Q – How were the club’s summer transfer dealings – any major losses or welcome arrivals?
A – Danny Williams and Ali Al-Habsi are definitely big losses, but I feel with seven summer signings our squad is stronger this time around. Once the treatment room is empty, I believe we will be pushing for promotion
Q – What are the feelings on the job Jaap Stam is doing?
A – Everybody in Berkshire believes Jaap Stam has been a breath of fresh air. He has his own style, which hasn’t won all Reading fans over. But he sticks to this style, won’t change it and it has already proven to be successful.
Q – How important is ex-Bee Liam Moore to the team? I believe he signed a new long-term contract in the summer.
A – Liam Moore has been outstanding since the day he signed. Without doubt Moore is a big part of the team. His relationship with Paul McShane (and other players) has got better and stronger. He is a huge player for Reading.
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Q – What are the expectations for this season?
A – I think realistically they have to be to finish in the top six. To say to go one better would be ideal but a big ask. But the squad Jaap has (when fit) is more than strong enough to compete with so-called bigger sides in the Championship
Q – How do you feel about Brentford’s season – the miserable start and flurry of departures, plus the new signings who all came in before a ball was kicked?
A – Being a local side to Reading, over the years I have always enjoyed playing at Griffin Park. I’ve always kept an eye on their results as I know Brentford supporters who live in the Berkshire area.
I fear it could be hard work for the Bees this time around. If you sell your best players and don’t replace them, then football isn’t rocket science!
I think if Brentford are playing in the Championship next season, that would be a decent outcome, then they can look to build a team to challenge the top half.
It was one a win apiece for us and the Royals in last season’s encounters.
The home game, on the final Tuesday in September, was one of many superb Bees performances under the Griffin Park floodlights during 2016/17 as we romped to a 4-1 win.
Josh Clarke gave us the lead in the 41st minute with his first Bees goal and Lasse Vibe doubled the lead before the break.
Maxime Colin became the second player to score his first goal for the club to make it 3-0 before Yann Kermorgant pulled one back from the penalty spot.
Scott Hogan hit his seventh of the season late on to complete the win and take us up to fourth in the table.
The return on Valentine’s Day is not a match that Brentford fans will love to remember as we failed to come up smelling of roses – surrendering a 2-1 lead to lose 3-2.
Ex-Bee John Swift gave Reading a first half lead, but two goals in quick succession midway through the second from Jota and Lasse Vibe looked like making it a date to remember for the Bees.
However, Danny Williams levelled in the 77th minute and Roy Beerens accepted a gift to slot in the winner.
Reading lined up in a 4-3-3 formation in their last outing against Bristol City last weekend but played a back five at Birmingham in their previous match.
Summer signing Vito Mannone (ex-Sunderland) maintained his Championiship ever-present record for the season in goal last Saturday.
He was behind a virtually ever-present defence in Chris Gunter (ex-Nottingham Forest) at right-back, Tyler Blackett (ex-Manchester United) at left-back and ex-Bees loan player Liam Moore (ex-Leicester), who had two separate short spells with us in 2013 and 2015, and captain Paul McShane (ex-Hull), the only one to miss a game so far, in the middle.
The three-man midfield featured Joey van den Berg (ex-Heerenveen), ever-present former trainee Liam Kelly and another close season arrival in Leandro Bacuna (ex-Aston Villa).
The front three consisted of three summer signings – debutant Sone Aluko (ex-Fulham) on the right, Modou Barrow (ex-Swansea) on the left and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, who was making his home bow, in the middle.
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Midfielders David Edwards, a recent signing who played more than 300 games in midfield for Wolves, Garath McCleary (ex-Nottingham Forest) and Roy Beerens (ex-Hertha Berlin) were the three substitutes used against the Robins.
Two more midfielders were also on the bench – one-time Brentford target George Evans (ex-Manchester City) and Pelle Clement (ex-Ajax) – along with defender Tiago Ilori (ex-Liverpool) and goalkeeper Anssi Jaakkola (ex-Kilmarnock).
Former Brentford loan midfielder John Swift (ex-Chelsea), who spent the 2015/16 season with us, striker Yann Kermorgant (ex-Bournemouth) and left-back and former trainee Jordan Obita have all been out injured and may not be fit to return at Griffin Park.
PUBS IN BRENTFORD
For Reading fans coming down, you are probably aware there plenty of pub options pre-match and all are most welcoming.
Last season, there were now only three pubs around the ground, following the closure of the Royal Oak.
The Griffin is closest to the away end (like 30 secs walk) and is very popular with away fans – but also very, very busy. The New Inn is on the other side and is also popular with away fans. The Princess Royal is the other option.
But at July’s friendly with Celta Vigo, a pop-up version of the Royal Oak was set up outside the now closed boozer to bring back the “four corners” feature again.
Other pubs slightly further afield for the more creative amongst you include (and this is by no means a definitive list) …. The Globe (Windmill Rd) is the Beesotted pre-match pub. This boozer & The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd) are both incredibly friendly and cosy away-friendly pubs and about 1 min walk from each other .. frequented by “away fans in the know”.
The Plough (Northfields Ave) in Northfields is a decent stop-off if you are coming by tube to Northfields (it’s a much better pub crawl route getting off at Northfields than South Ealing) before making your way down to the ground (normally stopping off at The Globe and Lord Nelson en route).
There is also a pub right by Brentford station always referred to as … the Pub by Brentford station.
For ale head to the Magpie and Crown pub on Brentford High Street. The Royal Horseguardsman can probably hold 15 of you at a push. The Brewery Tap is a cosy boozer by the river. And if you are super adventurous, get off at Kew Bridge and visit the brand new boozer One Over the Ait right on the river – beside the bridge. There are loads more too.
A quick Google search and you’ll find them all. There are many, many more too if you have a look around.
Parking is pretty easy away from the ground going up towards and over the A4 Great West Road (ie. North) via Ealing Road or Windmill Road.
You can check out details of how the tube is running on Transport for London’s website here.
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