Reading again this season have proven that the gap in quality between the Premier League and Championship is not as wide as once thought.
This comes after the Royals progressed to the FA Cup quarter finals after beating West Brom 3-1, looking the better team in the process. Their reward is a home tie against Crystal Palace on the 12th March, paving the way for a return of Alan Pardew.
But the recent high quality performances aren’t flukes. Last season in the FA Cup, Reading did get all the way to Wembley in the semis, only to be knocked out by the eventual winners Arsenal thanks to an Adam Federici blunder.
Since then Federici has been sold to Bournemouth, with Ali Al Habsi and Jonathan Bond fighting it out for the No.1 shirt. Steve Clarke could not replicate the managerial skill he showed at West Brom, and has been replaced by fan favourite Brian McDermott, too.
McDermott of course is Reading through and through, and was the man behind their 2012/13 season in the Premier League, when he led them up alongside Southampton and West Ham to promotion. Sadly for McDermott he was sacked halfway through the campaign and replaced by Nigel Adkins, who could not stop the Berkshire outfit from falling back down.
Since then Reading have struggled to fight for promotion from the Championship, and currently sit in 16th, 16 points off the play-off spots. They have struggled to fight alongside the big boys, and the changing of the guard did no favours for the Royals.
With matches left against the big boys, a late promotion push could still prove to be possible, although it would be highly unlikely. Next season might be a better opportunity, as long as they keep hold of their current squad. Currently they have a good mix of experience and talented players, whom have fought for promotion before. The signing of Paul McShane was a great steal from Hull, as well as good loan additions such as Matej Vydra from Watford, Michael Hector (back from Chelsea) and Lucas Piazon from Blues, too. Alex Fernandez from Espanyol and Ola John from Benfica joined as well.
Within their ranks Reading have great talent, and if they can keep hold of key men there is no reason why they cannot continue to shock the elite sides in the FA Cup and perhaps pull off a late promotion push. With a tie against Palace, the Royals may be able to squeeze past, as the Londoners have struggled in the league recently and are finding goals hard to come by. If Reading use their home advantage, we could be in for a cup shock.
When you consider the experience of McDermott, there is no reason that Reading could not be amongst the Premier League’s 20 clubs sooner rather than later. They have a lot of experience within their squad, and a set up that is more suited for Premier League football. If they can tie down this talent on permanent deals, promotion is a realistic aim for 2016/17.