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Why Reading Could be a Whole Different Animal This Season

Calum Pettitt

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Reading have definitely endured a tough couple of years to say the least. From the ill-fated ownership of Anton Zingarevich who sent the club hurtling into debt and needing to sell players just to pay an outstanding tax bill, to an injury crisis at the start of last season. Zingarevich’s reign all started well enough, he talked a good game and his ambition was infectious. Zingarevich oversaw Reading’s return to the Premier League and this is where the real problems began. A number of signings on large wages followed, most notably the reported £50k a week Pavel Pogrebnyak was reeling in on a 4 year deal.

Once Reading were relegated following a tough season where they only recorded 28 points, the spending continued. American international Danny Williams, veteran Wayne Bridge, and the infamous character of Royston Drenthe. By this time, Nigel Adkins was at the helm at the Madejski and oversaw the Royals battle to a 7th place finish leading to an ill-timed pitch invasion broadcasted live to the nation – but we won’t talk about that.

I, for one, think Adkins never had the backing he needed and was given a tough assignment turning an injury-ridden group into a team that matched the expectations of the fans and the board. Sure enough, Adkins was axed around Christmas after a 6-1 drubbing by Birmingham (again, no need to talk about that) and in came Steve Clarke. Clarke brought a huge experience within the game; he was a former assistant to José Mourinho and had also worked at Liverpool, Newcastle, and West Ham. In the same season that Reading were relegated from the Premier League, Clarke guided West Brom to their best ever Premier League finish of 8th and it was safe to say that the two parties couldn’t have seemed further apart.

When Steve Clarke did join the Royals in December 2014, he injected some belief into a group of players that at times looked lost or disinterested during parts of the season. League form overall did not improve with home form particularly suffering with Reading only scoring 6 home league goals in 2015. However, Reading did go on a magical cup run and found themselves at Wembley in a FA Cup Semi-Final for the first time in 88 years. There was something about a small Chilean and a despairing Aussie lunge here, I can’t seem to recall as it happens.

Steve Clarke has injected belief into the Reading players and now needs to see his football philosophies reaping rewards

Now, why might Reading be a whole different animal this coming season? Well, for the first time it what feels like an eternity; Reading have that much sought after combination of a manager with experience and know-how and shiny new owners that love energy drinks and signing footballers. The Royals have added the likes of Stephen Quinn, Paul McShane, Orlando Sá, Ali Al-Habsi, and under 21 England international Jonathan Bond with more signatures promised by the management at the club.

If you consider that Reading nearly went a year without a single signing not so long ago, it is tough not to be enthusiastic not only about the amount of signings, but also the calibre of the individuals making their way to the Royal County. Quinn and McShane in particular expressed their excitement after talking to Clarke stating that they had bought into the way Clarke wants to do things and were impressed by his commitment in coming to visit them.

This pre-season has been crucial for Clarke as it is the key time for any manager that wishes to inject their own style and flavour to a club. A great deal of the club’s backroom and playing staff departed including the talismanic fan-favourite Sal Bibbo – this was particularly hard to take as Queensley the Lion somehow managed to avoid Clarke’s cull.

Clarke is a man who carries a certain aura about him. He is quiet, and measured in his words but also very honest in post-match interviews and has no problem telling players if he feels they aren’t pulling their weight. A definite change from the relentless positivity of Nigel Adkins. He is also incredibly knowledgeable about the game and has worked with some the very best. Clarke has sat on the sidelines of management for a very long time, quietly learning and waiting for right moment to take the helm at a club. He was a victim of his own success at West Brom – but now, at Reading, he has a chance to take on a whole different challenge and it is one that many are sure he is up for.

With Clarke, there is definitely something different about Reading this season. The players are more confident, the fans are more enthusiastic, the manager level-headed and determined to fulfill his vision for the club. Reading have an edge that they have lacked for quite a while, they have the skull of a carabao on the home kit for starters. It is hard not to be optimistic if you are a Reading fan this season and with the season just over a week away – it is almost time to see if Clarke’s methods live up to the optimism of the Reading faithful.

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Calum is a Reading fan and has been a season ticket holder for many years. He is currently studying for a degree in Sport & Exercise Psychology.

Birmingham City

Garry Monk should reunite with Rob Green at Birmingham City

Birmingham City are set to let David Stockdale leave the club.

Mathew Coull

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Huddersfield Town have announced their retained list for the summer and veteran goalkeeper Rob Green will now be hunting for a new club. The Terriers have not renewed his one-year deal at the club and the 12-cap England international will now be hunting for a new club this summer.

Green joined Huddersfield on a free transfer after a shock release by West Yorkshire rivals Leeds United last summer, who decided to replace him with German goalie Felix Wiedwald. That proved to be a move which certainly backfired.

But he played second fiddle to Danish international goalie Jonas Lossl and is now on his way. He did not feature in a single game for the club, spending the entire season as a substitute at the John Smith’s Stadium.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

So where does he go next?

One potential option would be a return to working with Garry Monk, currently the manager at Birmingham City.

Green was the number one for Monk at Leeds in 2016-17. Had the manager remained at Elland Road, it is highly likely that Green would have done the same and played out this season as the Whites number one again.

But with Monk gone Green needed to find somewhere else to play his football and now the pair have a chance to reunite again.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

It also appears that Birmingham are going to be in need of a new goalkeeper. The Yorkshire Evening Post suggest this weekend that Monk wants to move on David Stockdale, with his hometown club and Monk’s former club Leeds keen.

If Stockdale is exiting, Birmingham need a safe pair of hands between the net. Despite his advancing years, Green proved at Leeds he still has plenty to give at the Championship level and with Monk needing a new ‘keeper he can rely on the 38-year-old would be a no-brainer for Birmingham City.

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Nottingham Forest

Aitor Karanka should target reunion with Julien De Sart

The Belgian could be a great signing for Nottingham Forest.

Mathew Coull

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It seems as though Belgian midfielder Julien De Sart will be looking for a new club this summer. He finds himself in a state of limbo after a season on loan at Zulte Waregem from Middlesbrough.

Despite being a regular for the Essevee he will not be making a permanent move to the club. According to Het Laatste Nieuws, the club will not be prioritising his €700,000 (£612,000) permanent deal agreed with Middlesbrough.

The 23-year-old will now return to the Riverside, where it appears he has no long-term future.

(Photo by Ashley Allen/Getty Images)

But should his former boss bring him to Nottingham Forest?

Aitor Karanka was the manager at Boro when De Sart was snapped up from Standard Liege back in 2016 and was considered one for the future on Teesside.

Now, the former Belgium under-21 international needs to find a new home and a reunion with Karanka at the City Ground could be a perfect move.

The central-midfielder would be a welcome addition for Forest, who need to strengthen across the park following another mediocre season.

(Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)

De Sart has impressed in the East Midlands before. He was finally showing what he could do during a loan spell with Derby County in 2017. Unfortunately, a change of manager saw him drop out of the side under Gary Rowett.

Forest, however, could offer him a second chance in the Championship and it would give Karanka a chance to properly work with a player he clearly rated just a couple of seasons ago.

He would be a cheap and known transfer option for the Nottingham Forest first-team squad. He would also arrive with a point to prove to his old boss Karanka and the manager at bitter rivals Derby, something Forest fans will certainly appreciate.

It would be an under-the-radar signing, but one which could act some genuine quality to the Forest midfield ahead of the new season.

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Derby County

Newcastle United should take advantage of Matej Vydra’s low asking fee

The Czech international has scored 20 goals in the Championship this season.

Josh Kerr

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Matej Vydra
Photo: Getty Images

Newcastle United ensuring another season of Premier League football represents one of Rafael Benitez’ most impressive achievements in football to date.

The job done by the Spaniard is all the more admirable considering the Magpies striker options have been thin for large periods of the season, and the arrival of a goal-scorer is surely imminent for the Tyneside club.

According to The Telegraph, Derby County are likely to list their top-scorer Matej Vydra for sale after their failure to earn promotion to the Premier League.

This comes as massive news to a number of clubs in England’s top-flight, and Newcastle should be one of the front-runners queuing for the 26-year-old’s prolific services.

The Czech Republic international has been excellent this season firing 20 goals in 35 appearances for the Rams.

Reports suggest the club may be forced to sell their star striker in order to reduce the club’s £35 million wage bill ahead of next season.

The 26-year-old’s sale this summer will be Derby’s attempts to slash their budgets and form a strategy that is going to enable the club to push for promotion once again next season.

A fee of around £8 million could prove a major boost for Newcastle, considering the club’s financial restraints, and a 20-goal striker would surely be an improvement on Benitez’s current front-line options.

(Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)

Islam Slimani’s loan move from Leicester proved to be a disaster, and the arrival of Joselu was one of the most disappointing transfers of the season.

The club are in desperate need of a goalscorer, with Perez leading the club’s individual efforts, despite being a number 10 and not an out-and-out goalscorer.

Vydra also has rare Premier League experience with West Bromwich Albion, as well as Watford, and his graft in the Championship may mean he’s ready for a return back to the top-flight.

The former West Brom striker guarantees goals and if there is one thing Tyneside supporters have missed in recent years, it is a goal-scoring hero.

At a little over £8 million, he could still prove a real bargain and a relatively insignificant risk.

Benitez has been wanting to break the bank since his arrival in 2016 but may be tempted do a deal on the cheap for the highly-rated striker.

Newcastle will be looking to improve on their impressive 10th place finish next season and the firepower of a genuine goalscorer could see them surpass the highs of this campaign.

Vydra offers pace and is even an aerial threat at just 5ft 2, so it has to be a priority for Newcastle to capture one of the bargains of the season and bring Vydra to St James’ Park.

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