The longest of all seasons is over. Almost a year after kicking off against Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday, August 3, Reading have finally played their final game of the 2019/20 campaign.
It was a season of multiple false dawns – from the promising week in August which saw the Royals take seven points from a possible nine against Cardiff City, West Brom and Huddersfield Town, to the four-game winning run over Christmas – as we were frequently teased by the team’s potential, but ultimately left disappointed that it amounted to little more than a mid-table finish. Nonetheless, after two consecutive 20th place finishes in seasons spent worrying about relegation, wandering about in Championship obscurity is certainly a sign of progress.
For the third campaign in a row, Reading changed manager mid-season as Jose Gomes was sacked in October. The Portuguese may have left the club in the relegation zone, but his departure was met with a tinge of sadness considering his charismatic nature and genuine affection for the Royals.
Undoubtedly the lowest point of the campaign though was the 3-0 home defeat to Wigan Athletic in February, when the team look devoid of all cohesion, spirit and ability. Meanwhile, there is perhaps a slight sense of frustration that the team’s post-lockdown form was quite underwhelming.
As for the highs, George Puscas announced himself to the Championship with a brace in the 3-0 win over Cardiff, while Mark Bowen’s first game in charge over Preston was won in dramatic fashion through Matt Miazga’s 98th minute goal. Fulham away is always a well-attended fixture by Reading fans, and those who travelled to Craven Cottage on New Year’s Day were rewarded with one of the best performances of the season in a 2-1 win.
There was a treat earlier this month too, as the Royals achieved their biggest win in six and a half years – a 5-0 victory away against Luton Town.
The stand-out players have come from all areas of the pitch. The task of replacing Emiliano Martinez in goal last summer looked a difficult one, but Brazilian Rafael has settled well in his debut season in England and become a dependable option between the sticks.
In front of him, Michael Morrison has been somewhat of an unsung hero in the centre of defence, using his experience to put in a number of assured and dominant performances to keep opposition attackers at bay. John Swift has proven himself to be one of the Championship’s most creative players and appears to have earned himself a move to the Premier League with Sheffield United as a result. It’s also worth mentioning Yakou Meite, who finished as the club’s top goalscorer for the second year running.
No one is quite sure what the summer holds for Reading, with the club’s financial position remaining precarious, but the wait until the new season is shorter than usual, meaning we are ever closer to being allowed to watch our team in the flesh again.