All I want for Christmas is? Promotion!
As the weather gets colder and colder, and the number of snoods and gloves on the pitch dramatically increases, it can only mean one thing; Christmas is upon us in all its Waitrose-advert filled glory.
Whilst for most people the excitement of this time comes from seeing (or avoiding) extended family, or from eating oneself into a hallucinatory state, the Christmas period is particularly important for Football League fans as it marks the beginning of the final assault on the promotion places and a relentless run of games up to the January transfer window.
So, before we head into the footballing-Christmas-chaos, I thought maybe I should ask Father Christmas or the footballing deities or anyone else who would listen for the few things that I’d like to see happen to Reading FC over this magical period…
The walls of Jericho: So the last few games have been relatively successful for the Royals, with nine points from a possible twelve going Reading’s way. Whilst the fact that we won two of these games 3-2 might seem to suggest otherwise, I think that one of the key factors in the team’s fortunes has been our solidarity at the back as Gorkss, Pearce and Cummings have formed a solid partnership which now looks capable of withholding the flak that any other team in the league can throw at it.
Admittedly, the left-back position still poses quite a problem with Harte’s dead-ball expertise worth its weight in gold but his defensive movement leaving much to be desired but outside of this position Cummins and Pearce have started to thrive in the back four while Gorkss has been an outstanding signing. Not many teams can boast holding West Ham for ninety minutes but if the Royals back four can keep up their current form, we can launch our push for promotion from solid foundations.
Winging it: Though the West Ham game was a fantastic example of Reading football at its best for many reasons, the performances that brought the biggest smile to my face were those of McAnuff and Kebe. For the first time in what seemed an age, Jimmy Kebe was playing football with a smile on his face whilst making a mockery of the Irons back line and even managing to draw a red card from the justifiably irate Jack Collinson after some showboating.
Similarly, the Royals captain had the sort of performance that merited his selection as the leader of the team, setting up the first goal and driving at the Hammers fullbacks with fury. Joey O’Brien didn’t know how to handle his pace and skill so it was no surprise to see the unfortunate left back head for an early bath. At the start of this season I wrote that if Brian can get these two wingers playing the way we all know they can, then it will take a mighty effort to halt the Royals offensive force and the last few games have shown this to be true. It’s a tall order but if we can harness the shear speed of these two wingers then we can see a return to the glorious performances that characterized the second half of last season.
The Life of Brian: My final wish for this Christmas period is that Brian, the man behind the Reading renaissance of recent weeks, gets the credit he deserves. After a dazzling performance against West Ham, it seems that the League is finally starting to sit up and take notice of a manager who has turned lead to gold across the two seasons he’s been in charge. Whether it be through excellent man management or astute signings, Brian has proven himself to be an exceptional manager, and long may it continue.
The next few weeks will be a difficult test for this Reading side but one that, if my wishes come true, the Royals can pass with flying colours. It might seem optimistic to be dreaming of another trip to Wembley so soon after our last gambit to reach the Premier League fell at the final hurdle, but if Chritmas is good to us, who knows where Brian can take this Reading side.