Reading will stay up

Reading’s remarkable promotion charge last season surprised many but Brian McDermott’s team have found Premier League life testing and have struggled to stay out of the relegation zone for much of the season.

When they suffered a 5-2 home defeat at the hands of Arsenal in November last year I was convinced that Reading would end up back in the Championship come May due to their total inability to defend. Going forward hasn’t been a problem for Reading, they have scored 30 goals this season which is the same amount as Newcastle whose squad costs a great deal more.

Yet, Reading have had a storming January and with today’s win late over Sunderland, courtesy of a Jimmy Kebe brace the second of which came in the 85th minute to grab the victory, McDermott’s men have lifted themselves out of the bottom. That is a feat I never thought imaginable after seeing how much they struggled during the first half of the season.

The defending has improved slightly, and will need to improve more if Reading are to stay up, and the goals are still flowing but what has proved the difference appears to be the positive mentality instilled into the squad by McDermott.

A good example of this is Reading’s 2-2 draw with Chelsea on Wednesday; dominated for the whole game and two goals down yet they still kept on plugging away until Chelsea made a mistake and they were able to capitalise. The equalising goal, which came deep into injury time to earn Reading a point, was just rewards for their outstanding effort and, more importantly, their assured and confident mentality.

To come from behind against Chelsea, and today against Sunderland, and take something from those games displays a risible and never say die belief which is integral to a team hoping to stay in England’s top tier.

It will not be easy for Reading to stay up but it was thanks to a blistering second half of the season that they were able to gain promotion to the Premier League so perhaps a similarly brilliant second half will safe Reading from relegation.

But for a team that has won three out of their last four games, Reading are in rude health and as long as McDermott can continue keeping his players self-belief up then there is no reason that the Royals will be able to avoid the drop.