MX23RW : Monday, January 21 22:45:34

Championship 2015-16 season preview: Reading

Sports Mole previews the upcoming 2015-16 Championship season from a Reading perspective.

A promising run in the FA Cup aside, in which the club made it all the way to the semi-final stage before meeting their match, 2014-15 was a season to forget from a Reading perspective.

Not since their promotion to the Championship in 2001-02 had the Royals finished as low as last year's 19th place-finish, meaning that a regular push for the top six was replaced by more than the occasional glance over the shoulder towards the drop zone.

Here, Sports Mole assesses whether Steve Clarke can push on from last season's disappointment, or if another term of mediocrity in the lower reaches awaits.


In

Orlando Sa (Legia Warsaw), Stephen Quinn (Hull City), Paul McShane (Hull City), Jonathan Bond (Watford), Ali Al-Habsi (Wigan Athletic)

Out

Adam Federici (Bournemouth), Alex Pearce (Derby County), Mikkel Andersen (Midtjylland), Jem Karacan (Galatasaray), Stephen Kelly (Released)

Last season - 19th



Manager - Steve Clarke

Reading manager Steve Clarke during the Sky Bet Championship match between Brighton and Hove Albion and Reading at The Amex Stadium on December 26, 2014© Getty Images

Before taking up the reins as manager of West Bromwich Albion, Clarke was one of the most sought-after coaches in the English game. The Scotsman's work as assistant at Newcastle United, Chelsea, West Ham United and Liverpool ensured that he had plenty of experience heading into his first job as an outright number one. Clarke lasted less than two seasons at The Hawthorns, however, before being - perhaps somewhat prematurely - axed by the Baggies.

Reading offered the 51-year-old a lifeline, taking over from Nigel Adkins who himself was shown the door following a heavy defeat at Birmingham City. With a full summer to put his spin on things, Clarke will be hoping for a change of fortunes, but if results at the end of last season are anything to go by then a drastic turnaround will be required.


Key Player - Stephen Quinn

Having lost Pearce, Federici and skipper Karacan during the summer, Reading supporters needed a few new players to keep hopes alive. The recruitment of Portuguese forward Sa could go either way, with a prolific spell at Legia (14 goals in 33 games) balancing out his struggles at Fulham a few years back.

Clarke has also managed to tie down homegrown defender Michael Hector to a new deal, along with Jordan Obita and Tariqe Fosu, while bringing in McShane and Quinn from Hull City. It is arguably the latter of those signings, who reportedly picked a move to the Madejski Stadium over other options elsewhere, which could prove to be the key capture thanks to his versatility in attack.

Stephen Quinn of Reading in action during a Pre Season Friendly between Crawley Town and Reading at Checkatrade.com Stadium on July 27, 2015© Getty Images


Possible starting lineup

Bond; Gunter, Hector, McShane, Obita; Norwood, Quinn, McCleary, Robson-Kanu; Pogrebnyak, Sa

First game: Birmingham City (A), Full fixture list



Sports Mole says

Two wins from 14 at the end of last season hardly offers a great deal of hope, but that can largely be put down to attention being turned elsewhere. Reading appear to be in a state of flux at the moment, losing certain star names, yet team spirit can often go a long way in this unpredictable division.

Clarke will be hoping that things click into gear from the off, with youngsters from the 2014 U21 Premier League Cup squad potentially being integrated into the senior set-up. Only Sheffield Wednesday had a weaker tally in front of goal away from the bottom five sides than the Royals' 48 last time out, while up the other end only two sides outside the bottom three conceded more. That suggests a lot of work is still needed if Reading are to challenge in the top half this time around.

Prediction - 18th

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Where will Reading finish in 2015-16?

Automatic promotion
Playoffs
Top half
Bottom half
Relegation
Automatic promotion
2.9%
Playoffs
42.9%
Top half
34.3%
Bottom half
17.1%
Relegation
2.9%
Paul McShane for Hull on November 1, 2014
Read Next:
Paul McShane joins Reading on a free
>

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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Leeds UnitedLeeds28166647301754
2Norwich CityNorwich28158552361653
3West Bromwich AlbionWest Brom28148657352250
4Sheffield UnitedSheff Utd28155846291750
5Middlesbrough281211531201147
6Derby CountyDerby2813784035546
7Bristol City2812883529644
8Hull City28117104135640
9Swansea CitySwansea28117103732540
10Blackburn RoversBlackburn28101083741-440
11Birmingham CityBirmingham2891274033739
12Nottingham ForestNott'm Forest2891273932739
13Aston Villa2891275145639
14Queens Park RangersQPR28116113439-539
15Stoke CityStoke2891183335-238
16Sheffield WednesdaySheff Weds2898113345-1235
17Brentford28810104339434
18Preston North EndPreston2889114345-233
19Millwall2878133444-1029
20Wigan AthleticWigan2885152841-1329
21Rotherham UnitedRotherham28510132746-1925
22Reading2858153143-1223
23Bolton WanderersBolton2857161842-2422
24Ipswich TownIpswich2839162248-2618

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