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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

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%
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Paul McShane for Hull on November 1, 2014
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Paul McShane joins Reading on a free
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
CManchester CityMan City38322495237298
2Liverpool38307189226797
3Chelsea38219863392472
4Tottenham HotspurSpurs382321367392871
5Arsenal382171073512270
6Manchester UnitedMan Utd381991065541166
7Wolverhampton WanderersWolves38169134746157
8Everton38159145446854
9Leicester CityLeicester38157165148352
10West Ham UnitedWest Ham38157165255-352
11Watford38148165259-750
12Crystal Palace38147175153-249
13Newcastle UnitedNewcastle38129174248-645
14Bournemouth38136195670-1445
15Burnley38117204568-2340
16Southampton38912174565-2039
17Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton3899203560-2536
RCardiff CityCardiff38104243469-3534
RFulham3875263481-4726
RHuddersfield TownHuddersfield3837282276-5416

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