Sports Mole previews Reading's chances of gaining immediate promotion back to the Premier League.
With the Championship season beginning this weekend, Sports Mole casts its eye over how things have progressed for relegated Reading over the summer months and their prospects for the 2013-14 campaign.
Danny Williams (From Hoffenheim, Undisclosed), Royston Drenthe (From Alania Vladikavkaz, Free), Wayne Bridge (From Manchester City, Free)
Ian Harte (To Bournemouth, Free), Noel Hunt (To Leeds United, Free), Uche Ikpeazu (To Watford, Free), Jospeh Mills (To Burnley, Free), Josh Sharma (To Oxford United, Free), Jay Tabb (To Ipswich Town, Free), Mikel Andersen (To Randers, Loan), Nick Arnold (To Wycombe Wanderers, Loan), Nick Bignall (Released), Simon Church (Released), Charlie Losasso (Released), Angus MacDonald (Released), Nicky Shorey (Released), Joshua Webb (Released), Brett Williams (Released)
Last Season: 19th, Premier League
Manager: Nigel Adkins
Three key players:
© PA Photos
Wayne Bridge -
The legs may not be what they once were, but Bridge's experience could prove invaluable over the coming months. He spent last season on loan at Brighton & Hove Albion and featured heavily as the Seagulls reached the semi-finals of the playoffs, only to be defeated
by rivals Crystal Palace. Despite spending a large amount of the previous three campaigns on the sidelines with injury, the 32-year-old showed just why he used to be considered one of the best left-backs in the country at the Amex Stadium. There is also a creative side to his game, as well as being able to chip in with the odd goal.
© PA Photos
Royston Drenthe -
The signing of the Dutchman is one of strangest of the summer so far and could well end up coming back to bite Adkins on the rear. After all, disciplinary problems have tainted his spells with Feyenoord, Real Madrid and Everton. The truth is, though, on his day, Drenthe will be one of the best players in the Championship. He is a direct winger, with pace and a trick or two up his sleeve. What's more, he can also fill in at full-back in an emergency. If the two click, there is scope for Reading to have the strongest left side in the division in the form of Wayne Bridge and 26-year-old Drenthe.
© PA Photos
Adam Le Fondre -
Reading will have been bracing themselves for most of the summer that a Premier League club would come sniffing for Le Fondre's services. In what was a disappointing campaign for the Royals, the 26-year-old shone by scoring 14 goals in all competitions against the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal. He also earned the Premier Leauge's Player of the Month award for January. Presumably high in confidence after that spell, he should find chances easier to come by in the second tier, with a 20-goal contribution a realistic target.
First game: Ipswich Town (H), Complete fixture list
Sports Mole says: The bookmakers regard Reading as one of the favourites to bounce straight back into the Premier League and they are not often wrong, are they? While he still may have a little bit of work to do in the transfer market, what Adkins has recruited so far has been impressive. He is also a proven manager at this level, having guided Southampton to the top flight 12 months ago. And with Le Fondre, as well as the likes of Jimmy Kebe and Jem Karacan in the side, it would take a brave person to bet against Reading being in the promotion shake-up come the end of the season.
Predicted finish: 2nd