Sasima, Tiger and Narin on end of season reflection, aims and ambitionsHaving ended our season at Blackburn Rovers on Saturday, we can now fully reflect on what has been another disappointing and very frustrating league campaign for everyone – the players, the manager and his coaching team, ourselves the shareholders, the board of directors and a dedicated staff…but most of all our fans.
We took control of this club nearly two years ago now and we are still learning. Our ambition remains the same. But, like so many others in football, we are trying to understand how best to achieve those ambitions as a group and reach the Premier League. Last summer, we decided to invest in a lot of additions and improvements to our squad of players, introducing eleven new faces to the first team during a very busy transfer window. As we are all aware, the results on the pitch have not met this club’s high expectations nor the hopes and aspirations of our loyal supporters in 2015-16.
We have watched and paid close attention to each and every match this season and, although we cannot be at Madejski Stadium every week or travelling up and down the country to see every single game in person – like we know so many of our fantastic supporters have done all season – we still feel the same disappointment, share the same frustrations and possess the same passion in wanting to see this club back where it belongs, battling for the promotion places and competing with the very best once more. For a variety of reasons, this squad of talented individuals have not fulfilled their potential as a team nor found the consistency that this division clearly demands this season.
We have to build from within now and this summer will be an important one. Six loan players have returned to their clubs and there are a number of others who have reached the end of their contracts – so change is inevitable and we will need to build and bind together a new squad of players capable of challenging at the top end of the division in 2016-17.
Despite the obvious disappointment of this season, our commitment to the club grows stronger. Before a ball had been kicked this season, the campaign began with a wonderfully well-received pre-season tour to Bangkok and Koh Samui that successfully connected the club with a football-loving fan base who took the Royals to their heart out in Thailand. On the pitch, the FA Cup proved a real highlight once more as we reached the quarter-finals for only the sixth time in the club’s history and came so close to earning another day out at Wembley!
Off the pitch, exciting new preliminary plans for Royal Elm Park have been put in place, while the wheels have been set in motion on our new training ground development at Bearwood. Football, of course, is the driving force behind our involvement in Reading Football Club. But investment in long term projects like these is crucial if we are to successfully lay the foundations for a sustainable future for this club.
And, on that theme, our Academy continues to be a beacon for all others to follow. This season, our Under-18s reached the FA Youth Cup quarter-final, only to miss out on a semi-final place after a narrow defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. And our Under-21 side have competed admirably in their first season in the Premier League, beating the likes of Liverpool, Everton and Tottenham to end the season amongst the top ten teams in the country. Only last weekend, 17-year-old Josh Barrett made his first professional start for the club and there were six other Academy products amongst the squad for the last game of the season at Ewood Park – while, out on loan, Tariqe Fosu won the League Two Player of the Month last week, and he will continue his fight for promotion and hopefully feature in a final at Wembley later this month! Investment in our youth is the way forward, as has been proven at Reading for a number of years. We are extremely proud of the reputation our Academy has rightly earned and we are confident we will see yet more young players break into professional football next season to make a real impact in our first team.
Now this season has come to an end, we all have to cast aside any negativity and collectively move this club forward, together, as one, with renewed spirit and passion. The Premier League is where we want to see Reading Football Club. There is no quick answer, no easy route. Sport has ups and downs and football is no different – it won’t always go our way, every week, every season. But we will stay loyal and dedicated to the cause until it all comes together. Ten years ago, this club was celebrating its greatest ever season – 106 points is still a record and the Royals became Premier League. Since then, it has enjoyed three seasons in the top division, won a second league title and reached four FA Cup quarter-finals as well as a semi-final. As fellow fans, our aim is to make more of those memorable moments at Madejski Stadium. But we also know that we have to be positive, be supportive and be together as a club to give ourselves a fighting chance.
Thank you for your continued allegiance and incredible support. Enjoy the summer and let’s look forward to a strong new-look team taking on the brand new challenge of the brand new season ahead!
Sasima, Tiger and Narin