When Reading beat Fulham 2-1 on aggregate to reach the play-off final in 2017, and the club revealed their new owners —Chinese brother and sister Dai Yongge and Dai Xiu Li — in the midst of the celebrations, there was a lot of hope and newfound expectations at the Madejski Stadium in the South East of England.
Of course, the Royals would go on to lose the final at Wembley, suffering penalty shootout heartache to Huddersfield Town after the game finished 0-0. However, there was still the feeling that this was the beginning of something great at the football club and the English Football League Championship betting had them as firm favourites for promotion the following year.
Fast forward four years and the dream of returning to the English top flight and competing with the big guns has still never become a reality for the Reading faithful. In fact, with each and every passing season, the prospect of playing Premier League football anytime soon seems to be drifting further and further away from their grasps.
Unfortunately, four years is a long time in the world of football and the reality now facing the club is avoiding relegation to League One — a division Reading haven’t plied their trade in for around 20 years!
Hit by a transfer embargo by the English Football League (EFL) in the summer for breaching the organisation’s profitability and sustainability rules as they recorded a loss of £57.8 million — exceeding the allowed limit (£39m) by almost £20m.
A point deduction from the EFL has since followed, with Reading being slapped with an initial six points removed from their tally last, while another half-a-dozen will be suspended until the end of the season. That was enough to drag them down to 19th in the Championship and they have since fallen to 21st and sit just four points clear of relegation. So, if they don’t balance their books, they could be in real danger come May!
The owners are reportedly still committed to the club, but it is their reckless expenditure that has resulted in Reading ending up in this scenario — which is becoming all too familiar in the lower leagues of English football. Just look at Derby County, Bury, Bolton Wanderers and so on.
It isn’t all doom and gloom though at the Madejski. Thearrival of Andy Carroll, who signed for Reading last month after leaving Newcastle United upon the end of his contract at St. James’ Park in the summer, seems have inspired Veljko Paunović’s side somewhat.
Given the club’s current financial restraints, signing a player of Carroll’s caliber didn’t seem possible — especially as the EFL allowed Reading a budget of just £1,000 per week to try seal the deal. But the former West Ham and Liverpool forward agreed in a bid to get his career back on the right tracks and he is already making his mark.
Despite a substantial wage cut and now being 32 years of age, Carroll still looks motivated to play at a high standard. That was evident in Reading’s game against Swansea City at the end of November. The giant forward controlled a pass from Danny Drinkwater and finished passed Ben Hamer as the Royals went on to beat the Welsh side 3-2 and pick up just their fourth victory in 10 games.
The onus is that having someone like Carroll around the club has helped bolster the team spirit. That was there for all to see at the Liberty Stadium and Paunović will certainly be hoping that his side continue to perform over the crucial festive period how they did in Wales, with Carroll bagging a few more goals to pull them further clear of the relegation zone.
However, while the presence of Carroll has definitely upped Reading’s favourability in the Championship betting tips, it is worth noting that the Geordie has only signed a two-month contract with the club and unless they can make some money from transfers in the January window, then he might not be sticking around long enough to see them saved from the drop.