Monday, February 4, 2008

Déjà Vu

Is it me, or is Reading of this season eerily similar to Wigan of last?

Think about it: highly respectable English managers manage both. They’re small market teams that, if were in Major League Baseball, we would classify their economic dealings as “Moneyball.” Both made it to the top flight for the first time in their respected promotion seasons. And each performed remarkably well in their first season there with Wigan going to the Carling Cup Final, and Reading a point away from a UEFA Cup spot.

A little over a month ago Reading was not out of the relegation hunt, but in safety. Now, they’re 17th and a meager point above the drop. The Royals haven’t won since December 22nd, when they defeated Sunderland – who are woeful away – at the Madejski.

Since then they’ve only scored six goals in seven games, and added nine goals to their current –22 differential. They continue to be poor away from home, as the low point was conceding six goals to Tottenham (and lets not forget Pompey’s 7 goal fiesta back in September).

They still have to travel to Anfield, Emirates, and Goodison. Additionally they also play visitors to fellow relegation candidates Wigan, Middlesbrough, and Derby. Of the thirteen remaining games, only six are at home.

Compare this to Wigan, who went through two long winless spells last season: December 6th—February 3rd; March 3rd—May 15th. The (exciting) last day victory at Bramall Lane against Sheffield United was the only measure that ensured their survival.

Another similarity is the future of both managers. Paul Jewell resigned immediately after Wigan barely survived, which I believe played a huge part in the Latics’ spirited performance. Steve Coppell is rumored to be leaving Reading after this season.

Although the main difference between the two is Reading’s core remaining the same from last year, whereas Wigan was dismantled after their debut season.

But that should not take away from the fact that Reading is in trouble of being relegated. Because there is about seven – thanks to Fulham’s timely victory – clubs in the pack, it is a crapshoot to predict who will survive and who will go under. Reading has a good chance to go down, but also have a decent shot at staying up.

But if Reading find themselves needing a victory at Derby on the season finale to survive, it’ll be déjà vu all over again. And I know I won’t be too surprised.