Reading can confirm Championship survival for another season even if they were to lose to Hull at the weekend, something that would have been unimaginable when Paul Ince took charge just two months ago.
With only three games remaining, Paul Ince’s men can potentially finish on 50 points – an astonishing number considering the bleakness of the situation he inherited.
At the time of his arrival, the Royals sat precariously above the drop zone with 26 points from 32 games (0.81 points per game).
But a return of 15 points from 11 games (1.36 points per game) has meant that the mini-revivals of Peterborough, Barnsley and Derby have not created too many jitters in the Madejski camp.
And despite bottom-side Barnsley having a game in hand, they sit 11 points behind the Royals, meaning they have to win all four of their remaining matches and need Reading to lose all of their remaining three.
It’s an unthinkable situation considering the club’s fortunes when Paul Ince was brought in with the prospect of relegation to the third-tier for the first time in 20 years a genuine possibility.
“Paul Ince has done fantastically so far,” Talk Reading tells FansBet.
“His job was to keep this club in the Championship, and that objective has all but been achieved with three games to go, so huge credit to him.
“I was sceptical at first, as anyone would be when a club splints a manager that has been out of the game of 8 years, but I am really buying into what he wants for this football club now.”
Former West Ham, Manchester United, Inter Milan and Liverpool midfielder Ince was appointed in February alongside academy manager Michael Gilkes while Reading “embarked on the thorough search for a new permanent manager,” following the sacking of Veljko Paunovic after 18-months in charge.
Despite some early-season optimism among Reading fans back in the summer, the ex-Serbia international had overseen a period of 11 league games without a win prior to his final game in charge away at Preston as the club slipped to 21st in the table.
As a result, Ince’s task looked thankless at the time with the Royals five points ahead of the relegation zone having lost 10 of 13 games after Christmas with a resolute Derby County side breathing down their necks.
But a complete turnaround in fortunes has seen Reading suffer just one loss in seven as they look to put some daylight between themselves and those in the bottom three who still have a slight chance of avoiding relegation.
“The threat of relegation was certainly looming,” reveals Talk Reading.
“In the end, something had to change to get the club out of the rut and that change was Paul Ince, who has brought a sense of togetherness back to Reading.
“In a similar way to Derby’s efforts earlier in the season, there’s a real connection between the players, staff and fans now with everyone pulling in the same direction.
“The fight the team has shown, particular over the Easter weekend scoring injury-time goals in both games, has been phenomenal.”
Prior to his arrival at Reading – where he joined his son Tom who is on loan from Stoke City – Ince had not held a management job since 2014.
He began his managerial career at Macclesfield Town in 2006 before going on to take charge of MK Dons, leading them to promotion from League Two.
He’s also been the boss at Blackburn Rovers, Notts County and Blackpool – his most recent managerial role where he left the club after less than a year in charge, becoming their fourth-shortest-serving manager in their history.
“The success has been down to instilling belief in the players again,” explains Talk Reading.
“We know Reading have got quality players – there is far more ability in Reading’s squad than most teams in the bottom half of the Championship – and now they are playing like it.
“Josh Laurent is one player whose form has improved with Ince’s arrival and having played centre-back, defensive midfield and central midfield already this season, Ince has put him in the number 10 role and he has really excelled there.”
Ince remains coy on the rumours linking him to the manager job full-time having initially taken over from Veljko Paunovic on an interim basis.
But with Reading’s Championship status all but secured, talk has turned to the long-term future of his position with the club.
And Talk Reading believes that stability is exactly what Reading need if they are to avoid another season battling the drop and start looking up the table rather than over their shoulders.
“Hopefully the owner has learnt his lesson in the sense that throwing money at a club without a plan is not going to bring success.
“Reading won’t be able to progress as a club until a proper Director of Football is brought in to implement a long-term strategy.
“Next season will undoubtedly be tough as most of the squad is out-of-contract and there will still be strict transfer regulations that Reading must follow.
“Having said that, it’s a chance for the club to rest; a chance for a manager to bring in some new players to fit a style of football that he wants to play and a chance to start bringing the good days back to Reading Football Club.”
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