ROYALS NEED TO TURN IT ON ALL THE TIME
SHOULD Reading fans be proud of their side’s Wembley heroics against Arsenal? Or angry and frustrated at their parttime players?
Because if you can scare the life out of the Premier League’s second-best side, there’s no excuse for sitting 19th in the Championship.
Managers never tire of telling us how anyone can raise themselves for a big game. Reading certainly did that, especially in a spirited second-half display.
Danny Williams showed Francis Coquelin how to tackle. Jordan Obita shoved Aaron Ramsey in his back pocket and kept him there for two hours. Big Pavel Pogrebnyak even ran around.
“They really wanted it,” said Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, whose players looked as surprised as the rest of us when Reading failed to roll over. “They were willing to die on the pitch to go to the FA Cup final and you have to congratulate them for the effort they put in.”
You do. But effort should be a basic standard, a bare minimum. Where has it been for the rest of the season?
What makes a Jose Mourinho side so intimidatingly efficient is not just superstar players and mountains of cash. It’s their concentration, discipline and relentless hard work – qualities Reading displayed in abundance at Wembley.
Yes, it helps when you’ve got Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas. But the very same principles took Burnley to the Premier League with a squad of players tipped to wind up in League One – and could yet keep them there.
I know Reading have suffered tremendous financial problems. I know they nearly went out of business last summer.
But that is gone. Now, a standard has been set – and any Royals player who falls below that line again has no place in a blue and white shirt.