The Football League Paper - - NEWS -

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.

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