This article is part of Football League World’s ‘Comment’ series, this content strand is where the author of the article issues their personal opinion on the topic at hand….
Reading have shown much-needed improvement in their results heading towards the end of this year’s league campaign under the guidance of Mark Bowen.
The Royals have won their last two league matches, with their recent 3-1 win over Birmingham City catching the eye of some of the teams around them in the league table.
Bowen’s men had previously been struggling form positive results during January and February, which saw them edge closer to the relegation zone, much to the concern of the Madejski Stadium faithful this season. But it’s no coincidence that their upturn in recent performances has come after the return of one player in particular, who has certainly upped his game.
George Puscas is that player, and the Romanian international has divided opinion amongst supporters in the majority of his time with the club.
He arrived after a number of impressive showings for the Romanian Under 21s side in the European Championships, and signed from Italian giants Inter Milan on a five-year deal.
But he hasn’t shown consistency in front of goal, which will have been irritating to see for the club’s supporters and Jose Gomes, who was dismissed after a poor run of results towards the back end of 2019.
We’ve seen glimpses of Puscas’ exciting potential, with a five-minute hat-trick against Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium being just a classic example of the quality that the striker possesses. But more times than not in the first-half of this year’s campaign, Puscas struggled to cope with the physicality of the Championship, in what is his first season in English football.
But since the turn of the New Year, the forward has shown that he can hold the ball up well and bring team-mates into play whilst the Royals are on the attack in matches. You only have to look at Reading’s third goal against Birmingham City recently to see a good example of this, as he held the ball up before send Gareth McCleary clear, before the winger teed up Pele, who fired home clinically to wrap up the three points in a hard-fought 3-1 win at St Andrew’s.
With Lucas Joao out injured for Mark Bowen’s side, there is a weight of expectation on Puscas’ shoulders to lead the line for the remainder of this year’s campaign. But he’s certainly living up to that expectation, and the signs are promising for the future if he can continue to build on his recent showings for the Berkshire-based side.
Play-off contention looks as though it might be slightly out of reach for Reading this season, but if they can finish this year’s campaign strongly, then they’ll be in a confident mood heading into the start of next season, where a top-six finish certainly shouldn’t be ruled out of the equation if Bowen can keep the majority of his squad together.