Championship outfit Reading will be looking to go that one step further next term after falling agonisingly short of a return to the Premier League.
Jaap Stam’s men produced a wonderful campaign to finish third in the second tier, and then got past heavily-fancied Fulham 2-1 on aggregate in their play-off semi-final to earn a spot in the showpiece against David Wagner’s Huddersfield.
And although the game was not much of a spectacle, the Royals earned a 3-1 lead in the penalty shootout, only for the Terriers to net three unanswered spot-kicks to seal their place in the top-flight.
For Reading, attentions turn to how they can once again put themselves in the promotion picture next time round, and reinforcements are likely needed in certain areas of the squad to aid in that quest.
And that is why Stam and the Royals hierarchy should look to sign Derby County defender Cyrus Christie this summer.
The 24-year-old right-back has been at the iPro Stadium since 2014 following a five-year association with Coventry City, and has since gone on to play 119 times for the Rams, of which 30 came last term under a combination of Nigel Pearson, Steve McClaren, and now-boss Gary Rowett.
Nonetheless, his days in the East Midlands could be numbered given the imminent arrival of Liverpool’s Andre Wisdom, and thus speculation has been building surrounding the Irishman’s future, with QPR and Reading reportedly keeping an eye on Christie’s situation.
And the Royals must look to fend off the London outfit to land the 24-year-old, as he’ll bring competition, experience, and genuine quality to Stam’s backline ahead of the new campaign.
The Berkshire club conceded 64 goals in their 46 Championship games last term, which was comfortably the most of any side that finished in the top six, and more than just two of the 12 clubs that finished in the top half.
Thus, Stam may need to look at how he can shore up his defensive ranks, and with 109 appearances at Championship level during his career, and several impressive displays among them, Christie would do just that.
The Republic of Ireland international is good and comfortable with the ball at his feet while also shows a good range of passing, and his solid defensive capabilities has showcased him as one of the best right-backs in the division in recent times.
And that will also increase the competition for current first-choice right-back Chris Gunter, who has been solid for the Royals ever since moving to the Madejski Stadium back in 2012.
However, the Wales international certainly divides opinion amongst the Reading faithful, but with Tennai Watson, who has clear potential but is unlikely to command a regular spot ahead of Gunter, the only viable alternative, Gunter is arguably the best and only option.
But having options is exactly what Stam has in several other positions, and with the Dutchman sometimes changing between a back three and a back four, one may be more suited to one and vica versa – he would have options.
Also, bringing someone like Christie in would likely force Gunter to up his game otherwise his place in the side would come under threat, and while having two experienced players in his position may appear detrimental to Watson’s chances, it would likely aid his development as well.
Ultimately, Christie has proven to be one of the best right-backs in the Championship in the last few years, and with the Royals needing greater competition in that position, Stam should look to seal a deal for the 24-year-old this summer.