Reading were fighting for Championship survival this time last year.
Their season began with Paul Clement in charge. The man who’s assisted at some of the biggest clubs in Europe, including Chelsea, PSG, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich took the leap into first-team management with Derby County at first, then Swansea City, and then Reading.
He’d had mixed results with both the Rams and the Swans, but the Royals were optimistic that they’d be the club where his European experience would really pay-off.
Reading had picked up just four wins in the 2018/19 Championship season before Clement’s sacking – it’s only for there being three teams that were in even worse form than Reading that kept them above the drop zone.
But the fans remained hopeful, excited and unnerved at the same time by an unknown quantity in Gomes. He was appointed shortly before Christmas, but it wasn’t until after the New Year when fans really started to see the difference.
In the 11 games following New Year, Gomes’ Reading picked up as many wins as Clement’s did in the first-half of the season, along with four draws to instil a fighting desire in both the players and fans.
The second-to-last of those wins was away at Ipswich Town, and was arguably one of their best performances of the season, especially on the road – goals from Nelson Oliveira and Mo Barrow sealed that win at Portman Road, which was almost a year ago to the day.
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A lot has changed since then, but one thing that remains is the untouchable optimism that Reading fans have so often donned. Gomes’ initial impact steadily declined, and he eventually guided Reading to a consecutive 20th-place finish in the Championship.
He then took the Royals into this season, where he was sacked after ten months in charge, and the club in the same predicament as when he took over – he was replaced by the man who was tasked with finding his replacement, Reading’s former sporting director, Mark Bowen.
Reading again looked like a team facing the drop, but now under Bowen, they’re a team looking up the table. Results have been indifferent at times, the highlight of Bowen’s tenure being their festive-form which boosted them into the mid-table region at one point.
Relegation is still a possibility, albeit an unlikely one, but the atmosphere around the Madejski remains high. Here we take a look at some of the fans’ Twitter reaction after that win at Ipswich last season:
Ipswich Town 1-2 Reading – what a game and what a day 😍 pic.twitter.com/L71of6j8S6
— William Owen Pond (@WilliamOwenPond) March 2, 2019
Oliiiivieraaaaa Reading's number 9
He scored against the Ipswich town
He'll stop the royals from going down
A Portuguese in blue and white
We love the lad he's dynamite
OLIIVVIIEERRAAAA READING'S NUMBER 9 nananananannanannan
— Matt 🙇🏻♂️ (@MattJH_2001) March 4, 2019
Jose Gomes slowing making a difference. Reading beat Ipswich Town 2-1 on Saturday. Nelson Oliveira with another marker. Remain out of the drop zone, albeit, just on goal differential. https://t.co/ZtosOCfVyv
— Rui Miguel Martins (@futebolfactory) March 3, 2019
Fight. Character. Desire. 👊
— Reading FC (@ReadingFC) March 2, 2019