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Tim Dellor's Royals Watching: Reading could create two different stories over Christmas period

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Fans of the Romantic Comedy “Sliding Doors” will know what I am talking about. Either of two very different storylines is about to unfold at Reading FC. It depends, not on whether manager Veljko Paunovic catches a train, but whether he gets his first team players back from injury and playing with confidence.

Life was probably less stressful for Gwyneth Paltrow. Veljko Paunovic knows what is at stake and what he needs to happen. His luck needs to start with a win on Saturday against Hull at home, but must continue through the festive season and in to 2022.

A good run now and it is possible Reading can climb up the table to the play offs by May. This may look fanciful thinking, being one place outside the relegation zone and some 13 points behind Coventry in 6th. Remember the points deduction, and bear in mind Reading’s squad should gradually gain strength as players get out the treatment room. Reading’s league position is false.

Tim Dellor
Tim Dellor

On the flip side, maybe there is trouble on the horizon for Reading? Captain Liam Moore and Ovie Ejaria missed the dramatic 3-2 win at Swansea last weekend. Rather than getting a player back each week, Reading lost two more to injury last Saturday. There is no guarantee the injury crisis is coming to an end.

Add to that the fact the win in South Wales was only the team’s second in eight games, that they have failed to pick up three points at home since mid-October, the players’ reaction to a points deduction remains uncertain, and the fact the already talismanic Andy Carroll may well leave the club in mid-January, and you have the ingredients for a disaster all lined up.

Which way will it go? Could we witness a magnificent rise up the table and into the play offs over the next few months, or will Reading be dragged into a draining relegation battle? Right now they are four points above the drop zone. There are still 26 games of the season remaining, so anything could happen.

Carroll has had a remarkable impact at the club, both on and off the pitch. I have met him a few times now, and he is a big character. Friendly, generous with his time, with a steely determination and an eye for goal, he is the perfect addition to the squad. He started his first game for Reading on Saturday, and promptly produced his first goal for the club. Even his celebration, ripping out the corner flag, using it to mimic an oar, and with the help of half a dozen team mates seated on the touchline behind him demonstrating visually “we’re all in the same boat”, showed leadership and creativity.

In Reading’s favour is the fact they only have one game per week until after Christmas. In the last few months, with such a small squad, they have found playing twice a week too much. When they have played once a week they have been more successful.

It will be fascinating to see which storyline unfolds in the next couple of months at Reading FC.

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