Date:Tuesday January 23 2007
Personally, I share Steve Coppell`s view that all talk of European qualification is premature. Whilst at this stage in the season, with the Royals sitting comfortably in eighth position - just three points from occupying a European berth, it is indeed possible, I`m not sure if it would be of benefit to the club to embark on their first continental adventure.
I`m sure every single Reading fan, myself included, would tell you they`d absolutely love to see their team run out on Spanish soil, to strike the ball into an Italian net, and to win a game in Germany. There`s no doubting that such an escapade seems a terrific prospect, but I personally question the benefit it would have on the club.
I refer to George Burley`s Ipswich Town of 2000/01 as an example. After gaining promotion, the Tractor Boys performed terrifically in their first season in the Premiership, and finished in fifth place. As such, they qualified for the UEFA Cup, and in the following season they faced the likes of Torpedo Moscow, Helsingborgs IF, and even recorded a 1-0 victory over Inter Milan!
So why the negativity I hear you ask?
Well, eighteen games into the 2001/02 Premiership campaign, Ipswich were bottom of the table with just one league victory to their name. Their top-flight status was looking numbered, and this was confirmed on the final day of the season with a 5-0 defeat away to Liverpool that sent Town back to the Championship.
The loss of income due to relegation led to the club going into financial administration. They had the minor consolation of again qualifying for the UEFA Cup, this time via UEFA's Fair Play route. A poor start to the season, culminating in a 2-0 defeat at Grimsby Town, meant that George Burley was sacked in October 2002 after nearly eight years as manager of Ipswich Town.
Whilst I dream of watching Graeme Murty lead his troops out onto the Sansiro pitch, something tells me that European qualification would come all too soon. Given Steve Coppell`s recent approach to domestic cup competitions, I gather he feels exactly the same and realises that all efforts must be on retaining our Premiership status, even if we do finish this season in a strong position.
Coppell`s description of the way in which this league can turn round and 'strangle you` is a very apt one. Until we have spent a few seasons as part of the top-flight, gradually attracted better and appropriate players, and had a consistant top-half finish, Europe should remain a dream in my eyes. Once we`ve achieved security within this division, then we can begin our quest for the Champion`s League crown and explain to the likes of Barcelona exactly who little ol` Reading FC are.
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