At the start of the 2006/07 season most assumed that Chelsea and Manchester United would compete for the title; they also assumed that the teams that had come up from the Championship would struggle. Of the three teams that came up, two did as expected.
Watford finished rock bottom of the table, six points below their closest rivals and generally failed to impress, while Sheffield United were relegated on the last day of the season after showing a little (yet not a lot) more bottle than the teams below them.
The surprise package of last season would undoubtedly have to be Reading, who at one stage was competing for the European qualifying places before eventually settling down in a comfortable eight place. Before the season started many tipped Reading to go straight back down, despite them dominating the Championship the previous season -finishing sixteen points clear of the next team. Reading had not splurged in the transfer market and thus was not expected to do well. The club only signed Korean winger Seol Ki-Hyeon for £1.5 million as their major signing, with Sam Sodje, Ulises de la Cruz also coming in.
Reading went on to surpass everyone’s expectations as they played a brand of attacking football rarely seen by newcomers to the Premiership, and certainly earned their position at the end of the season.
This season they have not started off as well, slumping to 15th in the table after picking up just seven points from their opening seven games. Why have they regressed so much from last season’s fiery start? The reason for that would have to be what is famously known as “Second Season Syndrome“. Second Season Syndrome is defined as a downturn in fortunes for a club two seasons after its promotion to the English Premier League.
Many teams in the past have been hit by Second Season Syndrome- most famously Ipswich Town in the 2001/02 season, when they went from fifth and European qualification a year earlier to being relegated. This case was an example of a shocking drop from the prior season; although Reading have not done as poorly they will have to make sure they do not become embroiled in a relegation battle so early in the year.
What exactly is are the symptoms of Second Season Syndrome? For starters, the players that surprised everyone a year ago may get found out as opponents set up special tactics for them. While the first season in the Premier League is a special one -especially if you put in some of the excellent displays that Reading did last year- teams can get weighed down by expectation. As with Ipswich Town in 2001/02, their fans expected the team to do just as well- and were not happy when the team failed to reach those heights again.
Reading this season have already picked up some serious thrashings- losing 3-0 away to Bolton as well as being beaten by the same score at the Madejski Stadium by West Ham. Although they also went down 2-1 to Sunderland a week ago, they will be hoping that their form has started to pick up after a late winner secured a 2-1 win over Wigan.
Reading are a side that are pleasing to watch when they’re on their game, and for the good of the Premiership one hopes they stay up.