I feared the worst in SeptemberBy Nick Ive
May 16, 2008
Steve Coppell admits the relegation warning bells were ringing as far back as last September – but he remained confident Reading would be able to beat the drop.
Royals did minimal business last summer as £2.5million club-record Emerse Fae and Liam Rosenior were the only new arrivals before the transfer window slammed shut at the end of August
The first game after the close of business was a home clash with West Ham United, who Reading had thumped 6-0 the previous season.
However, the Hammers gained revenge by strolling to a 3-0 victory, leaving Coppell regretting he had not bolstered his squad more significantly.
Royals’ boss told the Evening Post: “There were a number of games that I look back on, and the West Ham game at home was a significant one because it was a day after the transfer window had closed.
“Losing 3-0 flattered us and I thought then ‘I wish that had happened last week because then I would have attempted to do some last-minute business’.
“The performance indicated that we were nowhere near the team we were the season before, while West Ham had changed significantly.
“All summer I was aware that maybe we were standing still, while other people were improving and after that game it really hit home to me.”
Chairman John Madejski made funds available, but Coppell failed to spend his full budget when the transfer window reopened in January.
He snapped up Czech international Marek Matejovsky from Mlada Boleslav for just over £1million, while Mali winger Jimmy Kebe arrived from Lens for around £600,000.
Coppell, who is set announce he will be honouring the second year of his contract as Royals boss, added: “We had a good run just before New Year. I thought we would be all right and we would get out of it.”
But a run of eight straight defeats followed and by the time that ended in February, the window had long since shut.
Coppell said: “We had eight games from which we never picked up a point. The timing was all against us.
“But we did sign Marek. I thought he’d give us more invention and he did, but I never expected the January and February we had and that was alarming.”
Reading only suffered relegation on the final day of the season on goal difference, despite beating Derby 4-0.
However, the damage had been done much earlier as Royals had failed to take a single point off rival strugglers Fulham and Bolton.
Coppell admitted: “Those two home games were significant too. We lost both and played poorly and I can’t explain why.
“The Fulham one also gave them the momentum to go on. But I always felt we’d be okay if we won our final game, but that is not what happened.”