Reading are the winners of the first Championship play-off and will sit back and look on with interest as Sheffield Wednesday host Huddersfield in tonight’s other semi-final.
I’ve read quite a few ‘salty’ remarks about Reading’s success from the Canary nation on Twitter, since the Royals booked their place. It seems that some City fans seem to think that because we beat Reading 7-1 in that amazing game at Carrow Road last month, that somehow they are unworthy of a Wembley place.
Fulham came up on the rails and overtook Leeds for 6th place as Garry Monk’s men found April to be a few games too far for them. The in-form side traditionally has a good shout of reaching the final – remember when we sneaked into 6th place and booked our Play-Off Final at Cardiff?
Based on this and their recent form, I thought Fulham would prevail in the semi-final games against Reading.
However, Fulham were undone by a disciplined, well drilled Reading team that have proven over 46 games that they deserve a Wembley slot.
Some of the moaning from Fulham fans about ‘gamesmanship’ was laughable and not a little ironic, considering their own antics at Carrow Road when we were beaten 1-3 by them.
Yes, Norwich hammered (and that isn’t too strong a word) Reading at Carrow Road and Norwich were comfortably dealt with by Fulham, who played half the game with only ten men – so should that mean that Fulham should be at Wembley?
No, because they scored one goal less than Reading.
The bottom line here is consistency. We all know the failings of our own team on that score and when you consider that the play-off system was designed for entertainment purposes initially, I doubt that being the third placed team, Reading will feel they aren’t in that final on merit.
I’ve got no problem with Reading being there because they were consistently better than 21 other teams in the Championship over the season’s 46 games – that is the bottom line.
Huddersfield arguably put on the best opposition performance at Carrow Road last season but only managed a fifth placed finish – they weren’t as consistent as Reading.
If you’re unable to challenge for the top two then you need to be hanging on in there, week after week to stay in the top six.
Norwich failed to do that.
Another aspect of all this is that Jaap Stam and David Wagner have managed their sides to play-off finishes with small budgets. If either of those sides are promoted, the question of whether they can stay up is a moot point but it always is before a summer of investment in new players. They will however have still achieved promotion to the promised land.
If Stam or Wagner prevail and gain promotion, then it will be an eye opener for high spending boards who think the answer is to just throw money at the squad.
The table doesn’t lie and good luck to them. Next season, Norwich must make sure they are in the mix for promotion, if not the top two and that means consistency.