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Chris Flanagan Blog: Title contenders must take control now
AT Championship games up and down the country, an increasingly familiar tale has been told in recent weeks.
It is the story of Reading, the club who upset all the odds to win the Championship title last season.
If you’ve followed the division on television and radio this season, the tale has been recounted on numerous occasions.
"Yes, team X is struggling," the pundit will generally say. "But Reading were in the relegation zone early on last year and look what happened to them."
It is true to some extent. Reading were 23rd after six games and still only 16th by the end of October.
By the end of December, though, they were fifth and their run continued all the way to the top of the table by April.
Reading’s run of 24 wins in 29 games was remarkable, and worthy of recognition a year on.
But it was also the sort of run that is unlikely to be repeated again, the exception rather than the rule.
Similar freak occurrences used to be cited as spurious reasons not to treat the cup competitions seriously.
Middlesbrough got relegated after reaching two cup finals, so a wave of other managers decided it was best to concentrate on the league.
Ipswich went down in the same season that they had a promising UEFA Cup run, so clubs started to scale back their ambitions in Europe.
But just because something unusual happens once, it does not mean we should expect it to happen again.
Reading’s ascent will only give false hope to most of those who believe they can also rise from a lowly starting position and still gain promotion.
In reality, almost all clubs in the same situation have either left it too late already, or have struggled early on simply because they do not have what it takes.
That is why, for Blackburn Rovers and Burnley, these next few weeks are so important.
If they really have designs on promotion, they must be in position to strike by November or December.
The other sides to go up last season, Southampton and West Ham, were first and second respectively at this time last year.
A year earlier QPR, Norwich and Swansea were second, fifth and third.
There is now little time to waste, both in terms of managerial appointments and results.
The tale of Reading’s remarkable rise can only provide hope for so long.
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