Mixed results this weekend - Reading won 2-0 against Aston Villa to maintain their sixth-place standing. Unfortunately for the Royals, Bolton - the fifth-place team - also won, defeating my other team, the Yankees (read: Fulham), at home. Arsenal, the fourth-place team that Bolton and Reading are chasing for a Champions League spot, also won, defeating hapless Wigan 2-1 on a late scoring binge. This leaves Reading six points back of the Gunners with eleven matches to go (that's two games back in baseball-speak). In theory not too difficult, but Reading has a tough schedule left, with trips to both Bolton and Arsenal and a visit from third-place Liverpool to go. The Royals can't lose any of these if they want to keep up the chase for that fourth C-League spot (which, I hear, won't exist after this year - UEFA's limiting each country to three teams).
In bad news for Royals fans, midfielder Steve Sidwell is probably on his way out. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of other talent on that team (Lita, Doyle, Hunt, Convey when he's healthy) - it's not like the Washington Wizards losing Gilbert Arenas. But Sidwell is still probably the best player on the Reading team.
Not that I didn't expect this. Any time a smaller club gets a potential superstar, one of the bigger clubs throws money at him and he leaves. Eventually, all of the established talent ends up at either Chelsea, Liverpool, Man U, or Arsenal (and occasionally Newcastle and Tottenham), just like all the baseball talent goes through New York or Boston at some point. Reading isn't going to singlehandedly buck this trend - there will come a day when Leroy Lita leaves, and Kevin Doyle after him, and they'll probably end up at the Big Four at some point. The hope I have is that the Royals become the Oakland A's of the Premiership, keeping a solid young talent base and occasionally scaring the crap out of the bigger clubs.
Aside: I love how all four of the superhuge clubs have great excuses to hate them, with the possible exception of Arsenal. Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho is a whiny little bitch, Man U striker Wayne Rooney is a douche, and Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez is a condescending asshat (though I do like Peter Crouch and the little robot thing). I can't really think of a good reason to hate Arsenal. Hmmm... well, their manager and best player are French. That can't be good.