This part about fifth season with Reading could be named absolutely the same as the previous one. We overachieved a lot in the first season after promotion to the Premier League as we finished seventh and secured our place in the Europa League qualifying rounds.
And in the fifth season we were even better…
In previous parts I divided post by competitions. I changed it for this part as I want to help myself with some timeline. But as always, let’s start with transfers.
We were really quite this season. The oldest player in the squad, Paul McShane, was one of released players in the summer after their contracts ended. Defenders Keown, Griffin, Benner or McIntyre were another players who will no longer be in our squad.
Midfielder Aaron Kuhl also departed and it’s my only one dissapointment in this save so far. I like this strong midfielder in real life but he was sent off three times in his three matches in last season and then he moaned about lacking match time so I sent him for loan spell. Probably my fault.
Midfielder Diego Poyet left our club and he signed for West Brom who met asking price.
Our only one signing this season was Antony Molloy from Huddersfield Town. I scouted this player for a couple of weeks and I decided give him chance and bought him for 2.3M and I hoped he will be my secret weapon if some of our main strikers will be out of form or injured. I play him as a Poacher and if you will read until the end you will see his stats… (fantastic!)
Timeline of the 2020/2021 season…
Pre-season started – 25th June 2020. We played eight friendly matches – won six, drew one and lost 3-2 to Valencia CF in our last match before start of the new season.
Expectations: Mid-table finish in the Premier League, Group Stage in the Europa League, Fourth Round in the EFL Cup and Fifth Round in the FA Cup.
Youngsters Robert Malone, Andy McNab, Jan Cvancara, Stuart Haines and Lewis Forman included to squad list for Premier League and Europa League.
And then it began…
The first competitive match of the season was home tie against HNK Rijeka in the 3rd Qualifying Round of the Europa League. We were 3-0 up after 32 minutes but they scored twice and it was 3-2. Two goals were scored in the last ten minutes and the match ended with a 4-3 win for us.
Reply in Croatia was one sided match as we won 5-0 with five goals in the first half and we were comfortably in the Play-off.
We travelled to Etihad Stadium for the first league game of the season and we lost 3-1. I wanted good league start so I decided to play youngsters in the Europa League Play-off against Vaduz and one of them Lewis Forman scored one of our two goals in the first leg.
Unfortunately we lost also the second league game of the season as Liverpool won at Madejski Stadium 2-0.
Youngsters played again with Vaduz in the Play-off reply and Lewis Forman scored another goal and after a 1-1 draw we reached group stage.
“Great, that’s it. Just concentrate on the domestic league, we don’t need any issues with relegation battle. Let’s give youngsters chance in the Europe and play Premier League with the strongest side.”
That was mine thoughts in this time and I was very happy we defeated West Ham 3-2 before the international break in September.
And it was very fast and unpredictable after the international break. We started some run.
We beat Watford, Austria Wien, Chelsea (6-2 away!), Sunderland in the EFL Cup, Stoke, Mainz, Crystal Palace, Burnley, Steaua Bucuresti, Tottenham in the league and in the EFL Cup, West Brom and Steaua once again in the EL Group.
Fourteen wins in a row!
We were third in the table at the end of the October after ten matches were played.
Antony Molloy scored his first goals for the club against Austria Wien. It was his match as he scored three goals for fun in the second half.
“Fuck, it’s november and we’re third in the league. Can we keep this form? 14 wins in a row? That’s new club record in all time history. This could be really really huge season for us if we keep it…”
November and December were very busy months. We beat Austria Wien and Mainz once again and finished Europa League group stage with 18 points and in the first place of course which meant we qualified to the next round.
Our form continued and we only lost points with Manchester United and Southampton.
After the win over Liverpool 9th January we were first in the Premier League after the twenty matches despite first lost from August as we were defeated by Arsenal during festive Christmas period.
“First in the league? Of course! Eighteen matches to go and we are title contenders. Let’s talk about silvervare in the second season after promotion from the Championship and I’ll kill you! Let’s concentrate…”
Danny Loader was sensational this season. This 20 years old striker who is played as a Poacher or Target Man in our 4-3-1-2 formation was in great form. I posted the league table after the 20 matches on Twitter and just only couple of minutes later I played against Cardiff City.
And he scored 5 goals within 49 minutes of play and we won 5-0.
Danny has won some awards during the season like Player of the month or Young player of the month but he has also won the European Golden Boy award thanks to his 29 goals + 13 assists in 43 matches during the 2020.
I was also happy for midfielder Liam Kelly who finished in second place in Irish Player of the Year award.
I decided to play with 4-3-3 formation in the domestic cup matches as I wanted to give more playing time to my backup or young strikers. This resulted to wins like 4-3 over Charlton or EFL Cup Semi Final win over Newcastle or FA Cup win over West Brom.
The first “Top” of the season was at the end of February when we played EFL Cup Final against Arsenal. Last year we lost to the same team 2-3 but this year we won 1-0 thanks to another goal by Danny Loader and we won our first major trophy except Championship title.
One incident spooked me during February as Josh Barrett got injured during training. Almost in the same time as last season when our results crisis started. But fortunately this year it was only small injury and he was back quickly.
At the start of the January we played against Manchester City at home and this match is one of my favorite from this season. Dominic Samuel put us 1-0 ahead in the second minute and City were struggling. George Evans was sent off in the 50th minute and Agüero scored from the free kick minute later.
We did not give up. We fight until the end and Jack Byrne scored the winner in the 92th minute after well worked corner kick routine with a shot just from outside the penalty area.
I screamed before my laptop and my wife thought once again I surely am an crazy idiot.
We also played the first round of the Europa League and after a 2-2 draw away and a 1-1 draw at home we were through to the second round. Seventeen years old regen Jan Cvancara scored the decisive goal for us.
We got Internazionale and I wanted to go to another round. Antony Molloy was our first choice striker for Europa League and he paid my confidence in him. We drew 0-0 in Milan and we won 4-1 at home thanks to his two goals and two assists.
After a couple of draws in the Premier League we fell to second place behind Manchester United. We played against them in March and it was very tight match until the end. I did not want to make any subs as my players worked so hard but I made two during the second half.
First Liam Kelly and Antony Molloy than twelve minutes before the end. And it was crucial decision as Kelly won the ball at our half in the 91st minute and Molloy scored the winner after Barrett’s assist. Important win for our side as we had one game in hand and we could go to the first place before United.
And we did it. After wins over West Brom, Everton and Southampton we were first again because United gained only one point in their two matches against Arsenal and Wolverhampton.
After the Southampton win and six league games to go I had to turn off FM for a two days as I had some other things to do including Christmas party. But I finished this season as I wanted to get it over with. I was nervous and I think you all know this feeling… 🙂
Danny Loader scored another two goals against Southampton and they were record breakers. They were his 34th and 35th goals of the season and he sets new club record of goals during one season as previous record holder was Dominic Samuel with 34 goals two years ago.
Danny was also voted for 11th times as player of the match and that’s also a new club record.
It was good for England football that three clubs were in the Europa League Quarter Final. But we got Watford so we had to beat them. We won the first match at Vicarage Road 3-1 thanks to another two goals by Molloy.
Next was Sunderland.
Eighth minute – Gustav Engvall put Sunderland 1-0 ahead.
“I can’t believe we will lose points with Sunderland. C’mon boys!”
Dominic Samuel equalised in the 25th minute after assist by Josh Barrett. We had seven shots on target from seven attempts in the first half but our performance was horrible in overall. Second half was not much better and Gustav Engvall scored his second in the 60th minute and despite our 18 shots on target we were not able to equalise.
But Manchester United drew with Liverpool so five games before the end we were five points ahead of both clubs from Manchester.
Rotation was needed before second match with Watford in Europa League Quarter Final and I changed almost whole starting XI. Just only John Swift and keeper Southwood started.
And we have Antony Molloy who scored two goals and we won 2-0 over Watford and were through to the Europa League Semi Final!
“I don’t want to be here, I want fresh players for Premier League and win the league title. There is Real Madrid in the draw…oh, wait, we got Southampton in the Semi Final.”
How schedule was changed? League matches with Arsenal and Hull were re-arranged and we have to play FA Cup Semifinal with Arsenal just only three days after the Watford game.
Despite motivation and enough energy we lost the Semi Final 3-1 and were eliminated from the FA Cup. Arsenal with Manchester United in the Final.
After this defeat we played at Hull and we won 2-1 thanks to two goals by Danny Loader. This win meant we secured a top four finish in the league and we qualified for the Champions League. Manchester United beat West Ham so the gap remained at five points.
Danny Loader was not in the best mood at Dean Court but Dominic Samuel scored after three weeks long pause and he scored hattrick.
Great to have these two together in the squad. Samuel scored three in thirty minutes and despite two late goals by home side we won 3-2. Three matches to go…
Love this finish ♥
Just only two days after this match there was Europa League Semi Final first leg. We played at home against our rival from Southampton and I had to rotate starting XI again. The impact from fresh players was insane.
Byrne, Evans, Castle or Kelly were absolutey fantastic. And we were 4-0 up after the first half.
“This looks fantastic. They play like GODS. Just keep it going lads…”
And what a fantastic fourth goal after the free kick. Pure love for this ♥♥♥
The second half was not that good, Southampton scored thanks to Januzaj in the 60th minute. Samuel takes Loader place five minutes later and after great play in the centre he scored our fifth goal in the game.
“Reading can potentially become champions with one right result. Are you confident of seeing through and getting required result?”
This was the first question during pre-match press conference before our league match against Cardiff City on 8th May 2021.
“I’m very confident…” We won 3-0 at Cardiff City Stadium thanks to goals by Liam Kelly and Antony Molloy. Shani Tarashaj missed penalty in the 81st minute and Molloy scored his second just three minutes later. Game over.
Four days later we played the Europa League Semi Final second leg in Southampton and despite eight changes in the starting XI we won 2-1 thanks to goals by Samuel and Molloy and we booked place in the Final against Real Madrid.
Eighteen games unbeaten is a new UEFA Europa League record same as 49 goals scored in a season.
Manchester United tied with Chelsea in the match which was played in the same time. That meant United are out from league title race because they were seven points behind us before last two matches. Manchester City was the last danger…
…a couple of minutes later we become Premier League 2020/2021 champions without kicking the ball. For the first time in club history. Just only five years after we were tipped to finish 20th in Championship…
…as Manchester City lost 2-1 at Sunderland, big hug to Serge Gnabry and Fabio Borini for their goals against City.
“Phew…this is brilliant. I just won the Premier League with my favorite way how to play Football Manager. Almost no transfers, keep faith to your own players, keep the finances tight and play with youngsters.”
In the last two league matches we tied 1-1 with Arsenal and won 4-2 over Wolverhampton thanks to hattrick by Josh Barrett.
Europa League 2020/2021 Final
The last match of this season was Europa League Final against Real Madrid. Team around Cristiano Ronaldo, Robert Lewandowski or Toni Kroos was favorite before the match.
They played the Champions League group with NK Maribor, Napoli and Bayern. After three wins and three defeats they finished third in the group and they moved to the Europa League. Real went through to the Final after they outcome Dynamo Kyiv, Athletic Club, Valencia and Celtic. They conceded just only three goals in these eight matches.
We were without two important players. Defender Tyler Blacket was with Jamaica national team and John Swift missed the final due to injury. So I started with Anderson, Evans and Byrne in the midfield and Jack Lee played instead of Blacket as cetral defender.
The start of the match was delicious. Danny Loader opened the score after 48 seconds and Antonny Molloy scored our second goal in the 15th minute.
It was his 17th goal of this Europa League campaign and he became the top goalscorer.
But it was not enough to win this competition because Real scored three goals before the half-time. Lewandowski scored twice in five minutes and Cristiano Ronaldo converted penalty in the 37th minute. Crazy first half ended with 3-2 lead for Real.
This is the reason of penalty……
Despite some good chances in the second half we were not able to equalised and Real Madrid celebrated the win in the Europa League.
Antony Molloy and stats
As you were able to read at the start of this post we signed just only one player during this season. And he beat all the odds. Antony Molloy became the best Europa League goalscorer of the season as he scored 17 goals in 16 apperances.
He played also 26 matches in the Premier League and scored 9 goals. He had great stats in FA Cup in which he scored five goals in four matches. He scored 35 goals in all competitions during his first season.
If you take a look at the last screen with the First team squad players you will find Danny Loader and his 41 goals during this season, even six more than Molloy and also twenty assists. Incredible season from this 20 years old player. But I will write single post just only about him.
And that’s all. I know it was very long post. But I had to write it in this style.
Thanks for reading, @KeysiRensie.