Bouncebackability: a word coined by Iain Dowie when Crystal Palace manager in 2004 and six syllables that are drummed into every team after they have tumbled out of the Premier League. Do not sulk, do not feel sorry for yourselves, do not simply fade away in the Championship. Get back there... and straight away.
It is a word, a mantra almost, that Nigel Adkins, the Reading manager, has attempted to instil in his squad since they bade farewell to the top flight in May. And after an early stutter against Ipswich Town at the Madejski Stadium yesterday, they made an encouraging start to their bounce-back campaign.
A first opening-day victory since 2006 and a first home win for Adkins, after five attempts, added to the optimism at the Berkshire club. "It was pleasing to get three points on the board," Adkins said. "At 1-0 down, we had a challenge on our hands, but we regained the ascendancy and held on at the end. There's a feel-good factor everywhere."
Bouncebackability is an essential quality for those stripped of their top-flight status but few teams have possessed it since the formation of the Premier League in 1992. Of the 64 clubs relegated in that time – four came down during the restructuring in 1995 – only 17 have returned at the first attempt.
And only one, West Ham United, in the past three seasons; and only six in the past nine seasons. In eight campaigns, none of the fallen has gone back straight away. Mind you, if you were Leicester City, you'd fancy your chances. Three times they have regained their exalted status straight away.
Many just drift into Championship obscurity, Ipswich a classic case. Now in their 12th successive season in the second tier, the longest residency of any club, they dream mostly of just staying there. Not since 2005 have they reached the play-offs and, last season, they even flirted with relegation until Mick McCarthy replaced Paul Jewell in November.
A 14th-place finish – a curious six points off the drop, eight points off the play-offs – represented a rousing revival under McCarthy's solid stewardship. With ten players brought in during the summer and an unbeaten run of seven matches in pre-season, better was expected this time.
Initially, though, there was little sign of that in the Madejski heat. Adkins sprang a surprise by leaving Jobi McAnuff, the captain of the sinking ship last season, on the bench, with Sean Morrison, the central defender, taking over.
Adkins, who replaced Brian McDermott in March, clearly has his own mind. And to be fair, McAnuff contributed little by way of inspiration, even if it was a in the dispiriting face of a lost cause. Not that too many of his team-mates escaped criticism in a desperate campaign.
Desperate for a good start, Reading got it. Royston Drenthe, once of Real Madrid, orchestrated cleverly from midfield on his debut and Garath McCleary made persistent progress down the right. The end product was poor, though, and Ipswich's more vivid imagination swiftly took hold, leading to the opening goal.
Jay Tabb, who joined Ipswich from Reading in the summer, forced a fine save from Alex McCarthy, Reading's England goalkeeper, but, as the ball ran free and McCarthy received no help from his defenders, Tabb thumped home at the second attempt. In 105 games for Reading, he never scored.
Ipswich were buoyant, Reading deflated. Adkins decided to give an impromptu pep-talk on the touchline, when a drinks break was taken as Tyrone Mings received treatment for an injury, and it seemed to work. Ipswich's dominance faded towards the break, shortly before which they conceded a scrappy equaliser.
McCleary slung over a cross from the left and, amid a cluster of bodies at the far post, Mings appeared to get the final touch with his head to direct the ball into his own net. Adam Le Fondre, the Reading striker, may have claimed the goal but he appeared sheepish in the extreme and barely celebrated.
"I think it came off Ty's back," McCarthy said. "But I'm sure he'd prefer Le Fondre to have it. It was a shame because we were comfortable until then. If we play like that week in, week out, we will be fine." Not surprisngly, Adkins' view of the goal differed. "Adam made the first contact on the ball," he said. "For me, it's his."
Whoever scored, it was just the pick-me-up that Reading needed. They re-emerged invigorated after the break, with Hal Robson-Kanu going close with a cheeky backheel from Drenthe's accurate cross. Ipswich had a go, too, with McCarthy saving spectacularly from a fierce David McGoldrick drive.
Scott Loach, the Ipswich goalkeeper, saved a Drenthe effort but could do nothing when Danny Guthrie took aim from 25 yards with 15 minutes left. His shot was straight and true and, with the aid of a deflection off Luke Hyam, it swerved over and past Loach.
For Reading, Project Bouncebackability has lift-off. Just another 45 games to keep it going.
Reading (4-2-3-1): McCarthy; Gunter, Pearce, Morrison, Bridge; Karacan, Guthrie; Robson-Kanu (Williams, 66), Drenthe (McAnuff, 78), McCleary; Le Fondre (Pogrebnyak, 82).
Ipswich (4-4-2): Loach; Hewitt, Chambers, Smith, Mings; Edwards (Anderson, 82), Skuse, Hyam, Tabb; Murphy (Taylor, 74), McGoldrick (Nouble, 82).
Referee David Coote.
Man of the match Drenthe (Reading).
Match rating 6/10.Reuse content