Reading are back in the Premier League

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After four seasons in the second division, Reading has clinched their return to the Premier League. Their 1-0 victory over Nottingham Forest on Tuesday left the Royal’s eight points clear of third-place West Ham United.

Fans reacted with mild elation:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OT_I4Inh7zA%5D

That’s Mikele Leigertwood, the man who scored the goal that sent Reading up. His 81st minute strike from close range, coupled with West Ham’s 1-1 draw at Bristol City, clinched a top-two finish, earning the Roylas the right to fight for their lives in 2012-13.

The last time Reading was in the Premier Leargue, Marcus Hanhemann was on the team. So was Bobby Convey, as were Kevin Doyle, Shane Long, Nicky Shorey, Dave Kitson and Stephen Hunt, all of whom have since moved on. The players who have keyed this year’s run: Adam La Fondre (11 goals), Jimmy Kebe (10 assists), Alex Pearce (who’s played ever minute in defense), and Adam Federici (goalkeeper behind the league’s best defense).

In their 141-year history, Reading’s spent two seasons in the top flight, remarkably finishing eighth in 2006-07, the season after earning promotion. They fell to 18th in 2007-08, relegated with what now seems a remarkable 41 points.

Now, they sit on 88 after get two matches to bask in their success. They’re three up on Southampton, who can clinch their place in next year’s Premier League with a win on Saturday at Middlesbrough. West Ham United, who have way too much talent to be facing another year in the Championship, look set for the four-team playoff that will decide the third promoted club.

Other likely playoff clubs: Birmingham City, Blackpool, Cardiff City.

But that’s then, this is now, a now that belongs to Reading.