Reading did just that last season with 12 wins in 18 matches to clinch the title by three points from Watford, another promoted team who made a real impression on the division. However, Watford will no longer compete in this reserve league as they were relegated from the Premier League.
Derby were always strong at reserve level in previous seasons and development coach Clive expects a tough opener at Pride Park.
So could another Reading be on the cards from the newcomers? “Possibly,” pondered Clive. “Obviously with the squads that Premier League teams carry now, it is all about the way they approach it.
“If they are not in European competition and they want their fringe players to play, then the reserve games are the ones we’ll see them in and Reading used it well last season.
“Games were very competitive last term and it was quite diverse, as a couple of clubs basically played Academy teams.
“For us, it was a new experience in that we had a first team squad competing on all fronts all the way through the season and therefore, only one or two players made appearances. It was a young team and that’s how we planned it, a development squad and with us qualifying for European again, I’m sure that’s the way we’ll go about it again this season.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for the youngsters especially if we come up against someone like Reading who are fielding a lot of Premier League squad players.
“Derby will be interesting. Billy Davies did a great job getting them promoted and they’ve always had good Academy squads and strong reserve teams. It’s a tough opening game and I think they will do well.
“Everyone is excited about the first game after the hard work of pre-season and it’s something to look forward to, a game at Pride Park against a Derby team promoted last season.
"Birmingham have a big squad and I’ve seen them over the last couple of years in the Northern Division. They will be competitive games and I think that’s going to be the case for most of the season, another step up and as far as we’re concerned the more competitive games, the better.”
Clive’s squad finished fifth last season after winning the title in 2005-06 and have only lost seven games in their last 44.
Clive Allen is gearing up for the start of the Barclays Premier Reserve League South campaign and a trip to Derby County on Wednesday (August 29, 7pm).It will be an early indication as to whether or not the new teams in the division – Derby and Birmingham – can ‘do a Reading’ and take the league by storm after being promoted.