Former Reading midfielder Neil Smith believes the club need to sign 'fighters' if they are to get back to the Championship.

Smith, who had three injury-hit years in Berkshire, played over 70 times for the club in the early 2000s under Tommy Burns and Alan Pardew.

A bit-part player as Pardew took the club up to the Championship in 2002, Smith was part of the last Royals side in the third tier.

Despite not being back for a number of years, the Londoner admits he is hit with sadness at seeing the club's demise.

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"You feel sad for the supporters because they were amazing. My time there was a little bit bitty- I had a few injuries- but the support base was phenomenal," the 51-year-old said. "When I first came in it was a similar situation where you were fighting relegation. We stayed up and the next year, between Alan Pardew, John Gorman and Martin Allen, you get in the play-off final. Then the following year you get promotion. It can be done. Alan had to reset from a base of just staying up to then getting in players that can get you to the next stage.

"I look at it and my time is totally different to the time now, a different era and a different club. You feel sad for the supporters because they are amazing and get behind the team. To see it going to way it was, and something off the field has got them relegated."

A vastly-experienced manager and coach since retiring in 2008, he has had a 10-year association with Bromley and now manages Isthmian League Premier Division outfit Cray Wanderers.

Experiencing three promotions as a player, Smith knows what it takes to get near the right end of the table.

"They’re going to need fighters. Get the better players in, but it’s such a relentless season," he admitted. "As soon as you play one tough game, on the Tuesday you’ve got another. You need a good squad of players who get along, you need your leaders- your [Adi] Viveash’s and [Adrian] Whitbread’s- winners. Even in the changing room you knew you were going to win, or at least make it hard for the opposition.

"You’re going to need strong minds. That comes down to type of player that you get in. You need your strong players. In a quick turnaround, from fighting relegation, we missed out in the play-off final to Walsall and then promotion."