• Much sought-after new signings peripheral in Reading revival
• Martin O'Neill rues Sunderland's missed opportunities
It was after Reading were beaten at home by Arsenal shortly before Christmas that Jimmy Kébé decided the time had come to get serious. It was Reading's sixth successive Premier League defeat, and according to the skilful if occasionally frustrating French winger, the blame lay with the club's owner, Anton Zingarevich, for not giving the manager, Brian McDermott, the funds to strengthen his squad over the summer.
The result, said Kébé, who has played international football for Mali, was that Reading were no more than a good Championship side who were certain to go down unless McDermott was permitted to spend during the transfer window.
His public outburst may or may not have been a factor in Zingarevich loosening the purse strings last month. But while McDermott was handed the wherewithal to make four new signings, lack of playing time means that while they have all contributed, it would be hard to argue that Hope Akpan, Daniel Carriço, Stephen Kelly and Nick Blackman have played central roles in a run that has seen Reading take 14 points from seven games.
For the most part it is the players who were struggling who have, as McDermott put it after Kébé's fine early shot and late back-post header lifted Reading two points clear of the teams in the relegation zone, learned how to win games in the Premier League.
At the same time McDermott was prepared to acknowledge Kébé's words may have served a purpose. "He spoke out and said what he said because he cares, we all care," McDermott said. "He meant it, but you can't say he is not a team man because he is. He plays out wide but he runs back, he does his defensive stuff.
"He is a funny boy with a dry sense of humour. He works hard and now he seems to have added far-post headers to his repertoire. I have known him a long time, I scouted him from France and we have a good partnership, I know what makes him tick, and he really does help me and the team."
Kébé, having been required to go for a precautionary x-ray, was unavailable to reveal whether his views have now changed, though he did later tweet, perhaps ironically, "Few weeks ago some people thought that we were already in championship … think again".
Jobi McAnuff, who supplied the cut-back that Kébé controlled before scoring his first goal, reckoned being soundly beaten at Sunderland just before losing to Arsenal had been a turning point.
"We had a hard look at ourselves and we knew we had to do better," the Reading captain said. "Now we are a different team, we're a lot more solid, we're giving ourselves a good chance to win games and we were good value for this win."
Up to a point. The Sunderland manager, Martin O'Neill, was disappointed to see his team give away the free-kick from which Ian Harte crossed and Kébé headed past Simon Mignolet, but more so because his team appeared to be in control after Craig Gardner had converted the penalty awarded after Pavel Pogrebnyak fouled John O'Shea.
"I certainly couldn't see us losing," said O'Neill, and nor would they had the new £5m signing Danny Graham, introduced for the final 11 minutes and greeted with a resounding cheer by the Sunderland supporters, taken one of two good chances.
That Graham had got on the end of both opportunities encouraged O'Neill. "For the length of time he was on the field I thought he did very well. I think Steven Fletcher has been brilliant for us as a centre-forward but he can easily drop off – I don't see a major problem them playing together."
Man of the match: Jimmy Kébé (Reading)