Opposition's view: Reading FC
With the start of the 2012/13 season only a matter of days away, Editor Lloyd Reddin has travelled down south to ask Vital Reading`s Editor Josh Aspinall for his thoughts before this weekend`s season curtain raiser at the Madejski.
1) You have had an eventful summer with the build up to the new season and your return to the Premier League, along with your Russian billionaire takeover; do you believe you are ready for the upcoming campaign?
After our dealings in the transfer market, thanks to our new Russian billionaire owner, I feel we are very much ready. Brian McDermott was very logical with his signings, in that he strengthened where we were short of players or where extra quality was needed in a particular position and it`s now fair to say we now have good competition for each position in our side. Admittedly, our pre-season was not the most successful, only picking up two wins from seven games. However, friendly results do not mean anything nowadays, so that doesn`t concern me or most Reading fans hugely.
2) With nine players coming in, and ten leaving, you have had a very busy transfer window, who are looking to be your star signing and do you believe your work will keep you in the league?
Had you have asked me that question a few weeks ago, I would have said Pogrebnyak due to his reputation that proceeds him and having such a 'big name` signing for us. However after watching a few of our preseason games, a player that has certainly caught my eye is Danny Guthrie. I was very sceptical about his move from Newcastle due to his 'badboy` history, but on the pitch, he has shown what a magnificent range of passing he has. I have not seen a better passer of the ball at the Madejski since Sidwell left five years ago. When he first joined he said he had hopes of getting into the England squad and if he continues the form as he has in preseason, I would probably put a few quid on it!
3) What are your expectations for the coming season?
It really is just to survive. Some very optimistic fans are hoping for mid table, but it is a working process and despite all the signings, we are still a club that is likely to be fighting for its Premier League status. We naturally have a good end to the season (as the past three seasons have shown), but I hope we start well this time round for the sake of my nerves!
4) Danger man?
Garath McCleary. Another player who has very much impressed many in pre-season. Some wingers are just all legs and no end quality, but this lad looks like he has it all in the locker. Good technical ability, lightning pace and has an eye for goal. With our usual danger man Jimmy Kebe injured for the opening games of the season, I highly expect McCleary to start against yourselves, or if not a cameo appearance off the bench.
Our strengths as a team is plain but simple, we are a team. The unity among the squad in the past few seasons has been quite phenomenal and never have I seen any sort of bust ups or pushing the blame when it`s not going our way. In all fairness, I highly doubt it will be all fine and dandy this season in terms of results as it was last season, but I`m sure the squad unity will have some bearing over the campaign.
Pace at the back. When you have Nicky Shorey and Ian Harte as your left back choices, the likes of Valencia and Walcott must be sniggering. Despite both our centre half`s, Pearce and Gorkss, being strong and experienced defenders, pace is something they both very much lack. It wouldn`t surprise me if we played very deep defensively to try and combat this and catch teams on the break.
7) Brian McDermott has done a terrific job at Reading since he took over and has guided you back into the Premier League; how do you personally feel about him?
I think he is superb, Brian is a magnificent manager and as an individual. Not only has he earned us promotion with two full seasons in charge, but he has brought the best out of the likes of Jimmy Kebe and most notably Shane Long. Questions marks were raised over his future when Wolves came calling, but the new contract put to bed any doubt. I highly expect our new owner to stand by him, irrelevant of results throughout the season.
8) We have sold our allocation of 2,300 tickets for the clash at the weekend, what crowd and atmosphere are you expecting?
I have to be honest, the Madejski has never been known for its amazing atmosphere. However, with it being us back in the Premier League and it being a new era for Reading Football Club, there could be that bigger buzz around. I believe we are on the verge of selling out, so I`m expecting around 24,000.
9) Which player (s) do you fear from the Stoke City side?
Matt Etherington always seems to be a player that relishes playing against us and normally scoring, which was more in his West Ham days. Cameron Jerome is also a player that could benefit from our defence`s lack of pace, so I`m hoping he has a quiet game.
10) Is there any Stoke players you would like to add to your squad?
I`ve always been a big fan of Peter Crouch and I`m glad he finally looks like he is settling in to a side that suits him. Such good feet for a gangly striker, obviously a presence in the air and who can forget the robot? Pure genius.
11) How do you think Stoke will do this season?
I think Stoke will safely finish mid table. As our captain Jobi McAnuff has been saying, Stoke are the template for success in staying in the Premier League. I doubt you will encounter any relegation trouble as long as you have a good first half to the season like the last campaign.
12) Likely line-up?
(4-4-2) Federici; Gunter, Pearce, Gorkss, Harte; McCleary, Guthrie, Leigertwood, McAnuff; Pogrebnyak, Le Fondre
I`ve got a sneaky feeling we might pinch it due to the occasion for us, but I would still be very content with a point. After all the hype, I reckon we will see a bore draw 0-0.
I would like to thank Josh for his time and good luck for the rest of the season. (After the weekend ofcourse)