Oppositions' view vs Reading (Home)
Vital Stoke editor Lloyd Reddin travelled across the internet to have a pre-match word with Vital Reading's Josh Aspinall, ahead of Stoke's Premier League fixture with Reading at the Britannia Stadium.
1. Do you think you have done enough in the transfer window to stay up?
On paper it would seem that we haven`t considering we have only signed four players over January, with only one of them coming from the Premier League. However, two of four that have played, Stephen Kelly and Hope Akpan, look very good acquisitions that can do a job in this league and help us in our relegation battle. Daniel Carrico was thrown into the deep end against West Brom last month, but it was only his third game in a matter of months, so looked a bit off the mark. Despite this, given time, I`m sure he can really offer us that hint of quality we have been missing for the majority of this season.
2. Was there anyone else you would have liked to see move to/from your club in January?
With our new owner being Russian and all that, some Royals fans presume we are going to raid clubs with £30 million signings, but that was never going to be the case. I would have maybe have liked to have seen a tad more Premier League quality, especially in the final third, something we have lacked quite often this campaign.
3. Do you think Brian McDermott uses Adam Le Fondre correctly?
That`s a very good question. Others don`t think he has the quality to start games and doesn`t have enough impact when he starts, saying he is best used off the bench. Now we have changed to a more solid five-man midfield system, I agree he is best used as a substitute, as he hasn`t got the stature to play on his own in this league.
4. What were your expectations for this season? And have they now changed?
It has always been stay in the division and it can only remain that way for the foreseeable future. We knew it was going to be tough and our first few months proved that. Our run of seven straight defeats meant relegation was staring us firmly in the face and us Royals were confining ourselves for relegation. However, our recent run of results has given us great hope and the fact that we still have to play the likes of Villa, QPR, Wigan and Southampton at home gives us a chance of staying this division, presuming we win the majority of those games.
5. Who would you say is your danger man?
From the start of the game, I would certainly say Jimmy Kebe. Injury has hindered his progress throughout the season, but it finally looks like he is returning to his old self, which is mainly terrorising left backs for fun. However, I am slightly concerned he will struggle with Stoke`s physical ability, despite the fact he is a big lad. Off the bench, has to be Le Fondre. I hope we won`t need to use him come 70 minutes on Saturday, but if we need a goal, you can always rely on Alfie to bag you one.
6. What would you say are your strengths as a team?
I want to say Adam Le Fondre at the moment, but that doesn`t really answer the question! I would have to say our strengths, especially compared to what we were like in the first half of the season, is that we are a lot more solid defensively now. We seemed to have a settled back four in Kelly, Pearce, Mariappa and Harte, with midfield enforcers Mikele Leigertwood and Hope Akpan sitting in front of them. We tend to soak up pressure quite a lot then hit teams on the break down the wings, with the likes of Kebe and McCleary, with McAnuff through the middle.
7. What would you say are your weaknesses as a team?
I know Brian emphasises a style of play that means we don`t keep a lot of the ball, but when we do have it, we are not very good at keeping it. I believe we have the lowest passes and pass completion ratio in the division, which speaks volumes really.
8. How do you feel about your manager?
For the rise he has made at Reading, you have to love him. Brian received a fair amount of stick during our baron run, myself included, for playing an out-dated 4-4-2 system that was leaving us horribly open the majority of the game. Albeit quite late, he finally realised this wasn`t working and changed it to a 4-5-1, which has worked wonders. He has great respect to and from the players, as well as the fans.
9. Which player (s) do you fear from the Stoke City side?
Jon Walters is a player that never really struck me as a Premier League player before, but having watched him this season, he looks a completely different player. He has worked wonders playing that number 10 role. Big, strong, can link up play well and has a great strike on him.
10. Is there any Stoke players you would like to add to your squad?
The likes of Begovic, Adam and Ethrington would be very much welcomed here, but obviously not very realistic. A player we were linked with during January was Wilson Palacios, who I would loved to have seen in a Reading shirt. A player with experience at this level and someone who would have given our midfield a much needed improvement in depth.
11. How do you think Stoke will do this season?
I see Stoke being Stoke, sitting nice and comfortably mid table. I think the European places are slightly beyond you, but you have too much quality in your side to be anywhere near the relegation mix.
12. What is your likely line-up for the match?
4-5-1 - Federici, Kelly, Pearce, Mariappa, Harte, Leigertwood, Akpan, Kebe, McAnuff, McCleary, Pogrebnyak
13. Finally, what`s your score prediction for the match?
We are both going into it on contrasting forms, but your home record is superb. I`ve got a feeling this will be a bore draw, 0-0.