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“We Need to Get the Basics Right and It Will All Fall into Place“ - Notes for the Reading Game
Friday, 2nd Aug 2013 12:00 by HarryFromBath

HarryfromBath assesses the mood in the opposition camp ahead of Saturday's game by delving into their forums.

“We may be lucky to finish in the top ten this season. A good start is important but we have a very tough first ten games. I think that very few supporters realised how bad a team we were in the Premiership.”

A Change of Tactics

The truth is that while fans of many other Championship teams see Reading as serious promotion contenders, most Royals are less optimistic. Nigel Adkins, who took over as manager in March, is moving the team to a more patient game revolving around a 4-2-3-1 system, and it is taking time to bed this in.

“We have to remember than Nigel took over a crap team and any manager would need time to turn it around.” “I have respect for Nigel Adkins and his record speaks for itself.” Royals respect their new manager, and are prepared to give him time to create a new side.

“We are trying to play short passing moves, mainly through the middle.” “(Former manager Brian) McDermott’s approach was to lump it into the channels or to the ‘holding-it-up’ frontman and wait for support, but Adkins is developing a more passing-based approach.”

“I can see the Brendan Rogers situation rearing its ugly head, with us playing a lot of pretty football but with no end result.” “Yes, changing the system but looking toothless up front.” “There were loads of nice passes, but mostly in our own half.”

“We pass it well, but a bit deep. We keep possession well, but with not much end product.” ”Plenty of nice retention, but we need to be more clinical in both of the final thirds of the pitch.”

The lack of confidence with this new system similarly manifests itself when the team are out of possession: “It is almost as if some of the players are so concerned with how we should be playing the ball that they forgot their sense of positioning off it.”

“Far too much standing around and waiting for the man on the ball to do something for my liking. Our movement off the ball was terrible all game.” “Time after time, we fail to track the runner. When your centre-backs are miles apart and your full-backs are on the halfway line, then we are left exposed.”

In their 3-0 pre-season defeat at home to Swansea on Saturday, they struggled to establish any rhythm when faced with a strong pressing game from their opponents. “We won’t play a team that presses anywhere near as well as they do. They never allowed us to settle into any sort of rhythm.”

“For their last goal, we had a throw but none of our players supported the thrower by putting themselves in good positions. The thrower was barracked for taking so long, so tried a longish throw which was easily cut out. Two passes later and the ball was in our net.”

The Summer Transfer Market

Royston Drenthe
Reading have looked for quality and experience in strengthening their squad in this summer’s transfer market. They announced just three signings, all with pedigree and quality.

One of the most eye-catching signings of the summer was their capture of 26-year-old midfielder and Dutch international Royston Drenthe from Alania Vladikavkaz. The left-sided player previously played for Real Madrid and for Everton on loan, having begun his career with Feyenoord.

They have brought in Wayne Bridge from Manchester City after he rejected a bid from QPR. The former England left-back has recent Championship experience, having played all of last season for Brighton.

Making up the trio was German-Born USA International Danny Williams. The 24-year-old midfielder joined from Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga, having also played for Freiburg.

Their list of departures suggests a period of transition with a new team under construction. Left-back Nicky Shorey (to Millwall), right-back Ian Harte (to Bournemouth), strikers Noel Hunt (to Leeds) and Simon Church (to Charlton) and left-sided defender or midfielder Joseph Mills (to Burnley) are the most notable of the many players to leave the Madejski Stadium.

One departure which the Royals were unhappy about was the loss of 18-year-old striker and outstanding prospect Uche Ikpeazu to Watford.

Left-sided midfielder Jay Tabb also joined us over the summer, having enjoyed a successful loan spell here since March and having played no small part in our rejuvenation under Mick.

The Tactical Overview in One Sentence

Reading supporters are concerned that their team has not adapted effectively yet to the Nigel Adkins passing game, and they simply don’t have the right creative and attacking players to deliver sufficient goals this season.


Royals have least concerns about their defence. In goal most prefer 23-year-old former Town loanee Alex McCarthy, who was “absolutely staggering” in Reading’s 0-0 draw with Liverpool in April, although there was the odd nervous comment: “It’s probably heresy, but he doesn’t always look that confident.” Adam Federici, the 28-year-old Australian international, is the experienced alternative choice.

Chris Gunter

At right-back, most fans think that Adkins prefers former Forest player and Welsh international Chris Gunter to Stephen Kelly, the Republic of Ireland international and former Fulham player. “Gunter gets forward and Kelly doesn’t. Adkins recognised this when he came in and immediately favoured Gunter.”

“I don’t have confidence in Gunter after the number of mistakes he made last season.” “Guntz is good at getting forward and at getting into a decent position on either side of the wingers run, but Kelly is just much, much better defensively.” Either could feature on Saturday.

“Adkins cares more about his full-backs getting up and down, which is why he brought Wayne Bridge in, and didn’t want Ian Harte or Nicky Shorey.” “Bridge is good and looks for the overlap all of the time.”

There was little comment either way about the most popular centre-back choices, Former Hornet Adrian Mariappa and Alex Pearce, although one Royal scathingly said of Pearce that “he struggled with his tank-like turning time against quick passing forwards” against Swansea.


“We struggled to get through the midfield in the friendly against Bristol City.” Too many passes went astray.” “We always seemed to be short in central midfield. Men were too deep in front of the back four, and the forward midfielder was too close to Adam Le Fondre, leaving a big void in the middle.”

Danny Guthrie

Most supporters are at least happy and in agreement to see former Newcastle player Danny Guthrie and new signing Danny Williams as central holding midfielders.

Jem Karacan’s name also features as a back-up, who “does no wrong and is always in the game”, but “he doesn’t have the passing range to be effective as a holding midfielder.”

Guthrie is well liked. “He puts in a real shift and was always looking for return passes.” “He has been the key player for us and has always been involved” in pre-season games. He has his critics, with one fan saying that he “flattered to deceive, and was a playmaker who didn’t make any play” against Swansea.

His lack of tactical awareness was also highlighted in this remark: “Guthrie can be a red card waiting to happen. He gives the ball away too easily and chases like a headless chicken to get it back.”

“Williams is not afraid to get up the pitch, giving us a second support option to the main striker.” Given time, the new midfielder is seen as a potentially pivotal player in the new look Reading midfield. “He’s big, strong, quick and not afraid of going forward. Solid technical skills.”

There has been much discussion about Royston Drenthe. “Drenthe. Frustrating. Obviously a talented player, but he lost the ball a lot and wasted several freekicks which we ballooned over from good positions.” “Drenthe was pretty average against Bristol City.” “Anonymous.” “He looked unfit to me.”

“His decision-making was poor.” “All game against Swansea, he was running down a blind alley.” “There was a period of 18 minutes on Saturday before Drenthe touched the ball again. He needs to get involved more rather than sticking to the touchline by the dugout.”

Supporters are widely in agreement about former Forest winger Garath McCleary. “He looks threatening, but sometimes tries just one trick too many and loses out.”

One player who has lit up Reading’s pre-season is 21-year-old former Crawley Town midfielder Hope Akpan. “Akpan looked a right forward when he came on. He got into good positions and wanted the ball. It is a pity that there was a lack of movement around him for him to have any decent passing options.”

One Royal hankered after some old fashioned wing play. “Drenthe looks exciting and dangerous. Him playing in the same side as a fit Kebe would give superb entertainment value.”

The Lack of a Playmaker

“I do feel a creative attacking midfielder is exactly what we need. The sooner the better and I will be majorly disappointed if we do not buy this type of player. Hopefully we will buy someone with great awareness in midfield, and can successfully pass the bloody ball and keep possession.”

They are unsure about the best role for Hal Robson-Kanu. “We should take the massive opportunity we have with HRK to play him in the hole behind the striker.” “We tried it before and is simply didn’t work.”

“We have no idea how to convert attacking play into goalscoring chances at the moment. Can't see this changing as it has a look of lacking in confidence above anything else. Can't fault Le Fondre for his workrate but pairing him with HRK will not strike fear into any Championship defence this season.”

Hal Robson-Kanu

“Robson-Kanu is not our attacking midfield option. He is not good enough to spot and release Le Fondre.” The Welsh international is seen by most supporters as the best option for the right wing position, given how injury prone Jimmy Kebe “the perpetual sick note” has been recently.

“Jobi McAnuff being captain means simply that he cannot be substituted, so we lack the ability to be more dynamic changing formations later in the game.” The former Palace and Watford player has been pencilled into the attacking midfield role by some Royals, when selected, but again is seen as a false choice.


In a poll entitled “Do we need another striker?” 93% of Royals said ‘Yes’. “I can’t see how we can justify being favourites for promotion. Another striker is a must, and another attacking midfielder.”

“We’re still waiting for the first home goal under Nigel Adkins.” “I wonder if Nigel realises that we have goal music.” With Reading’s goal against Aston Villa in March coming from a Villa own goal, the truth is that a Reading player has not scored at the Madejski Stadium since last February.

Adam Le Fondre

The most discussed topic is whether or not the former Rotherham striker Adam Le Fondre can adapt to the new system. “ALF can’t do it.” “Anonymous, but he has zero service.” “Our ratio of shots on target this pre-season is probably the lowest it has been in quite some time.”

“Possession and passing is better, but not great. I am happy with the concept, but the link-up play to Le Fondre is shocking.” “Le Fondre’s best contributions have been off the bench. He’s not best suited to being the focal point of our attack if we play one up front with three supporting. It’s just not his game.”

“The Pog looks like a man who can’t wait to get away.” “Even if Pavel Pogrebnyak doesn’t leave, I think we need to add a forward with genuine pace to complete our options up front.” “He wants to leave. Anybody who has seen him at any pre-season game will know what I mean.”

One footnote worth adding is that striker Nick Blackman is suspended for the first game of the season for misconduct against a steward while playing for Sheffield United last September.

I will end this section with this interesting nostalgic comment: “What Nigel wouldn’t give to have Fozzy (Reading legend and former ITFC striker Nicky Forster) at his peak now.”

Reading Fans' Views on ITFC and the Game

There was one amusing thread entitled “Ipswich, I’m looking forward to seeing…”, which threw up a wide range of amusing answers: “watching my pre-season hopes fade away over 90 minutes,” “a home goal,” “another away clean sheet at the Madejski Stadium,” “Nicky Forster hitting the post from a million yards out.”

There were also the more painful: “Two injury-time goals to win the game,” and “Ipswich fans celebrating in the Reading end as Darren Bent scores in the 89th minute, before Reading go straight down the other end and Ivar Ingimarsson scores in the p***ing rain whilst most of our fans are still complaining to the stewards.”

“Ipswich could be the surprise team in the Championship to do well this season and be right up there in the mix at the end of season.” In a well organised end-of-season predictions competition with 100 forum regulars responding, just one had us in an automatic promotion position and six in the play-offs.

Jay Tabb

“We are playing Championship teams such as an Ipswich side, a side that one of their biggest signings this season was capturing Jay Tabb. Nothing against the bloke, hard worker and that, but we should dominate that midfield and thus create chances.”

Jay Tabb for Reading

“One of the nicest guys in the game and a 'model pro'.” “He’s bound to score against us after going his whole time here without a competitive goal.”

Royals view Jay Tabb with affection. He is seen as a thoroughly professional player who gave his all for the club. It is fair to day that his lack of goals for Reading coloured some fans perception of him as a player.

“He is the one of the two players, though I understand why and agree with the decisions, I was sad to see go. Always gave everything he had when he got the chance and was a top flight professional. Ipswich got themselves a damn fine player. I wish the best of luck to him, except when playing Reading.”


The best website is the articulate, knowledgeable and informed Hobnob Anyone?.

Photo: Action Images

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gazzmac4 added 12:15 - Aug 2
Excellent as always! Tomorrow should have a great early season feel to it, i cant wait!

We of course need to be careful too. Reading have some really excellent players in their squad who can do damage at this level but given the changes and issues they have had since they got relegated this could be a good chance to sneak away with something!

I will be absolutely chuffed with any sort of points from tomorrow, although if we lose i would hope we have given a good account of ourselves! Basically if we play well and look good for the rest of the year then i will be happy!


Stourbridgeblue added 12:17 - Aug 2
Probably better than MM's scouting report :-)

JimmyJazz added 12:21 - Aug 2
Interesting as always. Sounds like a good time to play a team who will probably improve as the season progresses. Sounds like they have too many players (or maybe too many of the same standard)!! No mention of Sean Morrison who i thought stood out in a poor defence last season (as opposed to Pearce).

IpswichLewis added 13:23 - Aug 2
The Three Guineas is right by Reading station as you exit it's on the right. Really nice pub, lots of outdoor seating if the weathers nice. 2miles down the road is the Madjeski. Around £4 return on the bus...see everyone there...

HarryfromBath added 13:25 - Aug 2
JimmyJazz, I completely agree with your comment about so many players of the same standard, and I think Adkins would have moved more players on if he could have. It was interesting that you mentioned Sean Morrison.

His name did crop up in a good few threads, and by all accounts he has had a decent pre-season. "Outstanding" and "a force to be reckoned with" were comments I picked up. For some reason he has not been included in any proposed line-ups by supporters. He played alongside Pearce in the Swansea defeat last weekend, and may well feature.

gazzmac4, they seem to be in a degree of flux, but I keep having to remind myself that they have some very decent players who can hurt us if they get a rhythm going. I reckon that we will need to press the living daylights out of them.

Nthsuffolkblue added 13:44 - Aug 2
I actually hope MM uses your notes to supplement his scouting report - a very thorough analysis, Harry.

Minor point; penultimate para says "day" instead of "say" - thanks, Phil, in advance!

DiamondGezzer added 14:00 - Aug 2
Thanks Harry for the insight, and of course all your other blogs.
Have to agree, any sort of point would be good tomorrow [ especially three ], not going to be a walk over by any means. Good luck to the boys !

pazelle added 14:27 - Aug 2
Very good Harry! Keep up the good work!
Ian Harte is a leftback not a rightback btw - and I wonder if Drenthe's old team mate Tamas Tommy Priskin has texted him with any advice?

BossMan added 19:39 - Aug 2
Really impressed by how you have applied yourself to this Harry. What are your thoughts on our prospects for this season ? Have we improved our squad more than our competitors during pre-season ? Do you think we can repeat the top 6 form Mick achieved with last seasons squad ? Who do you think the top 6 will be and why ?

BossMan added 19:47 - Aug 2
My caption competition entry for the main pic is Adkins has just said "who'd have guessed Jay Tabb would start scoring once he joined Ipswich ? " and Madejski is about to reply "McCarthy ?"

HarryfromBath added 20:02 - Aug 2
I'm sorry Pazelle, especially as an Irishman. No idea how that got through!

Love the caption competition quote BossMan. Gav has been adding the pictures to the notes, and has been playing a blinder.

We are all now thinking about where we will finish this year. Last year was not normal by any stretch of the imagination. A replication of our form under Mick in a 'normal' season would get us to eighth. I reckon that if we stay injury free, we can sneak into the play-offs.

Forest and Watford are my favourites. With Wigan, Reading and Blackburn, it depends on their managers and how quickly they knit their squads together. Two of these thee should be in the playoffs.

Bolton lack the depth of quality, but QPR could literally do anything this year. Assuming they don't self destruct and make the play-offs, then I can see one of us, Leeds or Millwall joining them in the play-off quartet.

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