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We Don’t Deserve to Stay Up, But We Will - Notes for Reading
Friday, 27th Apr 2018 11:00 by HarryFromBath

HarryFromBath assesses the mood in the opposition camp ahead of Saturday’s game at the Madejski Stadium by delving into their forums.

“Are we mathematically safe yet?”, “One more point will secure it but we should probably survive on our current points level”, “Defeat for us and wins for Bolton and Barnsley would make for a nervous final day”, “Ipswich look like ideal opponents. Lose to Ipswich and we probably deserve to go down.”

The Royals head into their final home game of the campaign with a five-point and five-goal cushion over third-bottom Barnsley. Most fans believe that they are safe but they want to see this confirmed on Saturday ahead of a difficult final game of the season at second-placed Cardiff next weekend.

“We are safe now. I can’t see Barnsley winning their last two games, and whoever loses the Burton v Bolton game will finish below us”, “If we can mathematically go down on the last day we will, given that ours is the hardest game”, “We all knew it would come down to 90 minutes against Ipswich.”

“You can see that our players can’t be bothered to play for the shirt.” Travelling fans were left fuming by last Saturday’s listless display at Hillsborough. “Losing 3-0 to an indifferent at best Wednesday side who had nothing to play for and when you had everything to play for was utterly disgraceful.”

“To be fair, we really deserve to go down. We’re that bad”, “I can’t figure out how five teams can be worse than us. It’s mystifying. We would have been relegated in most other seasons”, “Rip the heart out of the team and start afresh. The mentality, coaching and fitness need a huge amount of work.”

Paul Clement

“Clement is making a good fist of keeping us up with seven points in six games. He inherited a car-crash of a squad and shouldn’t be judged on what happens in eight games”, “He has taken on what was a chronically unfit team lacking in confidence and has taken seven points out of nine at home.”

The former Derby and Swansea boss was announced as Jaap Stam’s successor on March 23rd after the Dutchman departed by mutual consent. The side has yet to record an away point under him but are unbeaten at home, picking up 1-0 wins over QPR and Preston and drawing 2-2 with Sunderland.

“I think we have upgraded our manager. He clearly has the players working harder and committing to the cause. Look at the battle, spirit and determination we have shown in some games lately. He’s doing a good job getting the players engaged. They certainly weren’t giving Stam this much effort.”

“Clement was brought in with the objective of keeping us up and only that. A win over Ipswich will achieve this”, “He can’t have known just how appalling this squad was when he signed on the dotted line”, “He appears to be a good man manager and you can see improvements in certain players.”

“Clement also seems to be doing a good job of getting us organised and you can’t argue with that. He’s clear and consistent in what he’s trying to do”, “He has steadied the defence. If you don’t give away stupid goals you always give yourself a chance to nick something, which we have done twice.”

A Huge Summer Rebuild

“This team is rotten to the core”, “This group of players let Stam down and are now letting Clement down. It’s as simple as that really. There is not a manager on earth who could get this shower to play anywhere near their potential”, “This team badly needs some leaders and some steel in midfield.”

“This squad is talented but very badly balanced. They can all pass the ball as long as you don’t stand in their way or try to tackle them. There is no fight, desire or leadership, and no high-tempo football or getting stuck into opponents from the off”, “The players lack confidence and are out of ideas.”

Stam took Reading to last year’s play-off final with a brand of possession-based football, but injuries to key players and poor summer signings saw the team drift into a relegation scrap this season. “His signings were largely atrocious and he refused to change tactics until we were deep in trouble”

MannoneGunterIloriMooreBlackettVan Den BergKellySwiftBarrowBodvarssonAluko

Clement has kept faith with the 4-3-3 shape used by Stam but has allowed the team to play a more direct brand of football as circumstances have dictated. The starting XI (above) at Hillsborough saw holding midfielder Joey van den Berg included in an attempt to address the lack of steel in midfield.

“The defence has definitely improved under Clement. We have the makings of a very good centre-back pairing”, “Liam Moore has been immense. He and Tiago Ilori are concentrating on the art of defending. Win your headers, close the gap and put the ball either up the field or out of play.”

Keeper Vito Mannone and right-back Chris Gunter have been solid defensive stalwarts, but Reading have no experienced left-back options for Saturday. Jordan Obita has been out since October with a knee injury while Tyler Blackett and Leandro Bacuna who could cover there are both suspended.

player imageJordan Obita makes it 2-2 Reading v Town (4/2/2017)

Youth product Omar Richards began recent games at left-back against Fulham and Preston and may start against us. Clement may instead play the fit-again Tommy Elphick. The centre-back arrived on loan from Villa in January only to feature twice for the Royals before suffering a serious knee injury.

“How much do we need to sort out that midfield in the summer, whatever league we’re in?”, “You could not get a more lightweight midfield if you fielded cardboard cut-outs”, “We seem to lose the ball when it goes central and they are too afraid to commit opponents by running at them with it.”

“If you want to play John Swift and Liam Kelly you need a total destroyer in there, which we don’t have. It’s an invitation to be overrun”, “We’re too lightweight, there is no ball-winner and we are regularly dominated in the middle of the park. That’s the biggest problem Paul Clement inherited.”

“We stick the ball into the channels for Barrow to chase and for Aluko to watch.” Winger Modou Barrow is seen as the team’s biggest scoring threat but Sone Aluko is often criticised for drifting infield. “Looking toothless hasn’t changed under Clement. Without Barrow we lack any menace.”

New strikers are a huge priority this summer. Jon Dadi Bodvarsson is praised for his industry but he lacks quality. Many Royals feel that this has been a season too far for veteran Yann Kermorgant, while both the application and attitude of Derby loanee Chris Martin have come in for severe criticism.

“Our lack of a threat going forward is a worry but our new-found resilience may well see us over the line”, “We were more likely to score under Stam, but fans were bored to death by the way we went about it”, “We can’t counter-attack. Our widemen are quick but our strikers have the pace of slugs.”

Sheffield Wednesday 3 – 0 Reading

“That was a totally apathetic display with no bite or urgency”, “Today was terrible. Despite the total lack of passion, we did have the ball and controlled the game for large periods. Our downfall was our play in the final third. We had no cutting edge and the wingers couldn’t cross to save themselves.”

“We deserve to go down.” Goals from Owls striker Fernando Forestieri on 34 and 73 minutes bracketed George Boyd’s close-range finish on 52. Further misery was heaped on travelling Royals when Blackett was given a straight red card on 76 after he kicked out at Wednesday striker Atdhe Nuhiu.

“Sheffield Wednesday were coasting for most of the game but still beat us easily”, “We were playing a very average side already on the beach and we made no attempt to take the game to them at all”, “Everyone seemed afraid to take a shot and the Owls’ goals all came from our sloppy defending.”

“And now a red card, perfect”, “Hopefully that’s the last thing Blackett does in a Reading shirt.” The pattern of seeing players dismissed in recent games has become a real concern. “The red cards are becoming a worry”, “Just the four red cards in six games since Clement took over, it’s staggering.”

Reading 2 – 2 Sunderland

“That was awful but I did enjoy the last 10 minutes”, “Let’s not hide from this. That was abysmal, a terrible performance that in places rivalled some of the awful rubbish served up this season”, “It was a pretty poor-quality display overall”, “Well, it was only a point but at least we were entertained.”


Kelly put Reading ahead on 20 minutes with a spot-kick after Bodvarsson was fouled, but the visitors hit back after the break via Paddy McNair’s a long-range shot on 47 and Lee Cattermole’s header on 66. A change of shape saw substitute Kermorgant head home on 79 to rescue a point for the hosts.

“We did enough to both win and lose that game”, “We made Sunderland look good by failing to play with tempo and failing to take the game to them. Sunderland couldn’t defend and they fell apart and panicked every time we ran at them. The trouble was that this didn’t happen enough, if at all.”

MannoneGunterIloriMooreRichardsSwiftEdwardsKellyBarrowBodvarssonAluko

“That is not a central midfield combination to try again. It was crying out for a holding player from about 10 minutes in.” Reading struggled to get a foothold in midfield and fans in particular criticised Dave Edwards for losing possession and conceding a foul in the build up to the two visitors’ goals.

MannoneGunterIloriMooreBlackettSwiftEdwardsAlukoBarrowBodvarssonKermogant

“The last 15 minutes were brilliant entertainment, breathless end-to-end stuff.” Clement introduced Blackett for the struggling left-back Richards on 65, but his decision to replace Kelly with Kermorgant six minutes later saw the team change to a 4-4-2 shape (above) and this led to a late cavalry charge.

Fulham 1 – 0 Reading

“Just back. A bit disappointing that Fulham’s first attack led to a goal. We bossed the game before that”, “We certainly seemed more resilient tonight but barely threatened Fulham. Our lack of shots under Clement is extraordinary”, “Let’s face it, we didn’t really expect a result tonight, did we?”,

“We put in a decent enough display.” Stefan Johansen’s strike on 25 minutes proved to be a match winner in what most Royals felt was a solid performance from their side. The dismissal of Bacuna for a rash challenge on Ryan Sessegnon in second-half stoppage time took the gloss of a positive display.

MannoneGunterIloriMooreRichardsBacunaEdwardsKellyBarrowBodvarssonAluko

“We played well until conceding a soft goal”, “Compared to what I have seen earlier this season, that was a drastic improvement”, “We seemed to have overall control of the game without working their keeper much. Fulham huffed and puffed, they are probably relieved to have gained three points.”

Goalkeepers and Defenders

“Vito Mannone is utterly solid and nothing more.” The 30-year-old July acquisition from Sunderland “is a good keeper, but he’s not a leader who gives instructions and encouragement to the backline”, “A very steady keeper, but he needs to keep hoofing it long from goalkicks as a standard practice.”

player imageVito Mannone and (then Derby County's) Chris Martin clash

“Dropping Mannone is what finally got Stam sacked”, “Vito was getting stick from fans for playing his goal-kicks short under Stam and it hit his confidence”, “His distribution can be nonsensical, lumping it to players who can’t win the ball”, “He is unconvincing on crosses and makes wayward punches.”

“Chris Gunter is a solid right-back who never stops running.” The 28-year-old former Forest man “is a consistent player who will often play one excellent cross into the opposition box”, “He’s a very solid, energetic and committed defender. He puts in a shift and does some technically tricky things well.”

“Why does Gunter keep backing off when someone runs at him?”, “He gives his wingers all the space in the world and fails to stop crosses coming in”, “He’s a decent performer at this level although he still fails to close down quickly enough. He has been consistent here without reaching any heights.”

“Omar Richards looks raw and is being targeted by opponents.” The 20-year-old youth product “has looked like an academy player playing up a level”, “He struggled against Callum McManaman against Sunderland. It was the right decision to substitute him”, “He’s sadly out of his depth and a liability.”

“Richards is an impressive left-back going forwards but he does make mistakes”, “He gives our back four a better balance but needs game time to learn”, “He hasn’t got the legs to last a full 90 minutes at this level yet, but he sticks to his task”, “A bright upcoming youngster who can make the step up.”

“Tiago Ilori has improved under Clement.” The 25-year-old one-time Sporting Lisbon man “is a classy centre-half on the ball has is transformed from a few weeks ago”, “He eats up crosses all game and has become undroppable lately. He is benefitting from being allowed to concentrate on defending.”

“Ilori should look to step out with the ball into midfield or hit it long more often as he’s confident on the ball”, “He is prone to the occasional wayward pass but is otherwise very effective. He’s a bit soft for such a big unit”, “He has really benefitted confidence-wise by having Liam Moore alongside him.”

Liam Moore

“We have a fragile defence which Moore has tried to hold together on his own.” The 25-year-old ex-Leicester centre-back “is a one-man defence and an imperious blocking machine who makes loads of headed clearances”, “I’m so impressed with his leadership, he has been the heartbeat of the team.”

player imageTom Lawrence v Liam Moore - Reading

“Any hint of danger and Moore is all over it like a rash”, “He shouts, screams and organises the back four non-stop with passion and determination”, “He blocks everything and doesn’t mess about with the ball”, “I get the feeling that he spends half his time wondering what the hell he got himself into.”

Central Midfielders

“I just hope that Joey van den Berg isn’t a liability today.” The 32-year-old ex-SC Heerenveen holding midfielder or centre-half “can’t be trusted. He still causes my blood pressure to skyrocket every time he goes into a tackle. Some of his challenges would be much more at home in a London Irish game.”

“Van den Berg is physical but painfully slow. In reality he belongs in the lower divisions”, “The usual concession of unnecessary freekicks and some really poor passing. He is way off the pace and keeps getting caught in possession”, “Joey slows it all down and he will be gone in the summer clear-out.”

“Pelle Clement reminds me of a more skilful Jay Tabb.” The 21-year-old attacking midfielder arrived in June from the Ajax academy and was played by Stam as a full-back. “He went bravely into some big tackles but he was a liability in the back four. He kept having to be told where he ought to be.”

“Clement is a tidy player, but he’s lightweight and doesn’t affect the game that much”, “He works his socks off and takes the pressure off the defence holding the ball up with some good dribbling”, “He gets involved in good attacking moves and chases the ball down but is often poor in second halves.”

“Where is our George Evans of last season?” The 23-year-old former Manchester City youth player “is well off the pace. He was brilliant in last year’s play-off games against Fulham where he kept Tom Cairney very quiet. I thought he would have a great season but his thigh injury probably ended that.”

player imageBirkir Bjarnason (Aston Villa) v George Evans

“Evans has to play in front of the defence. He’s comfortable on the ball and has the odd incisive pass, but he is painfully slow which gets him into trouble”, “He tried to get forward but he’s like a statue in midfield and gets bypassed when opponents come forward”, “A good player but right off the pace.”

“I don’t understand why Dave Edwards gets selected.” The 32-year-old August addition from Wolves “is bang out of form. He has cost us points recently and shouldn’t be near the team. His passing is atrocious, he gives away possession and makes silly fouls”, “An apology of a player who has to go.”

“Edwards isn’t popular due to his lack of discipline but he offers experience and a goal threat from midfield”, “He’s clearly instructed to break up play and recycle possession which he’s generally good at doing”, “He keeps the ball moving when on his game but he has been poor for us, far too slow.”

“We look so much more threatening when John Swift plays just behind the strikers.” The 22-year-old former Chelsea youth product “is a good footballer technically but he’s very lightweight. He’s easily our most skilful and exciting player”, “He’s hugely gifted but his hamstrings are like cheese straws.”

“Swift started the Sunderland game as a deeper midfielder where he was laughable but he was far better when moved forward”, “He’s trying too many luxurious passes and should simplify things. He needs to pick his options a bit quicker”, “He’s generally very talented but he plays like a butterfly.”

Liam Kelly

“We don’t dominate midfield when Kelly plays there.” The 22-year-old youth product “is great when bringing the ball out of defence but after he crosses the halfway line he continually picks poor passes or lingers too long on the ball. For someone supposedly good at passing his long balls are too heavy.”

“Move buddy!” “Kelly makes very little effort to move for a pass and often stands still waiting for a ball. It takes him time to react and start running towards the play”, “He is often at fault for failing to attack well and he needs to run with the ball more often. He’s guilty of a series of wayward passes.”

Wingers

“Does anyone know what Sone Aluko is on the pitch to actually do?” The 29-year-old August arrival from Fulham “is primarily a right winger but he spends entire games drifting to the centre, getting in the way or giving the ball away cheaply. One wonder-moment every six games is not good enough.”

player imageCheick Keita (Birmingham City) v Sone Aluko (Fulham)

“Aluko could terrorise teams with his ability but is only ever a danger to himself”, “He’s goes AWOL in midfield and he rarely releases a pass or shot quickly enough”, “He’s a winger who thinks he’s a midfielder. He throws a tantrum when he’s tackled before sulking. Stay wide and run at your man!”

Modou Barrow

“Aside from Barrow, we have a serious lack of quality in the final third.” The 25-year-old August buy from Swansea “is a mixture of outrageous skill followed by ludicrous overconfidence. He fizzles out when teams realise he’s our only threat”, “A bright spark in the persistent darkness of the season.”

player imageAdam Webster v Modou Barrow (Reading)

“Like a traditional winger Barrow has been hot and cold. He’s a standout player who can go missing for long stretches in games and he doesn’t always support his left-back”, “He possesses a real threat when he is given space to run at a full-back. Without his goals we would be in the bottom three.”

Strikers

“If Chris Martin scored the goal that seals our safety he will have repaid every penny of his wages”, “He has to touch the ball first.” The 29-year-old ex-Canary and Derby loanee “is either unfit or can’t be bothered. He adds no attacking threat in any case”, “Bang average and awful, a lazy slow lump.”

player imageChris Martin (Fulham) v Adam Webster

“What is the point in Martin? He couldn’t care less. He won’t challenge, run, jump or compete. Send him back”, “He was a total waste of space yet again at Fulham when he strolled on, killing chances with his lack of movement”, “Our shape vanishes are we are sloppy when the hopeless one plays.”

“Sam Smith is useful to come on from the bench with his industry.” The 20-year-old youth product “is very green, but he pulls defences apart with good off-the-ball running”, “Defenders respect the fact that he isn’t afraid to move behind the back line to create spaces in other areas of the pitch.”

“Last year’s Yann Kermorgant sadly isn’t with us this season.” The 36-year-old one-time Leicester and Charlton man “gets stuck in and is good in the air defending corners but he has had an awful season. Unless the ball is played to within six inches of him then forget it”, “He is way past his sell-by date.”

player imageYann Kermorgant - Bournemouth

“On the rare occasion we do get wingers into space, Kermorgant is five yards behind play when the ball comes into the box. He’s a model professional and I have massive respect for him but it looks like his legs have gone and it’s a question of when he will be phased out”, “He is well off the pace.”

Jon Dadi ‘Bod’ Bodvarsson

“Bod always puts in a shift but he sadly has almost no goalscoring instinct.” The 25-year-old Iceland international signed from Wolves in July. “He runs everywhere challenging for the ball and is a total nuisance for defenders. You can’t fault his effort but he is so lacking in quality and so very limited.”

player imageJon Dadi Bodvarsson v Richard Stearman (Sheffield United)

“Bod is 6ft 3in but he plays much shorter than that. He watches defenders head the ball rather than challenging for it”, “He wins nothing in the air and lever looks like having a shot”, “He is everywhere across the front line, battling hard and holding the ball up. A hard worker who will never be prolific.”

Royals’ Views on ITFC and the Game

“All is not well in Suffolk. If I could hand-pick one game, it would be Ipswich at home”, “They are ideal opponents and a rudderless ship. If we screw that up we really deserve relegation”, “I know that Ipswich may be rudderless but don’t forget that we couldn’t beat Sunderland.”

“Ipswich are 4-0 down at home to Villa. If we can’t get three points off them next week we are even worse than I thought”, “They are bottom of the form table over the last eight games with four points from a possible 24”, “They’re on a four-game away losing streak and have checked out for the year.”

Royals are broadly confident of victory on Saturday. “This Saturday is massive so let’s hope we are well up for it”, “A win over Ipswich will keep us up. We absolutely have to turn up for that one”, “Get your clappers ready for Ipswich next Saturday. Lose that and I fear there will be nasty scenes.”

“Ipswich have nothing to play for and no permanent manager after Mick McCarthy left a couple of weeks ago. So just like at Hillsborough we face a team that only has pride and a few players wanting to get themselves into the shop window. Let's hope it doesn't lead to the same pathetic outcome.”

A very small minority are worried that we could leave them needing a result at Cardiff on the final day. “We could lose to Ipswich and the other teams lose too, but a loss to Ipswich would leave us wide-open to relegation on the final day. We absolutely must get something against Ipswich.”

“It's great that Ipswich still play at Portman Road rather than a soulless bowl but from my experience there it's as dead as the Madejski Stadium or any other ground and the view is pants.” Royals picked up on a recent TWTD thread critical of the match-day experience at the Madejski Stadium.

“Welcome to the Marcus Evans world of corporate hospitality. How would you like your pie? Cold AND a fiver? No problem. Portman Road is the only place where all the food is cold yet the beer is warm.”

“Going to Ipswich is always such a delight, and once you get there they seem to charge prices based in the same economic world as service station food”, “Having been to Ipswich numerous times, I would be happy never to go back there. It’s absolutely soulless and expensive, and that's it really.”

One Royal had a novel idea to settle Saturday’s game. “Couldn't the captains just meet in the centre circle and flip a coin to decide the winner? The best of five would make it more exciting. Afterwards both teams meet in the pub to buy drinks for the low number of fans who turn up to watch.”

Websites

The busiest Reading message-board is Hob Nob Anyone?.


Photo: Action Images



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Radlett_blue added 11:27 - Apr 27
I'm still wondering how Reading have declined so much from last season, when they were a penalty shoot-out away from the Premier League. And Stam has gone from a hero to a zero.
I believe Reading's wage bill is twice ours, which is a scary thought.
2

martin587 added 11:43 - Apr 27
Once again Harry an exceptional insight of Reading FC.
3

Bluebell added 12:26 - Apr 27
Thank Harry. One more game and you can take a break over the summer. I am sure you will miss it!

I have never seen us win at the Madejski Stadium so I think we might struggle tomorrow. The atmosphere should be good and if the fans get behind Town like they did against Villa there is a chance we might win.

A lot depends on the team. I am all for picking the youngsters as long as there are a few 'old heads' to guide them.

We are really down to bare bones with players available now with so many injuries still. My heart predicts we will win 2.1 but my head says, as they are fighting for points still, we will lose.
2

MooseJuice added 15:16 - Apr 27
Well this lot are somewhat rude aren't they!? Not exactly as if Reading is a corner of heaven!
2

itfchorry added 18:19 - Apr 27
Would love us to assist in their relegation -

Plastic club and fans
2

ITFCsince73 added 20:53 - Apr 27
100% correct re Portman road catering. Disgraceful on a good day.
2

horsehollerer added 22:21 - Apr 27
"Reading have no experienced left-back options for Saturday. Jordan Obita has been out since October with a knee injury while Tyler Blackett and Leandro Bacuna who could cover there are both suspended."

... erm, Carayol to start, please!
*Imagines first half at Preston but against an inexperienced kid FB*

Another top read. Thanks, Harry. COYB.
3

WadeyBlue added 10:03 - Apr 28
"It's great that Ipswich still play at Portman Road rather than a soulless bowl but from my experience there it's as dead as the Madejski Stadium or any other ground and the view is pants." ??

Im going today. Just to check after that paragraph, we are away??
2

bournemouthblue added 21:58 - Apr 28
well this didn't backfire on Reading at all :D
2


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