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The Tilehurst End January Round Table

Earlier this week a few of the writers from the Tilehurst End gathered to talk about the season so far and what might be next. I'd just preface this by saying we met up Thursday so this happened before the news about the potential new investment, which could change quite a few things!

Regardless below the jump you'll find a few thoughts on what's gone before and what's to come.

Sum up the season so far in a sentence?

Chartley

Lack of goals, The defence has been solid despite no permanent left back but we lack goals in this current side.

jonnafon

We’re in the playoffs with a squad with no standouts; whatever we’re doing, it’s effective.

urzz1871

A slow start but improving as the squad settles down - still improving but plagued by inconsistency.

Wimbles

Last minute specialists grinding their way towards consistency and hopefully a play-off challenge

MarkLawrence

Managed to grind out results but have played well at times.

Daib0

Positive transition, trying to gain positive vibrations of a team that is nearly 'in cog' to do good things...

Mark Sugar

Inconsistent but hopeful in the coming months ahead.

Mike Wade

Unexpected success, again.

Tom Robertson

As expected, neither amazing nor spectacular, solid and fairly consistent


Has the season gone as you expected?

Mike Wade

No, after selling Mills & Long I would have settled for top 10 or 12, and this could feasibly still happen but a mixture of McDermott's motivation skills, the team spirit within our squad and the depth of the squad has seen us push for a play-off spot again. An example of this is against Watford last weekend, where without Leigertwood and McAnuff, two key players, we dug in for a positive result away from home.

Chartley

Yes, although I think McDermott has got us punching well above our weight again. He has taken a Mid-table squad to a play-off contending one again.

Westie

Season is going much better than i think any of us would have thought when Long and Mills were sold! McDermott continues to show he a great manager!

Jonnafon

I expected us to be around the playoffs, but until Cardiff we were solidly amongst the contenders. This league seems to be tighter than ever this year though, so it’s important we keep this up and don’t sit back/ McDermott will deal with this – he’s got the respect of the squad and we’re churning out results.

Wimbles

I expected the struggles early in the season but have to say I didn't expect this surge up the table. I'd thought this year would be more of a learning curve, but to be in the play-off hunt is a pleasant surprise

urzz1871

Going better than I expected - I thought we'd bumble around mid-table to the fringes of the play-offs, maybe sneaking in again. Instead we're higher placed than i expected, so even better positioned if we have our usual better second half of the season. Having said that, it's a very even and mediocre league

MarkLawrence

No it really hasn't, thought we would struggle to keep clean sheets but we haven't done too badly in that department

Daib0

The run of five defeats at the beginning gave us certain despair; but since then the rise has been solid - but the best to come?

Mark Sugar

At this stage of the season I think we’re doing better our league position suggests particularly as the quality of football hasn’t been as good this year in my opinion.

Who's been your player of the year so far?

Mike Wade

Simon Church has really pushed on, and Jem Karacan has been outstanding at times but I will go for Alex Pearce who has made a first-team spot his own and defied the critics. He has been central to the side's success this season.

Westie:

Gorkss closely followed by Federici! Never thought i'd say that! lol

MarkLawrence

Federici, so many games would have slipped from us if he had not been between the sticks. Barnsley (H) this season is the best example, fantastic save from Campbell-Ryce one on one and we should have gone on to with that game!

Wimbles

you feeling alright Westie?!

Westie

NO, DIZZY

Mark Sugar

Gorkss has come in as Mills replacement and settled in straight away. Calming influence, assured, cultured on the ball and has formed an excellent partnership with Pearce and looks every penny worth the fee paid.

Jonnafon

Alex Pearce – for someone who was shaky last season, he has become a solid Championship defender. He reads the game well which makes up for his pace (see John Terry) and doesn’t seem to get beaten much. I think Kaspars Gorkss has helped in this regard – he’s a leader and he’s giving Pearce confidence. We notched 4 clean sheets in December against good opponents and that’s a measure of their performance together.

Chartley

It is a tough one as there have been a few that have stood out, Shaun Cummings has looked assured and Federici kept us in it at the start of the season + Pearce and Gorkss have been rocks at the heart of our defence. but for me Jem Karacan runs the midfield.

Wimbles

Pearce and Gorkks certainly up there as are Feds and Cummings.... shows how impressive our defence has been! probably just give the nod to Gorkks though.

Tom Robertson

Alex Pearce by a country mile. Gorkss has allowed him to play with more freedom (something he could never do next to the erratic Mills) and without the weight of leading the back line. He's turning into a really impressive footballer and his passion for the club is evident every time he scores or we win

urzz1871

Joint award to Pearce & Gorkss - they've completely destroyed all the pre-season worries about a centre-back pairing. If I had to plump for one, it'd be Pearce, on account of his improvement.

Westie

But isn't Gorkss part of his improvement?

urzz1871

Yes, I'd be happy to agree that, he probably is. We've also been lucky with injuries and suspensions, so far, too.

Wimbles

True but every good side needs a bit of luck with injuries, just look at us in 2005/06.

MarkLawrence

Wimbles, couldn't agree more

Chartley

Just me for Jem then...

Nick Houlton

No I agree, Jem Karacan, I say it time and time again, he covers every blade of grass and is going places. Adam Federici a close second.

Daib0

Le Fondre - OK, a goal-less rut until last weekend, but a man to play to - a symbol of the new Reading - displays nothing of selfishness and displays a loyalty from the 'old' days!

Anybody not lived up to your expectations so far?

Westie

Church- Runs around but as i always say - get me fit i can do that! never looks a goal threat!

urzz1871

Church has certainly been poor and lacked confidence - but I can't say that didn't meet my expectations!

MarkLawrence

McAnuff, expected more as Captain but looks to be turning into James Harper with his pointing and his lack of doing anything of any use

Chartley

I guess I would have to say Church. However he has not really had the chances created, in fact none of the forward players have. So McAnuff, Kebe and Robson Kanu have to be in there too.

urzz1871

Leigertwood - seems to be having a very up and down season.

Tom Robertson

Mikele Leigertwood for me also. People will inevitably look at McAnuff as a disappointment because he's captain but I actually think he's a pretty consistent player. Leigertwood on the other hand has been very disappointing. He was a great signing in January but since the summer his form has nose-dived. He rarely roams forward as he used to and his passing is far less aggressive and accurate as last season. When we signed him a QPR fan commented that "he has a habit of living in his own world" and at times this season he's looked like he's operating at a completely different pace to the rest of the side. As one of the senior players in the side, I expect a lot more.

Mark Sugar

Thought we may have seen more goals from Le Fondre while Manset hasn’t really pushed on as he should have from last season.

Mike Wade

ALF has had to adapt his game and is still in the transitional stage of moving from the standard of League Two to League One, but I am confident in time he will score regularly. I think Hunt has struggled to recover his best form after injury, and hasn't enjoyed a proper run in the side. But Kebe has been most disappointing, inconsistent and disinterested at times which is a shame because when he wants to he is a real match-winner.

Jonnafon

I hate to say it but Adam Le Fondre for me too. He hasn’t scored enough goals to be the first striker on the teamsheet this season. Part of this problem is that he’s a good link up man so he’s rarely in the box to finish, which he can certainly do.

Wimbles

On the Royals Post Christmas special I said Karacan, in that he's not quite kicked on to the next level, though he's had a good year so far. But for me Manset has been a big let down, expected him to be getting better but he looks lost so far... now the drink driving thing has come up... ugh.

MarkLawrence:

Manset has been a let down after showing so much potential in the Millwall game... fluke game?

Chartley

I forgot about Manset, He really hasn't had a look in since opening day. Still doesn't look like a 90 minute player. Still his first against Millwall has to be goal of the season so far.

Westie

thought the lad who came off bench for youth team was just like him yesterday! Ikpeazu

Wimbles

haha yeah I thought that as well! looked a real handful

Daib0

Given his ability - Jimmy Kébé - blown too hot and cold ...

What position needs strengthening the most if we're to stay in the promotion hunt?

Westie

forward line! end of!

MarkLawrence

Hard to say really, I think probably a striker

Chartley

Defence, we need a another centre half that is proven to back up Gorkks and Pearce. I would like an attacking midfielder to coming as I feel given a chance our strikers are more than capable.

Nick Houlton

Honestly- A creative midfielder is ideal at the moment. A striker guaranteeing us goals would be nice but I think we have enough quality there to score some goals if the service is better. It's also clear we can't afford such a striker.

urzz1871

You've got to say a more reliable and consistent striker is needed - much as I like him, I don't think Noel Hunt is anything other than a bit-part player so I'd like to see some strengthening there. But it could also be argued there's a need for a creative midfielder, too.

Mike Wade

Goalkeeper! Just joking, I would say an attacking midfielder would add another dimension to the team and another option to the squad. Failing that a guaranteed 20 goal a season striker as we seem to have lots of people who chip in but no individual we can rely on constantly.

Wimbles

I think Hunt's got something.... but he just cannot stay fit. I think we need another option in the midfield, someone that can play just behind the front two and let us go 4-5-1 from time to time, give us a plan B. I think between the 4/5 we've got there's enough in the forward line but midfield we have no real other way of playing.

MarkLawrence

Agreed with that, we have no plan B but I'm sure we can do something different with the players we have got!

Westie

Really- interesting! i think i strikers have had a number of good balls in to box all season. problem is Le Fondre is a poacher and church can't creat any thing for him self and has nothing to scare any center back in this league. Unlike Forster-Long-Lita-Doyle etc.

Wimbles

Can we though Mark? All we've ever done this year is move McAnuff into the middle... never changed it other than that!

urzz1871

We seem to be so dependant upon Kebe - when he performs we do well. When he doesn't, or is shut out of the game, we don't seem to have any other ideas.

MarkLawrence

Well we can have Hal Robson Kanu coming in just behind the two strikers, leave McAnuff out on the wing, more effective. Hal Robson-Kanu can run (as we saw earlier in the season) and has had some good shots this season. Also played as a striker at times for the reserves!

Westie

McDermott would never leave the midfield that open

urzz1871

We don't have a striker capable of playing up front alone, so we can't really go to 5 in midfield. Even 4-4-1-1 isn't really a possibility with our current players.

Westie

interestingly the youth team played that way yesterday

Chartley

That is why we don't score enough to really contend for promotion. We are too easy to work out at times, as we always get the ball out wide. I don't agree with the argument that you have to leave out Karacan or Leigertwood, just change up the formation. Well Church is capable as is Manset.

What does everyone think about the signing of Karl Sheppard?
Mark Sugar

Young, hungry and on a free makes him a logical signing however I do have reservations about the numbers we have on our books in the striking department. At the end of the day it is a speculative punt and if it works we have unearthed another gem and if it fails it is an inexpensive gamble.

urzz1871

Good one - sounds like he's got lots of promise, and as he's cheap there's minimal risk.

Chartley

From what I have seen, he looks a good signing.

Westie

Sheppard- another low risk signing. Will see, better goal record than Doyle had in Ireland

MarkLawrence

I hope he gets a run out, unlike Mooney who was never really given a look in.

Nick Houlton

Sounds promising and a good age, will take some time but think he'll be involved this season, especially if Manset goes on loan. Seems as if he's good in the air and at hold-up play whereas Church, Le Fondre and Hunt are all too similar. So that's nice. Manset has a lot of work to do but could also turn out to be like this. Happy with it and hope he does well.

Wimbles

I'm quite excited to see him play actually

Chartley

Could be the impact player we have lacked this season.

MarkLawrence

Who would we want with him upfront?

Wimbles

Noel Hunt, he can win the flick ons and be an experienced head

Chartley

Hunt, he seems to know quite well already...

Mike Wade

Typical Reading signing from the last few years. I don't mean that as a criticism. He's young, hungry, cheap, with it all to prove. And we have a track record of going to Ireland for players. I hope he falls into the Doyle/Long category rather than the Mooney/Bennett category but the amount of time in the side he gets will ultimately decide this.

Daib0

An unknown - could be another Doyle or Long - or one that doesn't get beyond reserve team level - time will tell!


Putting you on the spot, Kebe refuses to sign a new deal and a £1m bid comes in. Do we take it or use him for the season and see where it goes?

Mark Sugar

Use him. Kebe is among the best in this division on his day and simply we don’t have the players ready to match that at the minute. Robson-Kanu looks short of confidence, Antonio is inconsistent and Obita still has a way to go yet before realistically looking as a first-team prospect.

Daib0

Take it, as we'll get nought in the summer. Great player on his day, but if his head is not connected to the reality of RFC's cause...

urzz1871

Bite their hands off for £1M. Plenty of young and promising wingers out there for much less than that amount - plus HRK, Obita and Antonio .

MarkLawrence

We would be stupid to let him go for starters. But if we weren't going to get anything for him at the end of the season it may be worth it. We have Hal Robson-Kanu who is proving every game he plays that he can do it, even if he is a bit inexperienced at the moment.

Chartley

Take the money as long as it is re-invested.

Westie

Keep him here!The money would never get used on a replacement so why bother selling when we could get to the Premier league this year?

Mike Wade

Bite their hand off, we have Antonio, HRK, Obita, Hunt, McAnuff and possibly Sheppard all capable of covering that position so no shortage. Personally I would have McAnuff and HRK on the wings with Obita coming off the bench. I haven't seen much of Obita (apart from pre-season where he looked decent) but people in the know seem to think he is good enough to make an impression, and if you are good enough you are old enough. He could be a real wildcard.

Wimbles

I keep him until the end of the season. There is nobody else we could get in January for that money that will have the same impact. If there's a sniff of promotion by the end of January then you do what you can to capitalise on it, you never know when it comes round again.

Chartley

Westie, I don't think we are good enough to go up this season, so take the money and re-invest in building a squad that is capable and has more than one way of playing.

urzz1871

I actually think we're a better team without Kebe playing - more balanced and creative, forced to think more, and we can only get better the less he plays, paradoxically.

Tom Robertson

We bite their hand off and wave goodbye. Kebe is the most enigmatic player I've ever seen for Reading but I think in many respects he holds the side back. When he's on form he's devastating but when he's bad he's a liability. The way we try and play seems at times to be almost exclusively designed for him and when it's not working, there are very few other options. I've always believed that clubs should sell players that don't want to be there and at the moment Kebe seems to fit that description.

Wimbles

Of course we're good enough to go up! we wouldn't be 5th if we weren't good enough to go up... staying up is a different question but I hardly think we've been outclassed by anyone, aside from maybe in Cardiff.

Westie

we are not good enough agreed but the money never gets re invested on players capable of get us promoted! Kebe is a match winner on his day Reading won't replace him properly

MarkLawrence

Cardiff wasn't about being outclassed, it was about us playing abysmally.

Westie

but nobodies good enough this year! so you never know!

MarkLawrence

Yeah from like 5th to 13th, anyone could take the play off spots...

Chartley

Agreed, the division is wide open. Look at Hull they score less than us and they are 6th.


Do you think we'll lose anyone this window?

Nick Houlton

If anybody it will be Kebe, but other than that no. Brian Howard looks like he'll be on his way and we might see some loaned out to get games, Sean Morrison, Michail Antonio, Lawson D'Ath and Mathieu Manset perhaps.

MarkLawrence

If anyone Kebe

Mike Wade

Kebe is the obvious one. I don't suspect anyone else in the first-team will need to go, although young players going out on loan and squad players being shipped out is entirely possible. Brian Howard to Millwall or someone else being an example.

Westie

If Reading strengthened now they could easily be promoted! Will only lose player who McDermott doesn't want! Howard ext

Chartley

I think Kebe will go and Howard. Does it close on the 31st this year?

MarkLawrence

Yes Chartley

urzz1871

Don't think so, no, except maybe Kebe. This will be a quiet window all round, I think. Usually the big moves in January are "panic" ones from clubs under-performing, and we've not got the sort of "quick-fix" impact player they'd be looking for.

Chartley

I guess just as cover but Gunnarsson and Tabb are ahead in the queue to play. Much rather see D'Ath play than Howard.

Daib0

No-one important, except perhaps Jimmy as mentioned, and possibly Khumalo. The European economic crisis is biting all around, little swings-and-roundabouts this time!

Who if anyone deserves a run in he first team that isn't getting it?

Westie

No One!

urzz1871

Alex McCarthy - but I would say that!

MarkLawrence

Tabb, but looks likely to get the chance now. Apart from that.... no one?

Daib0

D'Ath, Obita, Andersen, even Gage - there's so much talent waiting in the background. Others like Morrison, Brett Williams (on loan) and the Edwards brothers might well contribute - they've hardly been signed just to make up numbers I feel there's genuine expectations from them..

Mike Wade

Obita as a wildcard. I also can't help feeling sorry for Mikkel Andersen who has waited patiently for so long! But you can't drop Federici right now. I would like to see Sheppard given some opportunities and not just playing reserve games and behind closed door games. Antonio hasn't been given a chance from the start yet. If Kebe goes maybe he could be given a shot.

Nick Houlton

Sean Morrison deserves a shot when a chance arises, but as does Khumalo or we might as well send him back. Jay Tabb next to Jem, did a good job against Watford and Robson-Kanu on a regular basis. I also like Antonio off the bench, why not give him a go at some point. It's a team game after all......

Chartley

Le Fondre is in and out, I would like to see him and hunt given a run upfront. Federici is in too good a run of form for either Anderson or McCarthy to come in.

Mark Sugar

Despite his critics Simon Church has shown himself to have improved on his form last season and is probably our best striker at the club this season. Decide on his partner and stick with them for the upcoming weeks.

Wimbles

I'd like to see Antonio get a few more minutes.. see if he's got anything to offer at this level

urzz1871

I love Tabb as a player, but he's just too damn short. Him & Jem together must be the shortest centre-mid pairing outside the under-12s.

MarkLawrence

D'Ath may be given more time. They rave about him on the website.... lets prove it!

Tom Robertson

Joseph Mills deserves his chance back in the side. He was unlucky to miss out with injury but Griffin and Harte haven't really offered much more when they've played. Mills was just starting to find some form and he deserves a chance to try and reclaim that left back slot.

Jonnafon

Possibly Joseph Mills, he looked solid and with Harte probably going at the end of the season I’d like to see if he’s up to being a longer term replacement. But we need Harte’s set pieces. Other than that, nobody really challenging, except the strikers who all have a shout every week.


So bringing this all to a close now, where do you think we'll finish the season?

Mike Wade

As I've stated I would settle for top ten, but the squad as it is, is too determined, driven and ambitious to settle for this so we will finish as high as possible. Top six would be amazing.

MarkLawrence

8th

Chartley

Just outside the play-offs, unless we started scoring more goals, we will slip down.

Westie

with the team as is 7th

Daib0

3rd!

Mark Sugar

Playoffs again.

Jonnaf0n

6th, on the last day. Another Wembley loss. If we get there, I might not go, can’t take any more agony. Actually, I think we’d do it this time.

Nick Houlton

Wouldn't be surprised if we came mid-table but we have a much stronger defence this season, despite looking leaky at times. Automatic isn't impossible but I'll be slightly pessimistic and say 7th.

urzz1871

Somewhere between 4th and 9th - but the margin between those positions may well just be a point or two and a few goals.

Westie

with some decent loan signings like last year! third.

Wimbles

I'll say 6th.... I think we'll sneak in, got a funny feeling this might just be our year....

MarkLawrence

Wimbles, someone says that every year!

Thanks to everyone who contributed and if you want to get in touch or write for the site please feel free to drop us an email at thetilehurstend@gmail.com