If last weekend was the dawn of a new era, this is the commute to work when you've got a full tank of petrol and have paid out for a nice cup of coffee from Starbucks. Reading host struggling Bristol City at the weekend boosted by two new signings and Jimmy Kebe pledging his future to the club and the pressure will be on Brian to get a win. Ahead of the game we spoke to Bristol City fan paul Binning from The Exiled Robin to get his views on the game.
What have you made of your season so far?
Well, there’s been plenty to write about! A dreadful start, largely mirroring last season without a home win in months and bottom of the table at the end of September. The football was poor, lacking any real quality or finesse and the obvious talent of Nicky Maynard wasted playing up-front on his own chasing long balls punted forward.
The match at home to Reading – which I’ll come onto below – and the subsequent 5-0 thrashing by the seaside by Ian Holloway’s Tangerines were the final straw for Keith Millen and, after a fairly lengthy search, ‘the right man’ was appointed in Derek McInnes.
Reading played some of their worst football of the season at Ashton Gate last year but still ended up winning, what were your thoughts on that game?
It was strangely both a surprise and inevitable the way we were playing. There had been a very minor upturn in form prior to the game and when we went 2-0 up it looked like we were finally getting the breaks that had perhaps eluded us previously. We had played well and should probably have been four goals up but what was particularly noteworthy for me was the immediate change in atmosphere around the ground once the first Reading goal went in with 20 minutes to go. It was like the ‘Deatheaters’ from Harry Potter were suddenly circling the stadium and all life was sucked from City – I can’t recall a change in atmosphere quite like it and it told on the players. They collapsed without a fight and ripped a thoroughly demotivating defeat from the jaws of an uplifting victory. Four days later we went to Blackpool and conceded three goals in the last ten minutes again. All fighting spirit had disappeared and it was time for Millen to go.
Has the change in management lifted the club?
Undoubtedly. When his name was first mentioned many said “Derek who?” but on his appointment there was widespread satisfaction and a feeling that this was a genuine peek at a new era. Tactically City hadn’t changed much in seven years, with Millen utilising a similar batch of players and approach to formations and tactics to Gary Johnson (having been his assistant), and McInnes immediately brought a fresh attitude and determination to move on.
The previous back-room staff were largely got rid of and he immediately brought ex-Royal Kalifa Cisse – mysteriously out of favour under Millen – back into the side and his presence and protection has helped strengthen the back-line. Players such as Campbell-Ryce and Damion Stewart haven’t been since and the style was changed to a more fluid, passing style, utilising the playmaker skills of Neil Kilkenny in the middle.
There have been a few bumps along the way, with the continued selection of contract-rebel Maynard and consecutive lack-lustre displays in Sussex, at Crawley in the F.A.Cup and then at Brighton, but a double over Southampton and Millwall and last Saturday’s victory over Doncaster in particular man the bright spots have outweighed the dour moments. Most tellingly on Saturday a great performance led to a 2-0 lead (which should have been more) and then Doncaster scored with 20 minutes to go. Déjà vu? Not this time. There were no Deatheaters, nerves were kept largely at bay and there was no capitulation. The tide seems to have turned.
Who are you tipping to get promoted and relegated in the Championship?
I think West Ham will be champions. They have the strength in their squad and appear to have largely overcome some of the initial uncertainty of their new surroundings. Southampton have long looked likely companions but have stuttered recently and Cardiff, Hull and Birmingham will all be eyeing up that 2nd place. I’ll go with Birmingham, with Leicester to sneak in through the play-offs. It’s hard to look past the current bottom three currently, but for an outsider I’ll pick Peterborough to be felled by a Sean O’Driscoll inspired Forest.
Who should Reading fans look out for on Saturday?
Albert Adomah has been the star performer this year and teams have resorted to putting two men on him recently in a bid to stop him. There is a certain lack of ‘Plan B’ when that happens but Chris Wood has come in on loan from West Brom and added options going forward, whilst former-Aberdeen captain Ricky Foster looked electrifying bombing forward from full-back last week. He can cover 100m in less than 12 seconds and will cause plenty of food for thought.
Anybody Bristol City fans are worried about?
Jimmy Kebe can win matches almost on his own, but can also appear anonymous when he’s not on his game so hope it’s one of those days. If Jason Roberts is fit enough then a debut goal looks inevitable. He played a few games on loan for us years ago, but then went AWOL one day and eventually turned up at local rivals Bristol Rovers. After banging in the goals for them and earning a £2m move he’ll be keen to make an impression and can expect plenty of stick from the 2,000 away fans.
What have you made of the Reading takeover?
’ve long admired Reading because Sir John Madejski was a fan first & foremost and ensured the football club were at the heart of the town’s focus and genuinely helped made them successful, without ever shoving it in your face. Initial skepticism on an overseas investor is inevitable, although the fact the new owner studied at college in Reading at least indicates some affinity. Signing up Kebe on a new deal was a shrewd move and sends an early signal to the fans that they’re in this to build and move forward. If promotion isn’t achieved this year then I expect the Royals to be amongst the favourites next time around.
Can’t see past a home win unfortunately – we’re not good enough yet to consistently go away to the top sides and get a result, and I’ve been spot on with my last two predictions on City. Will go for a 2-0 Reading win but don’t expect an easy ride.
Thanks again to Paul and you can follow him on twitter @theexiledrobin