With the season done and dusted, a few Tilehurst End writers got together to chew the fat, look back on a memorable season and cast one eye on the Premier League adventure to come.
Q1. I don't think anybody expected us to win the league, but at what point did you start to think it could be a special season?
MarkLawrence: Hmmm tough one, I don't think it properly sunk in until around Brighton game. Federici's penalty save and I just started to believe from then on! Before that there were accumulative reasons but nothing as clear as the Brighton game for me.
Chartley: Maybe around christmas when we had that four game unbeatean run in which we looked tight and hard to beat.
Tommyrfc: In terms of actually winning it - I didn't believe that until we beat Palace! I think the win at Upton Park was the moment where it began to feel like it might not just be luck and that we could go for automatic promotion.
Wimbles: Except that we didn't beat Palace ;)
Tommyrfc: Haha, no we didn't! But you know what I mean!
jonnafon: I think West Ham away for me. that was the result that proved to us and West Ham that we were real contenders and not just the third place "also-rans" that put together an amazing run. Retrospectively of course it does seem a little like we stole the title - no doubting we were one of the best three teams in the League but I wouldn't have said we were the best side.
"For me, the season only looked special when we beat West Ham away. Up to then, there was a huge gap that we were merely closing, but I could only see defeats to West Ham and Southampton and then subsequent play-off heartache. Then bingo bango."
Chartley: For me, the addition of Roberts pushed us over the top. I us expected to make playoffs this season but beating West Ham was a massive momentum boast.
Wimbles: I'll say the Leeds game, to dig that one out under the circumstances was just massive.
Chartley: That Leeds game was a blood bath!
Tommyrfc: After Leeds I really thought Jem's injury was going to screw things up for us.
mikerzr: For me, the season only looked special when we beat West Ham away. Up to then, there was a huge gap that we were merely closing, but I could only see defeats to West Ham and Southampton and then subsequent play-off heartache. Then bingo bango.
Michael Wade: As late as Southampton for me, but the eight wins in a row which ended with a draw against Doncaster showed me that we were properly over the play off defeat. Addition of Roberts made the difference.
Tommyrfc: Brighton was the game when it seemed like it was all going to go our way, luck was *definitely* on our side that day!
Q2. Alex Pearce won the POTS award, with Jem and Federici making up the rest of the top 3, any complaints with that?
mikerzr: YEAH Shovel-footed, 50p-headed Pearce isn't even our best centre half, never mind best player.
Michael Wade: No but Leigertwood was definitely crucial too. Gorkss and ALF deserve special mentions too.
Tommyrfc: Not at all, they were by far the best players over the season as a whole. Harte & Roberts were particularly good over the latter half and McAnuff & Legs were consistent but Feds, Jem & Pearce were a cut above throughout.
jonnafon: None whatsoever, says a lot that three defensive players got it. Had Roberts been here the whole season I'm sure he would be in the reckoning, but the simple fact is that going forward we weren't nearly clinical enough (until his arrival).
Michael Wade: Federici should have won for me though.
MarkLawrence: I voted for Alex Pearce, so no! I think Pearce has excelled this year and has put in some incredible performances, despite his young age! There are so many players that played a significant part in the season and it really could have gone to any of the first 11 or ALF.
Wimbles: I think with Pearce you got 7 or 8 out of ten every single week and that consistancy won the day. Alfie, Ledge, Roberts all made impacts but not over 46 games. Could have made a very good case for Federici to win it though.
Chartley: Nope, Feds kept us in so many games at the start of the season. Him and Pearce played every minute of every league game. Karacan was the engine of that midfield, in truth we stuttered without him. Late shout for ALF as his goals tipped the balance in our favour.
Tommyrfc: If you think how far Alex Pearce has come in the last 12 months it really has been monumental.
Chartley: Always thought he was a good centre back but Gorkss alongside helped him Tommy.
MarkLawrence: Zurab who?
Tommyrfc: Undoubtedly but he has become a real class act in a very short space of time. I have my reservations about Gorkss but no doubt having a reliable, balanced partner helped
jonnafon: @Tommyrfc agreed - to have such a good defensive effort when we played 2 different CBs in the play-off final is testament to not only Pearce but Gorkss.
mikerzr: Personally, Fedders should have got POTY for me. Very consistent, few mistakes and was much greater influence on games than he had been. Goorrkkss (delete letter as applicable) and Karacan would have been my other two.
Michael Wade: There were times in the middle of the season when ALF and HRK came off the bench late to score/assist and turn games. I'm thinking Posh and Ipswich in particular stand out if I remember right?
jonnafon: @Wade there were a lot of late goals too. Some ridiculous stats about not scoring in the first half, I believe Brighton on Boxing Day was the first time we had gone in at half-time leading at the Mad Stad.
Q3. Who was the biggest disappointment for you last season?
Michael Wade: Jimmy Kebe because of the weight of expectation on him at times and when you think what he is capable of. That might be a harsh call though because he was injured and there really isn't many people who disappointed me too much.
jonnafon: Hard to think of a disappointment really, the squad effort and togetherness was beyond that of any Reading team I've seen previously. Possibly Alex McCarthy's situation, although we did the best by him by letting him go to Championship sides.
Michael Wade: Was thinking along the same lines Jonny, I was disappointed two great young pros like McCarthy and Andersen couldn't get more playing time to develop, but then you can't drop Federici. Shows how little anyone disappointed as we have nothing to complain about really.
MarkLawrence: Biggest disappointment? No idea. Couldn't really pick one! I think the whole squad, even in the dark days early on in the season, were tremendous and always gave their all!
Tommyrfc: Probably Simon Church. There was a point at the start of the season that I thought "hang on, he's starting to get it" but after that he went downhill massively. He reminded me of Shane Long when he first arrived but while Long has became a really good player, Church has stayed static and has almost become an irrelevance in the squad.
"I was disappointed two great young pros like McCarthy and Andersen couldn't get more playing time to develop, but then you can't drop Federici. Shows how little anyone disappointed as we have nothing to complain about really!"
mikerzr: Church didn't disappoint - he performed exactly to expectations.
Chartley: Hmmm Not a lot really. Church, has never kicked on from two years ago. Kebe has blown hot n Cold but he always has.
MarkLawrence: Don't think Church at all, with more games, maybe could have done more! Think Leeds just for one, scored a really important goal, that eventually won us the game! Plus his two against West Ham, really killed off the game.
Wimbles: @Tommy - Church is a good shout, I think for me Robson-Kanu wasted a great chance to stake a claim for regular starts. He seemed so ineffectual when he started games.
Tommyrfc: @Wimbles - I agree and thought about saying him but he did produce some big moments (goal against Millwall springs to mind) whereas I struggle to think of anything beyond a decent goal against Leeds Church managed.
Chartley: Really, for me Church was great when Gylfi was here, scored 12 that season. He never looks confident enough to me thought to ever to be a consistant scorer at this level.
Michael Wade: Good or not, Church will remain in the memory for some of the important late goals he has scored under MCD. I think he will move on this summer though.
Tommyrfc: Church got his minutes but didn't do enough - Roberts showed up the gap in class between where he was at and a decent Premiership standard.
mikerzr: Church won't be missed in this quarter
Tommyrfc: @Michaelwade - I agree but he may end up being the Chris Makin of this team
Michael Wade: I think we need to step up a level in certain places and MCD will be ruthless enough to change things. With 25 man squad rule there is no point some people staying as they won't play.
Chartley: Michael,...I think it is 25 plus Home grown players, hence why players like Obita and D'Ath don't have to be in the 25.
jonnafon: : 25 players, at least 8 trained in England for 3 years prior to 21st birthday, U21s do not count to squad total.
Wimbles: I think Church and Robson-Kanu both need a year of being first choice in the Championship if they ever want to make a significant impact at Premier League level.
Tommyrfc: @wimbles - agreed and not wanting to pre-empt any future questions, they're also in positions that I think we'll have to stregthen (and have already with McCleary) so will slip down the pecking order.
mikerzr: Joe Mills. Given all the hoo-ha surrounding his brother's departure, he slipped in a little under the radar and, in true Reading-star-of-the-future fashion, showed energy and commitment (if not the greatest tekkers). Unfortunately, he had an injury and Harte cemented his place in the side with some frankly outstanding performances. It's inverse disappointment because, like with Wade's McCarthy downer, it was down to someone else's great performances.
Tommyrfc: Actually, biggest disappointment was probably having to wait so long to see Gunnarsson again!
jonnafon: @Tommyrfc Gunnarsson was terrible once he came on though at both Brum and home to Palace, was a nice send off but I'd be surprised if he was in our 25-man squad next year! Same with Manset, unless he's learnt tons in the footballing hotbed that is Shanghai I wonder how long he'll be here.
Q4: Ok, finishing off the season gone by, what was your favourite game, and the worst one.
Tommyrfc: @jonnafon - er, why? This system's won us the league. Might need to strengthen the squad but nought wrong with the approach!
MarkLawrence: Favourite game... Nottingham Forest at home (missed the 05/06 pitch invasion) and so was good to be there for this one! Or Southampton game, so incredible... I'll never feel that way again, just the celebrations! Oh my...
Tommyrfc: Favourite and worst are probably both Forest at home. Was a terrible, terrible game but, well, need I explain?! In terms of worst other than that, Charlton away right at the start of the season in the Carling Cup: finished work early, went all the way across London to stand in the cold watching utter dross.
Michael Wade: I'm going to plump for Bristol City away as favourite as I'm sure it won't get many shouts. There was a lot to choose from though. Can't do worst, sorry. I'll wait for some other votes (sitting on the fence).
Favourite game?... Nottingham Forest at home, I missed the 05/06 pitch invasion and it was so good to be there for this one! Or Southampton game, so incredible... I'll never feel that way again, just the celebrations! Oh my..."
Wimbles: Favoutie for me has to be Upton Park. As good as Southampton was and the pitch invasion against Forest, the sheer raw emotion in this five minutes before half time was hard to match. Low point had to be Watford, with Stevenage a close season. Watford though was just absolute dross. Think I'm right in saying we didn't have a shot on target?
jonnafon: Favourite: West Ham away - the atmosphere at half time was the best thing I've ever seen (shout out to Mr Oddie), Forest was also great because we all expected it to happen on the Saturday. Least favourite: Watford (H) - we were totally inept.
Chartley: Q4 Leeds at home, never quitting in the face of some brutal play. To see the smug smile wiped off the face of Brown at the end was special, Closely followed by Forest and West Ham.MWorst game not many but either of the Cardiff games...we were utter turd in both. Stevenage won't live long in the memory either.
Q5: OK so looking ahead to next season. Out of the current squad who won't be making your 25 Man Squad?
jonnafon: Antonio, Mills, Church, Gunnarsson are the names that immediately spring to mind. If there's space in the squad I'm sure they'll be included though but for me these players won't quite be up to the task next year.
MarkLawrence: Ohhhhhh! Manset, Antonio is all I can think of....
Tommyrfc: Church has already been mentioned, Howard will be off, as will Morrison, Manset, Antonio and Sheppard. Of the first team lot I'll be interested to see if Tabb and Mills stay on. I think they can both do a job but we may be looking for a bit more than that. I can't see us bringing in a raft of new players so I suspect they'll make it
Chartley: For me please who won't make the cut are :- Church, Noel Hunt, Morrison, Manset, Mills, Gunnarsson. Unfair on hunt maybe but I just feel that he does not has the quality to compete in the top flight.
Michael Wade: It's hard to say without knowing just how many we will sign. If Zingarevich is going to spend as some have claimed we could bring in five or six, if not we could bring in another three or four. Will Tabb and Church both be here next season? We've already shipped out Griffin, Howard, Cywka, Mullins. Gunnarsson may miss out? I thought Antonio will be sold or go out on loan. Manset, Bignall, Baseya, Sheppard won't make it so could all be sold or go loan. Sorry for long answer.
Michael Wade: Morrison depends on if we sign anyone. Need a lot more depth at centre back.
Wimbles: Church and Robson-Kanu need the first half of the season out on loan, as does Karl Sheppard. Manset is a goner as is Brett Williams. Sad as I am to say it (Sorry RZR!) but I hope Bryn has played his last game for us as well. Antonio will be sold to Sheff Weds, Joe Mills is borderline as well.
Michael Wade: Hunt looks great alongside Roberts for me so will get picked. Need a plan b up front though.
MarkLawrence: Need a Steven Fletcher upfront but only if we sign two good prem standard strikers should Hunt even be considered for that list!
Chartley: I think we will strengthen in that area. We need to carry at least four centre backs in the prem. Morrison has not played a league game for us since he signed.
Tommyrfc: Hunt won't be going anywhere. He's someone that knows his job and gets on with it. Yes we'll need someone with a bit more quality but we'll also need his energy and passion.
Tommyrfc: Morrison wasn't seen as good enough cover in the Championship so I can't see him being an option in the Prem!
Wimbles: Don't think it was a case of bein good enough Tommy, more that his development was better served playing games out on loan.
Tommyrfc: @wimbles - perhaps but I'd still be stunned if he was first choice cover, he's always look a lumbering lump to me!
Michael Wade - Q6. On the GetReading end of season survey it says who would be your captain next season. I hadn't considered McAnuff not being captain - so would any of you change permanently?
Wimbles: Wouldn't change it myself. McAnuff has proved himself this year and he clearly has the respect of this dressing room. While he's a first choice winger I see no need to change it. In 12 months time if he's showing his age/proves ineffectual at Premier League level, then maybe you might consider a change..
Chartley: McAnuff grew into the role last season, leave him there. He was given the responibilty and he thrieved.
Tommyrfc: McAnuff's been a great captain, no need to change that. This side seems to have a lot of leaders (Gorkss, Legs, Roberts, Pearce) but in a very positive way. Don't think it really matters who wears the armband on the pitch but McAnuff is a great ambassador for the club so very happy to see him lead it.
jonnafon: No reason to change really, McAnuff will still probably be ahead of McCleary so he should start more often that not. He's never played PL football (though nor have many of our players) and at 30/31 this may be his last chance. Happy to see him continue.
"McAnuff's been a great captain, no need to change that. This side seems to have a lot of leaders but in a very positive way. Don't think it really matters who wears the armband on the pitch but McAnuff is a great ambassador for the club so very happy to see him lead it."
Chartley: Gorkss would have been my choice had he signed earlier but more than happy with Jobi at the moment.
Q7: Where do we most need to strengthen ahead of next season?
Michael Wade: Right back x1, left back x1 would be nice, centre back x2, strikers x1, central mid x1.
MarkLawrence: Full backs or a striker to support Roberts. Bertrand would be ideal, season long loan would help everyone involved! Upfront, would love to get someone really aspirational like Drogba but there is no chance of that (I live in a dreamworld) but I'd like Fletcher, maybe even Doyle. Apart from that, more CM and CB cover, thats all.
Michael Wade: I fully trust the people at the club to bring the right names/faces in though.
Tommyrfc: We need another CB (I still have my doubts over Gorkss but need cover regardless) and/or a utility defender would be good. Also need another CM to provide competition/cover/something different to Jem and Legs. Another forward as Roberts will never play the whole season. Now we've got McCleary then should be ok on the wings.
"I don't think LB is massively pressing. Harte will be ok for a season and Mills should hopefully also be decent. That said, if the right player came along then it would be silly not yo go for them in any position."
Chartley: For me we need : Two CB's to add depth and comp. Two Fullbacks Right and Left. Midfield we need to add a central midfielder. Forward line at least a striker who can get us 10 per season. @MarkLawrence more chance of getting a dogs dinner than Drogba.
jonnafon: Left back most pressing, seriously worried about how Harte will cope and I think the ratio of goals he sets up to goals he concedes could be reversed next year. A poacher (if we go 4-4-2) or an attacking midfielder (if we go 4-5-1) would be next priority. Looks as though McCleary can play in the hole so maybe that's McD's plan.
Tommyrfc: I don't think LB is massively pressing. Harte will be ok for a season and Mills should hopefully also be decent. That said, if the right player came along then it would be silly not yo go for them in any position
Chartley: Mills is good for back up and only back up.
Tommyrfc: I agree, I also think Harte will keep going for a year. Really stunned me how good he's been this year defensively.
MarkLawrence: I'm not so sure about Harte, he was a little slow even for the Championship, let alone Valencia, Nani, Malouda, Mata etc.
Wimbles: I do think we'll need a new left back, and I get the nagging feeling that Brian doesn't fully rate Shaun Cummings either. The fact he's put Connolly and Mullins there ahead of him is a little puzzling. I hope it's just because of niggling injuries.
Tommyrfc: You say that but how many times over the season has Harte been truly beaten for pace on the outside? Besides, very few sides play with wingers these days. He'll be fine and deserves one last go at the Prem @Wimbles - Cummings still has a lot to learn defensively but I agree, not sure he's got BMcD's full backing (pun intended)
Wimbles: I think Harte's got a good chance of making 25-30 starts next season and doing a good job, I just worry longer term. Tommy I'd probably say that Cummings has more to learn going forward than defensively.
MarkLawrence: Cummings will only get better with games played.
Tommyrfc: @Wimbles - his whole game needs to develop (not having a go, I think he's got something about him) and I'm happy with him being there. I really think he's attacking game is hampered by Kebe though, he can't commit forward because he never knows what Jimmy's gona do!
Chartley: @marklawrence agreed on the Cummings.
Q7: Hard to tell given that teams are yet to really enter the transfer market but how do you think we'll fare next season?
Wimbles: Going to stick my neck out and say I think we'll be fine next year. We'll have a few nervy moments but we'll end the season about 14th.
Michael Wade: We'll finish between 12th and 17th for me. First season should be fine I hope. It's afterwards that worries me. WBA need to appoint well. Wigan may lose Martinez, Norwich may lose Lambert and Holt, Swansea will be worse without Gylffi, Stoke may not be great. I have hope.
MarkLawrence: Massive struggle. If we don't pick up points early on, I can see it being a short stay. If we can adapt well, it could be alright!
Tommyrfc: I'd love to say that we'll do as we did last time around or at least 'a Norwich' this year but I don't think we have the same momentum as then. My instinct is that we'll be ok, maybe in the kind of way Villa were this year. I struggle to think of too many teams that I'd confidently say we're better than but we've got a top class manager and he'll see us safe.
Chartley: For me anywhere from 11th to 17th will do..Home form will be crucial as usual. Pick up points at home and we should be fine as QPR proved. I feel that we need to keep the same pattern of play i.e. soak up the pressure and break. Of course it is way to early to judge as we have only made one signing.
jonnafon: This year's league seems a lot tougher than last year. I'm hoping that our togetherness coupled with other teams suffering "second season syndrome" could see us scrape survival as there doesn't seem to be any obvious Wolves/Blackburn team that is written off from day 1.
Chartley: @jonnafon there were some poor teams in the Premier League this season for sure but i don't see any reason to fear most teams.
Tommyrfc: It may come down to if and when this Russian money comes in. If BMcD has access to some decent money early in the summer then I'm confident we'll bring in the players needed to keep us up. If we need to panic buy in Jan then I'd be less sure!
mikerzr: In reality, we have to accept that we're going to be in the relegation zone most of the time and may sneak it on the last day. Even if we spent billions on a whole new team, they'd take an age to settle and we'd lose the head start.
Chartley: @mikerzr unlike last time we need a few more tweaks.
mikerzr: We need more than tweaks mate. I can see 7 players that need replacing straight away or will do quickly. In my mind, only Fedders, Gorkks, Karacan and Roberts will prove themselves. Kebe and McAnuff are hot'n'cold, I've said what I have to say about Pearce and the others aren't up to it yet/anymore.
Q8: What are you most looking forward to now we're back in the Premier League and what's the one thing you're not looking forward to?
MarkLawrence: Most looking forward to - more coverage as I will be away for most of the campaign but also more people at the Mad Stad when I do go! Least looking forward to? Glory supporters and all the supporters of United etc. calling us a small lucky club if we beat their team....
Chartley: Hmmmm...not looking forward to getting thumped by City et al. Looking forward to just competing in the Premier League again.
Michael Wade: Upside - More coverage, mixing with the big boys. Downside - Less games, Less wins, smaller fish in bigger pond, glory hunters coming out of the woodwork.
Tommyrfc: Looking forward to not having to wait until midnight to see our highlights - also ticking off some grounds I missed last time (hello Goodison Park and Craven Cottage). I'm not looking forward to the increase in false support, 'expert' opinion based on a few games, being patronised and the increase in cheating.
Michael Wade: I'm hoping to tick off Goodison too. And maybe return to St James'. That's another upside, some good away days.
mikerzr: The thing I'm looking forward to the most is see us in the MOTD credits. Least is probably all the fans of Prem teams who have never been to games laughing at me for being rubbish.
Tommyrfc: Also on a more basic level of being a football fan, I'm looking forward to seeing some of the best players in the world play well. Genuinely one of my highlights from out first season was losing 4-0 at home to Arsenal and seeing Henry and Fabregas tear us apart. If we're gona lose, lets see some great football!
mikerzr: 'greed Tommo.
Chartley: @tommyrfc I want to tick off both grounds in Liverpool.
Chartley: I want to see Modric play too. We got relegated before he signed.
mikerzr: I probably won't get to tick off any new grounds next season - £££
Tommyrfc: @Chartley - so do I but Goodison appeals more for some reason. Forgotten about Newcastle! With Sunderland there as well that's potentially 2 nights out in Toon!
Chartley: @tommyrfc just seems to have more of an atmosphere to it than Anfield does these days.
mikerzr: Anfield's over-rated. Or maybe I just wasn't there for one of those 'big European nights' I've heard so much about.
Tommyrfc: I wanted to just throw it out there - how worried is everyone that the Russian deal has yet to go through?
mikerzr: @Tommo - I'm worried on two counts. 1) That it won't go through and b) that it will!
Tommyrfc: I'm starting to get a little worried that something is holding it up (like it did with Everton) and if it falls through that it could prove to be really, really embarrassing for the club
Wimbles: Pretty much agreed with RZR there, part of me is worried that it'll all fall apart but a bit of me wants things to carry on as they were. Then again, I'm glad that it's going through this many checks. Shows the PL/FL have actually learned lessons from Pompy etc
MarkLawrence: I'm worried that we will get into debt through wages if it does fall through...
mikerzr: Not only embarrassing, but devastating. Plus what Mark just said.
Tommyrfc: That's the optimistic view point - AZ has made the right noises but like Mark says, hope we've got a plan b!
mikerzr: Given the hoops that Madejski has already had potential owners jumping through, I can't believe that there is a Plan B
Tommyrfc: @mikerzr - that's what concerns me
Wimbles: For Sir John (an astute businessman) to have been so public and up front he had to have been pretty f'ing sure everything was above board though.
Chartley: @marklawrence true.
jonnafon: @Wimbles 'greed, his legacy is what's ultimately at stake here and no matter how much he wants out to protect his money, he'll have RFC's best interests at heart.
Tommyrfc: I know nobody knows the answer but if that's the case, why, 2 months after we were told it'd be announced have we still heard nothing?
Wimbles: Think it's promotion that's caused the hold up, Jon Keen's made a good point in saying that the PL have so many more resources available to check things
Chartley: @tommyrfc it will go through remember the PL want to make 100% sure that he has the funds, they above do not want another Pompy.
mikerzr: @Tommo Well we've heard that the PL are doing further checks. Don't forget that when they announced the anticipated date, we were mid-table and PL ratification wasn't on the cards and what Chris just said.
Tommyrfc: Things is, I can't believe that they wouldn't have had the Prem checks in March, or at least made sure the process wouldn't take too long. Probably just me being ever the pessimist but I'd quite like it to just be sorted so that we can move one!
Wimbles: Can't let it go through without another 200 pages on the HNA? thread....
Tommyrfc: Maybe that's it, the bloke at the Prem who'd job it is to do these checks is still ploughing through all of that on HNA!
Thanks to everyone who took part in the round table and if you'd like to get involved with the Tilehurst End we're always looking for new contributors. Just drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org