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The Tilehurst End Round Table - November 2013

It's been a while but with nearly a third of the season gone we decided to get four Tilehurst End Writers together to chew the fat about Reading's season so far, as we tackle progress, Zingarevich, transfers and end of season expectations.

Richard Heathcote


How have you viewed the season so far? Has it gone as you expected?

R.Langley: I think Adkins was let down with promises made to him in the summer, the club pretty poorly set the fans expectations sky high, but we're 5th, having not played that well.

Marc Mayo: Yeah there is a big disparity between the entertainment promised and the actual way we have got results, but being 5th at this stage does just about fit in with the expectations of challenging for promotion

urzz1871: It started well enough - a few wobbles but only to be expected with new players coming in and the team still changing style. But after a decent run of wins - albeit some of them unconvincing ones - the team should be kicking on now but doesn't seem to be able to do that for some reason.

Wimb: They've done OK without ever really hitting top gear. Fifth is a decent start but a 9 point gap to the top two is slightly worrying so early in the season. Then again as Adkins says it's just about being in the race till March and seeing what happens!

R.Langley: I think most fans are coming to realise that we aren't going to be top two, unless we put together a run like the last time we were in the Champ. I see playoffs as a realistic and more than satisfactory target.

Marc Mayo: The sticking point really is that with every spark of momentum we get a crushing blow to knock us back

****

What position of the team most concerns you right now?

R.Langley: LB, Bridge clearly isn't going to play every game and we have no real cover. Kelly, as shown against Sheffield Wednesday, isn't adequate cover.

Marc Mayo: Central defence is threadbare given Saturday's 5-2 defeat, but Central Midfield for me. Guthrie had a partner in Karacan that's been ripped up, Baird struggles with the dirty work, Akpan has gone backwards and Williams hasn't had a good crack at it yet

urzz1871: The fact that the defence looks dodgy at times - and good teams in this league are built on a solid defence. But as well as that the fact that we just don't have a settled team in front of them - no-one, including NA, seems to know who the best midfield and attacking combinations are. Injuries have been cruel, though - especially the loss of Jem.

Wimb: Do agree with Richard, right now there's a shocking weakness at left-back. Quite amazed we went into the season with 5 or 6 wingers but only 1 footed left-back!

Marc Mayo: Left back looks like a real issue because, as far as I know, there are no academy players who can come in

****

We're nearly a third of the way through the season now, who has been your player of the season so far, and which player has really let you down?

R.Langley: Guthrie. Come on leaps and strides since last season, and is flourishing under a manager who realises his best position is in the team not on the bench. HRK, thought he'd kick on from last season, but hasn't even reached the level I'd expect of him. Seems lazy, slow and doesn't seem to add too much to the team at the moment.

Marc Mayo: Danny Guthrie has been the only player who has played every week and look above his level 9 times out of 10. Gunter's getting better and better, too. Disappointed in Robson-Kanu because he's not kicked on at all since being a stand-out player last year.

urzz1871: Wayne Bridge is pure class and as mentioned above indispensable. I know it'll be controversial, but Drenthe has disappointed me - lots of tricks that please the "Soccer AM generation" but very little end product, and when the going gets tough he has a tendency to go missing.

Wimb: Guthrie's been great but dunno, perhaps the lingering fallout from last season leaves me jaded, so I'll say Alex McCarthy who for me has been excellent. Agree with both Drenthe and Robson-Kanu but Alex Pearce has also looked a shadow of the man who won POTS 2 years ago I'm afraid.

urzz1871: I fear Pearce's mind is elsewhere after the contract shenanigans last season.

Marc Mayo: Captaining Morrison over him must have been a blow

urzz1871: And pointless, too, because on the pitch Pearce is clearly the one doing the shouting and organising.

R.Langley: I think Morrison isn't playing as well as I'd like, and I think it's the captain effect, as with McAnuff last season he seems to be playing under a cloud, and I don't think that's helping Pearce.

Marc Mayo: Maybe he feels less allowed to now, lets Morrison get on with it

****

For you, who deserves the biggest share of the blame for our recent stutters, the injuries, the manager or the players themselves?

Marc Mayo: Without being a cop-out answer a bit of all 3. An answer-or-shoot reason would be injuries, for me. They've come to key players at key times in big numbers. That hasn't helped Adkins' slightly questionable organisation, and there's no doubt there are players not playing as well as they could.

urzz1871: I think it's a combination of lots of factors. The failure to build further in the transfer window means that this is still a largely a McDermott squad and not an Adkins one, so there's a limit to how much of a new system he can impose on them. Injuries have been significant, no doubt about that, but I don't feel it's a happy dressing room too - there's something wrong with the mindset and the psychology of the team.

R.Langley: I agree with Marc, a combination of all of them. Questionable substitutions by Adkins lost us two points as Barnsley. Injuries came at the wrong time, and to the wrong, important players such as Karacan and Bridge. And sometimes the players just haven't performed to the best of their abilities, for one reason or another.

Wimb: I have to agree with urzz because it really isn't an Adkins side. Just like Brendan Rodgers found it, it's near impossible to get a consistent growing team when you're being forced to patch together a team built for an older one

Marc Mayo: How quickly can that change though?

Wimb: There's just a spark missing, and there seems to be precious few players that can generate that spark either through leadership or moments of individual brilliance

urzz1871: And even harder to impose a new style onto players not used to it and maybe not suited to it. I also think that's one of the problems with central defence - AP & SM would probably be happier if they could just concentrate on defending - and hoof the ball forward, rather than being forced to be ball-players.

Marc Mayo: Every training session spent on passing is one not spent on defending...

****

On a scale of 1-10 how worried are you by events off the pitch, particularly regarding the takeover, do you think it's having an effect on what we're seeing on it?

Marc Mayo: 6- because at the end of the day Madejski is a huge stabilising influence in the whole thing. If Anton is happy with 51%, no problem. If he's all in, good. If he's all out I'm sure someone else will be interested. The training ground is a calming factor in this, in that there is cash being spent on the club while this is going on.

urzz1871: I think it must be having an effect - the financial cutbacks in the club of the last month or so may not directly affect the players, but they'll certainly know about them and will probably be indirectly affected. But generally players, like most other people,hate uncertainty so it can't not be relevant to what's happening on the pitch.

Marc Mayo: Naturally there is a cause for concern, because if all was hunky dory it wouldn't be an issue at all

R.Langley: 6 though there are still plenty of unanswered questions. I'd imagine it's having an effect on the pitch, and I imagine it's causing some unrest in the board room too.

urzz1871: But I'd question what influence a Chairman who has a stake of under 50% can actually have, in reality. And I know contracts have been exchanged for the land, and that's all we can expect at the moment, but I won't relax until I know the deal is completed and building actually started - there's still a long way to go.

Wimb: I think I'm with Mark and Rich on this one... a 6 because it's just slowly tipped past the point of neutral to concern. The fact that Zingarevch has just totally disappeared is at best odd and at worst... well. As you said the training ground and academy are shining lights but the general bust of deadline day and the overall silence on the bigger picture is concerning. As Jon says, who is writing the cheques, who's approving signings and sales?

Marc Mayo: All it takes is for one bit of bad news or bad decision and we could have a collapsing house of cards in front of us

R.Langley: Have to agree with urzz too. Is Madejski just being a "face" to try and stop questions being asked of TSI?

****

Finally then after all that's gone on so far on and off the pitch, where do you see Reading ending the season?

R.Langley: Playoffs (probably 5th), unless Adkins can sign some more quality and cover in January, then maybe automatics. Off topic, but can anyone else see the likeness between our 106 squad and Burnley? No big names, just hard working, ambitious players, and not a huge squad.

Marc Mayo: You know, at the start of the season I looked at Burnley home last game of the season and thought a comfortable 3-1 win to seal promotion and 2nd place... But, after the starts of both teams I now see it being a play-off rehearsal before we lose to them over 2 legs in the play-offs. Promotion through the play-offs is obviously possible, but I think it'd be a season too early for Adkins' side

urzz1871: I think this season is on a knife-edge, it could go in either direction, either successfully into the play-offs or calamitously in the other direction. Something has to change, though because it's going in the wrong direction at the moment and without changes is likely to continue that way. Something about the whole thing - on and off the pitch - is just joyless.

Marc Mayo: Ignoring the club media rhetoric of winning the league with 120 points, fans should be satisfied with the play-offs, I think.

Wimb: Yeah... I still think second is reachable but unless these injuries all clear up rapidly and we get into form sharpish, I think it's a top six place at best

****

Who do you think of the current squad are likely to be transfer targets for other teams in January?

Wimb: I can see McCleary or even maybe Guthrie getting poched. I'd say McCarthy but no clubs really have a goalkeeping crisis right now. Le Fondre's goal tally might well alert a few nervous clubs as well.

Marc Mayo: going out I genuinely think none of our top players, maybe McCleary or Alfie by a low prem side, that's it

urzz1871: I still fear the inevitable loss of McCarthy, and I think Pearce and Morrison will both be vulnerable to bids. Apart from that, we'd probably be delighted to off-load Pog, but that's unlikely to happen.

R.Langley: At the moment I think only Guthrie. Think we need to strengthen at LB, and some more CB cover (or get Hector back). And I think the players might look at Mapps and Kebe and realise that a move up may not be all that good.

Wimb: Don't think Pearce has done himself any favours... no clubs were willing to take the gamble on him for free in June so can't see many spending 7 figures on him now

Marc Mayo: On your point there Richard, I think players should look at Dave Kitson and shudder in fear at a Prem move!

****

Who/what would we bring in? If any at all...

urzz1871: Depends who we can afford - and who would want to join us.

Wimb: A young left-back please! Sadly I don't think there's much of a budget to go out and bring in a big names, but a young promising left-back from League 1 or 2 would be good, like we did with Shorey way back when, even a Dan Harding-eque loan move.

R.Langley: I agree Marc, and Sidwell (who only at Fulham has started to show what a player he can be). There can't be many players who have gone onto better their careers after Reading, bar Hislop and Siggy.

urzz1871: Can I add that the most effective buy we might make would be a good sports psychologist! We're good enough, but the mindset is so wrong.

Wimb: Mad Dog is jobless...... ;)

urzz1871: I said a good one!

Marc Mayo: Mad Dog, meet Royston Drenthe. Would love to be present for that...

R.Langley: Agreed Jon!