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The Tilehurst End Round Table - November: Part One

So with a third of the season gone what have we learned about Reading's prospects this season? We asked our editorial team for their views.

Present with us for part one of our round table was Wimb (WI), WilliamOwain (WO), Olly_Allen (OA), Jonnafon (JF), BucksRoyal (BR) and Royal Hoops (RH)

So more than a third of the way into the season has it been a successful one so far in your opinions?

JF: Compared to last season? Yes. Bearing in mind the potential we have shown this campaign? No. After a slow start we found our feet and started to really push ourselves amongst the promotion contenders, but five games without a win and suddenly we're in real danger of becoming an also-ran, a pretender. Ten points isn't an insurmountable lead to have given the top two with two-thirds of the season to go, but the inconsistency of performances and results has to stop in order to kick-start the season again.

OA: After last season's nightmares, to be in the position we are at this stage of the campaign has to be counted as a success. We've beaten three teams who were in the play-offs in 2014-15 as well as one that was in the Premier League, and that shows how far this team has come. We may have suffered a dip of form recently, but it should just be a blip that most teams suffer throughout the course of the season - getting ours out of the way now will be a positive in the long run.

WO: Yes and no. I would have taken being eighth at this stage before the season started. However, I am now disappointed to be 10 points from automatic promotion and think anything less than a play-off place will be a failure.

After last season's nightmares, to be in the position we are at this stage of the campaign has to be counted as a success

RH: You'd have to be a cold-hearted son of a gun to think the season so far has been an unsuccessful one, especially considering I thought 11th would be a decent league position before the season began. The slump in form prior to this international break shouldn't detract from an otherwise superb first third of the season. Good defence, sprightly attack and the Norwood-Williams pivot is one to drool over at their best.

WI: So far we've seen the good, the bad and the downright meh from Reading so I'm not really sure how to feel. As the others have said it's been far better than last season but then it should be given the extensive rebuilding done by Steve Clarke over the summer. I predicted an eighth place finish coming into the season so I can't really complain but there's a nagging feeling we should be doing a little better.

BR: It's been successful in doing what hasn't happened in so long - showing what a Reading team really is capable of. The first few weeks were encouraging but frustrating, and things seemed to click so well after that! We were firing on all cylinders, with seemingly everything going right. The side just seemed to run out of steam from the Charlton game onwards, and needs an injection of something different to get us back on track. That'll come soon enough.

How have your expectations changed since we fan our pre-season predictions piece?

RH: I've gone up 5 places in my estimations. If we don't finish in the play-offs this season I'll be disappointed. The squad and manager have too much quality about them for that not to be a realistic expectation. It wasn't so long ago that dreams of the automatic places was genuinely achievable. It may still be.

WO: Yes. My expectations went up massively once we made further signings and it soon became clear we were a much better team than we realised. I got a bit over excited in September but I still think we have a good team who should be challenging for promotion.

WI: Absolutely! You can't go about signing a player like Vydra and then be happy with just scrapping for the play-offs. I think the strongest XI have the quality to challenge for the top two but sadly it looks as if we've lost the vital cogs that made us title challengers. IF they come back fully fit in January we should still be battling it out but we've got to find a way to keep in touch. I'd also speculate that my calls on Hector for most appearances and McCleary to be in our top three scorers might be a bit off....

BR: Back in pre-season, I wouldn't have expected us to start the season as well as we did. In true Reading style, I thought we'd be building up the side for the first half of the season, with things coming together later on - as things stand, I've been proved wrong. That said, impressive contributions from Quinn and McShane haven't surprised me.

JF: "Most improved player: Nick Blackman" - Nailed it! Obviously Pavel Pogrebnyak stands zero chance of being our third top scorer, and I still do harbour hope (not necessarily expectation) that we can finish above my pre-season prediction of ninth, but otherwise I wouldn't change too much.

OA: I'm still cautiously optimistic about our promotion chances, but my expectations are certainly a lot higher following the signings that we made in the last few days of the transfer window. In my opinion, Reading have one of the best squads in the Championship on paper, and if we can avoid key injuries, then there's no reason why we shouldn't be fighting to go up for the entire campaign. I predicted ninth back in August, but with the funds Steve Clarke was given and the quality of the team, sixth place should be the minimum requirement.

Which player has surprised you the most?

WI: The clear answer here is Nick Blackman who few (other than one of my TTE Podcast co-hosts) really expected to be more than average coming into the season. Paul McShane has been a pleasant surprise as well given that I expected solid but have so far seen a player who's arguably our best defender in years.

WO: As Wimb said, Blackman is the obvious answer. I have also been pleased by how Norwood has made himself such an important player. Sa and Vydra have both surprised me by how much they drop deep. I thought both of them would be more poacher type strikers.

I should also mention Tshibola, who impressed at Hartlepool but not many could have predicted he'd settle in at Championship level so swiftly. A real talent..

BR: Oliver Norwood has been one of my players of the season so far - his all round game has come on so, so well, and he's easily one of the best at the club now. Back in the summer I would have expected to see him drift in and out of the side, whilst struggling to get into Clarke's style of play. On the contrary, he's now an integral part of every starting XI - keeping the best bits of his previous form but maturing a lot too.

RH: Blackman, blah, blah... Honestly, Oliver Norwood has surprised me. The fans have always appreciated him, but at the end of last season it looked as though his Reading career would come to a sudden end, what with Clarke not being fully convinced. Talk about a turnaround. Norwood is now one of the first names on the team sheet and has added steel to his passing play.

I should also mention Tshibola, who impressed at Hartlepool but not many could have predicted he'd settle in at Championship level so swiftly. A real talent.

OA: I'm going to go for one of the summer signings - Andrew Taylor. When he arrived at the club in August, hopes weren't high, with reviews from fans of Cardiff and Wigan alike not exactly covering the left-back in glory. With nothing else to base my opinion of him on, I wasn't sure why we had loaned a player from the league below, and would have preferred a Royals youngster to provide back-up for Jordan Obita. However, Taylor has surprised me greatly and I'm slowly becoming one of his biggest fans. Whenever he has deputised for Obita, he has generally been impressive and certainly provides more defensive cover than the academy graduate. At this moment in time, I might even be tempted to start him every week, and would certainly want to sign him permanently at the end of the campaign.

JF: Well I can't make the case for Blackman as I always had the faith! So I'll go for Orlando Sa, who has looked like a player up for the fights and battles of Championship football - a bit too over-zealous, in one case... Also like Olly I'll give credit to Andrew Taylor, not at all out of place and typical of those "steady, if unspectacular" left-backs we seem to have had over the last few years.

That's it for part one, stay tuned tomorrow for part two where we'll look at this season's biggest disappointments, potential transfer targets and the Championship as a whole. In the meantime have your say below.