How would you sum up Derby's season so far?
How long have you got?
From the defeat at Barnsley onwards, I struggled to understand what Pearson was trying to achieve. He markedly changed the style of play, changing to two up-front and going more direct - but went into the season without making any new signings to support that change. It then became apparent that he didn't rate Chris Martin, while Will Hughes was left out of the starting line-up for the first two games, in favour of Jeff Hendrick. Then, after a few very bad results, we had a last-minute transfer whirlwind, with Martin bundled off to Fulham and Hendrick sold but not replaced, while Matěj Vydra and Ikechi Anya came in from Watford.
Pearson repeatedly belittled any suggestion that his decision to switch to a default 4-4-2 was in any way a big deal - but the shocking results and cataclysmic lack of goals said otherwise. The club started to talk about 'transition' instead of 'promotion' - not a message I was prepared to get behind, frankly - but the squad looked all wrong for what Pearson wanted and with no opportunity to sign new players, other than free agents,until January, things looked decidedly grim after the shocking defeat to Blackburn.
The win at Cardiff, under Chris Powell's stewardship with Pearson suspended following a reported row with chairman Mel Morris, was a vital start to the recovery process. Hopefully now, order will be restored and we can start a slow march back up the league table.
It looks at the time of writing as if Nigel Pearson's time at the club is over, will you be sad to see him go?
No. Chris Powell's incredibly gracious comments after the victory at Cardiff make me feel a bit ashamed of it, but I'm not sorry at all that Pearson has gone.
I know that supporters really ought to be embarrassed when their club turns over managers at a rate of knots and clearly, it is symptomatic of something that isn't right behind the scenes. But I could not warm to Pearson and even if we had done well under him, I think I would have only ever grudgingly accepted his tenure.
Many fans (including Mel Morris, I think) are pining for the type of flowing football we saw for the first year or so under Steve McClaren - to the point where some supporters would welcome him back, even after everything that happened. Pearson, with his more functional, direct style based on pace and running, instead of short passing and patient possession, was never going to replicate that.
More importantly, Pearson was failing to get anything like their potential level out of what is an undeniably a talented group of players. To go from fifth last year (under the interim management of the youth team coach, by the way) to 22nd so quickly is not something that Pearson is easily able to explain away - and it's no surprise that he reportedly clashed with Mel Morris as a result.
You've got a number of former Royals on the books, including Nick Blackman, Matej Vydra and Alex Pearce, how have those three been getting on?
Blackman has endured a bit of a nightmare nine months (it feels like a lot longer), but finally scored his first goal for the club on Tuesday night - a penalty he won himself, after coming on as a sub. Powell afterwards expressed his faith in Blackman's talent and said he believes he can get the best out of him - certainly, we haven't seen anything like that so far.
Vydra looks the pick of our strikers, which you would expect, given the investment of £8m (or more, depending on who you believe). I know it didn't happen for him at Reading, but the early signs at Derby have been relatively good. I'd have liked to see him tried in a partnership with Martin, given that he did so well up front with Deeney at Watford, but it is probably the case that we couldn't afford to have both, due to FFP restrictions.
It seemed at one stage that Pearce would never play for Derby, but he is now in the side and doing well (although his loss of an aerial challenge with Danny Graham led to Blackburn's equaliser on Saturday). It will be interesting to see whether he keeps his place when Jason Shackell returns to the fold under the new manager.
Any good or bad memories of games between the sides?
Probably the worst memory would be the defeat at the Mad Stad in 2007/8, when Derby were on their way to breaking all records as the 'worst team in history (TM).' Benny Feilhaber, an American kid signed by the bizarre Billy Davies as a 'project', played that day, with dire consequences. I think it's fair to say that we weren't up against a vintage Reading team, but of course, we were too poor to give anyone a meaningful game that year.
Best memory - Probably the comfortable 3-0 victory at your place in October 2014, at a time we looked pretty much invincible and nailed on for promotion. A Martin brace, either side of a goal from on-loan Jordon Ibe, sealed a sumptuous away performance - what could possibly go wrong, we thought...
Who should we be wary of on Saturday?
Will Hughes was stifled by Pearson's 4-4-2 system, but when allowed to go further forward, as he was at Cardiff on Tuesday, he is a creative threat to any Championship defence. I'm hoping that Pearson's departure will give Tom Ince a new lease of life, while Vydra and Anya are both quality players up front. Those four will be our main threats tomorrow, supplemented by full backs Cyrus Christie and Max Lowe, a very promising 19 year-old, who impressed mightily on his debut at Cardiff and has since signed a new long-term contract.
Any Reading player who's impressed you?
I haven't seen too much of Reading, as I've been focused exclusively on everything that's been happening with Derby. I note that Reading have played a dominant possession game this season though, with a very high average possession percentage - which is interesting. Derby under McClaren and Clement would usually out-pass any Championship side who tried to take them on, so I'm hoping that Powell will get us back to that, simply by reinstating the 4-3-3.
I did notice that the analyst Ted Knutson recently tweeted that he felt Reading's results had 'flattered' them so far and that maybe their performances had not been as good as the league table suggests. My own (amateur) analysis based on data available at whoscored.com suggests a draw on Saturday is the likely result. After everything that's happened, I guess I'd take that now, if offered. That said, I strongly believe that Derby's fortunes are about to improve considerably and we will start to motor up the table soon.
I'll go for a diplomatic 1-1