You wait ages for a game against Cardiff City, then three of them come along at once. Reading took on the Bluebirds in the FA Cup last Saturday, holding on to see out a 1-1 draw at the Madejski Stadium, but will now head to the Welsh capital twice in a matter of days - on Friday in the league, and the cup replay on Tuesday.
Although that block of fixtures means Reading are well acquainted with Cardiff, you can always learn more. We’ve done that with the help of Bluebirds fan and writer Daniel Lewis, who kindly gave us his thoughts on a real range of City-related topics. Thanks to Daniel for his answers to his questions, and you can find him on Twitter here.
How would you sum up Cardiff’s season so far?
Mediocre at best. We’ve been in the Championship for long enough over the past 15 years to know the sides relegated from the top flight are never guaranteed an instant return, but hopes were high that Neil Warnock would replicate the success of the 2017-18 campaign and guide us back up at the first attempt.
But it took us until the end of November, after Warnock had been replaced by Neil Harris, to pick up our first back-to-back wins. It seems like we’ve been playing catch up ever since and have always been a few steps behind the top six.
What do you make of the job Neil Harris has done since coming in?
Considering I’ve been asked this question on the back of a 2-1 win over the erstwhile leaders, it would be a little harsh to say his reign has so far been underwhelming. His appointment did not go down well with the fanbase and he has had a real battle on his hands winning over the majority, not helped by a pretty bland style of play.
Cardiff supporters do not care for tiki-taka football, but you need wins to compensate for that and we have not won enough games. We had won just one of eight league games prior to the West Brom match, being thrashed 6-1 by Queens Park Rangers during that run, so he still has more work to do before his name will be chanted from the stands.
Our recent clash was marred by a controversial PA announcement about apparent abuse from the away end - what’s your take on the whole situation?
Firstly, it’s important to say that I wasn’t actually there. However, the general consensus is that the Reading officials were far too hasty in putting out the public address message. Within about five minutes it was the lead story on BBC’s Final Score and websites such as The Sun were running bullshi* claims off the back of it (you won’t find them because they have since, rightly, been deleted).
If racist language of any sort was heard then fair enough, but that does not appear to have been the case and Cardiff’s reputation has taken a big hit off the back of it.
Cardiff have recently called for an investigation into the tragic death of Emiliano Sala - what do you make of it?
This is another complicated one. Honestly, not even I can give you the full ins and outs even after reading the lengthy FIFA document in full a couple of months back. Cardiff are effectively reluctant to pay over the full £15m fee as they feel he was not registered with the club at the time of his death.
This is not about trying to con another team, a conclusion many reach when just looking at the story on the face of it, and City will rightly pay up in full if the investigation finds Sala was indeed a Cardiff player at the time.
What are the main strengths and weaknesses of this City side?
Without Lee Tomlin in the side we lack an attacking threat, while at the back we are still nowhere near as solid as two years ago. If nothing else, Harris has a least made us hard to beat - the QPR loss being our only defeat in 11 matches overall.
We still lack a goalscoring striker, and have done for close to a decade now, so if we are to get the win on Friday it will be via a nitty-gritty performance.
What are your hopes and expectations for the rest of the season?
To pick up a few wins on the bounce and actually challenge for the top six. Automatic promotion is clearly out of the question and not many are confident of making the top six, but it always tends to go down to the wire and, as we found out the hard way at the start of the last decade, finishing sixth is ultimately no different to finishing third.
How do you see the game going, and what will the score be?
It won’t be another 3-0 loss, put it that way! There were too many changes made for the recent cup tie to draw any conclusions, but what it will probably be just as tight. Everything points to a 1-1 draw.