It’s the return of Championship football! This weekend, Reading travel to the East Midlands to face
Frank Lampard’s Wayne Rooney’s Derby County.
The away side has had a very disruptive pre-season, with new manager Veljko Paunovic (pronounced Pow-no-vich, I think!) taking charge of his first game from the touchline on Saturday. It’s certainly not the best way to start the season – but could we get a new manager ‘bounce’ that may work in our favour? Now is the time for Pauno-ball to be unleashed.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of our opening Championship tie of the 2020/21 season.
What? Championship Matchday 1
Who? Derby County
Where? Pride Park
When? Saturday 12th September
Opposition Manager? Phillip Cocu
Like many other clubs, the Rams have spent little to no money so far this summer. They do have some great players with the likes of Tom Lawrence and Wayne Rooney – but keep an eye out for Louie Sibley too. In June, he scored a hat-trick away to Millwall and it just shows how he could be a major threat to the Royals’ defence.
A former Royals player who is still with Derby County is George Evans, who played a reasonably big part in our successful 2016/17 season. It was a real shame to see him go – and he was a great signing by Brian McDermott in his second spell at the club. I can only wish Evans the very best and I hope he can kick on in his career!
Our form at the end stage of last season has pretty much gone out the window with the new manager. From his previous spell with Serbia’s youth setup, he has proved he can work with younger players – and I hope that’s one thing he can bring to the club with the amazing academy we have. Even though we have Omar Richards wearing the number three shirt, Tom McIntyre at five, Michael Olise at seven and Andy Rinomhota at eight, I still think we have underused our academy at some stages.
The club is also in a difficult situation regarding Financial Fair Play, so using the academy players should be something we do more and more going forward, regardless of new signings that come in. Although we need to ensure these young academy players are up to the job of performing and stepping up to the plate where needed, we must not hold those back who are ready. A long-term strategy is what’s needed – and I hope Mr Dai can help to implement that.
The Last Meeting
Derby County 2 – 1 Reading
Ovie Ejaria was involved in a bright couple of moves early on – but it was the home side that would strike first. Tom Lawrence’s curling shot (determined not to make the same mistake as the Reading admin when they said Darren Bent struck a curling…, well yep it wouldn’t have been pleasant and probably quite messy) hit the back of the net.
Things got even worse for the Royals when Martyn Waghorn went down in the box from Liam Moore’s challenge, with Wayne Rooney converting the spot kick to put the home side 2-0 up before half time.
The Royals did reduce the deficit through Andy Rinomhota’s header – but it wasn’t enough and the game finished up at 2-1. Matt Miazga and Tom Lawrence were both sent off at full time after a scuffle – watch until the end of the video if you want to see Miazga’s slap.
The Last League Match
Reading 1 – 4 Swansea City
Swansea started off well and got the first goal when Rhian Brewster’s long range strike deceived Rafael. Like the Derby game, things went from bad to worse when Yakou Meite was sent off for lashing out at Mike van der Hoorn – but they did level through a George Puscas penalty.
However, this was as good as it got for the Royals – and they conceded three second half goals in yet another woeful home performance. A Wayne Routledge brace and Joe Cullen’s strike enabled Swansea to capitalise on Nottingham Forest’s capitulation – which took them to sixth place. There were wild scenes at full time, although Steve Cooper’s side would have hoped it was in front of their fans.
- Derby County lost four of their last five league games in the 2019/20 season. They will be hoping for a good start to this campaign.
- However, the Rams are unbeaten in all but one of their last five meetings with the Royals. We did win at Pride Park twice with Yakubu and Kwesi Appiah getting themselves on the scoresheet though in recent history, so who’s the real winner?
- Reading have lost five of their last eight Championship fixtures. Can Paunovic improve this record?
- Whisper it quietly – but we have also conceded eight goals in our last two league matches (which was uncharacteristic of Mark Bowen’s Reading). After keeping three consecutive clean sheets earlier on in July, the defence fell asleep in the latter stages of the month.
Likely Reading lineup: Rafael, Richards, Moore, Morrison, Yiadom, Rinomhota, Laurent, Ejaria, Swift, Olise, Joao
Another match preview, another blind stab at how we could possibly lineup. I think taking last week’s formation with a pinch of salt is probably the best policy – with the majority of those players involved likely to be on the fringes of the first team this season.
Long story short, I have gone with the same lineup I predicted last week. One thing that is clear is the fact we have some good ingredients. Lucas Joao, George Puscas and Yakou Meite (when he returns from suspension) can all provide a goalscoring threat. Ovie Ejaria and John Swift can provide creativity, with Josh Laurent and Andy Rinomhota forming a great partnership in central midfield.
The predicted starting lineup is full of quality individual players – it’s whether they can all work together in a way that can enable us to climb up the Championship table that remains to be seen.
Although I have included Michael Morrison and Liam Moore in the starting lineup, surely it’s only a matter of time before Tom McIntyre or Tom Holmes push for a starting place. We have known about the quality of McIntyre for a few seasons now – but Holmes has also done well in pre-season. It was a pleasure to watch him in action against Tottenham Hotspur and it would be great to keep both for the foreseeable future.
Rafael has recently been linked with a move away from the club, which could give Luke Southwood his chance to finally be first choice keeper at the club – but I hope we can keep hold of the Brazilian for one more season to allow Southwood to ease in to the Championship, rather than being thrown in to the deep end straight away.
Moving on to the score prediction, I really want to be positive but in this case, I have to be realistic. This is Paunovic’s first game on the touchline – and it will take him quite a bit of time to settle in. Changing CEO is a major event for the club, so is changing the manager. New players are also set to come in over the next month – and the current players will be well aware of that.
I won’t be furious if we lose - and I wish Paunovic all the best success starting with the game at Pride Park.
Score Prediction: Derby County 2 – 1 Reading
Other Championship Fixtures
All fixtures Saturday 12th September (3pm KO) unless stated:
Watford vs Middlesbrough (Friday 11th September 7:45pm KO)
Birmingham City vs Brentford (12:30pm KO)
Wycombe Wanderers vs Rotherham United (12:30pm KO)
Barnsley vs Luton Town
AFC Bournemouth vs Blackburn Rovers
Bristol City vs Coventry City
Cardiff City vs Sheffield Wednesday
Huddersfield Town vs Norwich City
Millwall vs Stoke City
Preston North End vs Swansea City
Queens Park Rangers vs Nottingham Forest