Reading return to the Select Car Leasing Stadium this afternoon as they take on a West Bromwich Albion side who also have little to play for.
Although the Baggies went unbeaten in their opening 10 league matches of the season, they were unable to build on this and have performed poorly for much of 2021/22. With this, they will be looking to repay their fans during their last match on the road this season ahead of a potential rebuild in the summer. The Royals are also facing a rebuild, so is this game a pointless one with momentum potentially meaningless now going into next term?
For both sides, perhaps it’s a good chance to see some of their youngsters in action.
And ahead of this weekend’s tie, we have all the facts and stats you need to know.
What? Championship Matchday 45
Who? West Bromwich Albion
Where? The Hawthorns
When? Saturday 30th April 2022
Opposition Manager? Steve Bruce
There are a few youngsters I would like to see in this match including Michael Stickland, Kelvin Abrefa, Claudio Osorio, Kian Leavy, Mamadi Camara, Jahmari Clarke and Nahum Melvin-Lambert, on the condition they are remaining at the club beyond the summer. It may also be worth giving Jokull Andresson a go too - and Tyrell Ashcroft did well enough when he broke into the first team.
However, it may be difficult fitting the latter into the starting lineup with Abrefa potentially available too. One way you could fit both in is having Abrefa at RCB and Ashcroft at wing-back, though that could leave us vulnerable with their inexperience.
Regardless of this, it’s a good chance to give some of the younger players a go and we could need a few of them to step up next season. At this point, it wouldn’t make sense not to experiment.
West Bromwich Albion:
Although it could be argued that there’s plenty of Premier League quality in their squad still, everything seems to have gone stale at The Hawthorns and this is why a rebuild is arguably needed in the West Midlands. Whether they can do this effectively and remain within the EFL’s financial rules remains to be seen - but they are a club that has potential if they can retain some of their most promising young players.
Taylor Gardner-Hickman is one of those alongside Tom Fellows and Reyes Cleary, though they may face a considerable battle to keep the latter at the club with teams across Europe thought to be interested in his signature.
Unfortunately, they now have Ron Gourlay as CEO, so it will be interesting to see what happens. For their sake, you hope he has learnt from mistakes made at the Select Car Leasing Stadium but his appointment of Steve Bruce isn’t exactly going to plan at this stage. Their problems don’t just boil down to the manager though, so in this sense, you have to cut Bruce some slack.
One to Watch: Taylor Gardner-Hickman
Albion don’t have a huge amount of squad depth in some areas including right wing-back and central midfield, allowing Gardner-Hickman to break into the first team and he has become one of the Baggies’ few shining lights this term.
Not only can he operate effectively in place of Darnell Furlong at wing-back - but he can also play in the middle of the park and has shown exactly why the club needs to build around some of their younger players.
Getting him tied down to fresh terms at the end of last year was a shrewd move and that can allow them to either keep him for the long term or cash in for a sizeable sum. Choosing the former option would be wise though in their quest to rebuild but also retain some form of stability.
The Last Meeting
West Bromwich Albion 1-0 Reading
- Reading have kept just one clean sheet during Ince’s 12 matches in charge. That isn’t exactly ideal and it’s something to work on in the summer.
- The Royals have gone winless in their last five meetings against today’s opponents. The last victory came in the FA Cup back in February 2016, with Paul McShane, Michael Hector and Lucas Piazon getting on the scoresheet.
- West Brom have scored just 47 goals in 44 league games this term. That’s no surprise considering how poor they were in the final third under Valerien Ismael.
- Albion have won just four of their 15 league matches under current boss Bruce, not exactly a brilliant record considering they were plying their trade in the top tier last season.
My Reading lineup: Nyland, Yiadom, Thomas, Morrison, Abrefa, Ashcroft, McIntyre, Laurent, Ejaria, Camara, Joao
Although it was tempting to put Andresson in goal, Orjan Nyland remains between the sticks as he looks to earn a new deal in Berkshire and a man of his experience is probably needed in the goalkeeping department next season, whether it’s the Norwegian or not. Andresson could be considered for Luton though.
At left wing-back, Andy Yiadom switched over to this side to make room for others, with Baba Rahman unlikely to return and Ethan Bristow perhaps not good enough to make the first team at this stage. In fact, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the latter left in the summer.
Ashcroft starts on the right, perhaps suiting a wing-back role more than a more defensive position. Abrefa starts behind him having operated as both a centre-back and a right-back before - and if we could potentially convert him into a right centre-back like Middlesbrough have done with Anfernee Dijksteel - that could be interesting.
Michael Morrison provides experience at the heart of the back three and Terell Thomas gets an opportunity to shine as well, something that will allow Paul Ince to judge whether he should earn a new deal or not.
Thomas’ presence should enable Tom McIntyre to move into midfield and he joins Josh Laurent with Danny Drinkwater probably not returning to the SCL in the summer. And if we’re going for a 3-4-2-1, let’s have Ovie Ejaria playing in a slightly more central role. That’s where he could be most effective - and he starts alongside Mamadi Camara who may or may not remain at the club. If he isn’t, it would be ideal if someone else stepped in or a 3-4-1-2 system could be in place instead.
Up top, Lucas Joao gets the nod with the forward contracted to the club beyond the end of the summer. He can afford to come off at some point though with safety now secured.
Score Prediction: Reading 0-2 West Brom
Other Championship Fixtures
All games get underway at 3pm this afternoon unless stated:
Barnsley vs Preston North End (12:30pm KO)
Blackburn Rovers vs AFC Bournemouth
Blackpool vs Derby County
Bristol City vs Hull City
Cardiff City vs Birmingham City
Coventry City vs Huddersfield Town
Middlesbrough vs Stoke City
Millwall vs Peterborough United
Nottingham Forest vs Swansea City
Fulham vs Luton Town (Monday 2nd May; 5:15pm KO)