clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Town End 2022/23 Preview: Hull City, Birmingham City, Reading

Featuring two fans who think their teams will struggle - again - and one who very much doesn’t.

Reading v Birmingham City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

You can find The Likes Of Hull on Twitter @TheLikesOfHull.

How bright does the future look after Acun Ilıcalı’s January takeover?

I guess time will tell and I’m kind of in the camp that says it’s neither time for a statue nor to try to pull apart our every move. He’s a charismatic guy and the fans are optimistic as a fanbase for the first time in probably seven seasons; that shouldn’t be underestimated. He’s certainly tuned into the right things to say to the fans and we’re bringing in some exciting prospects.

Is Shota Arveladze the right man to take Hull forward?

His points per game weren’t hugely different to Grant McCann but then it wasn’t really his team. Towards the end we got some flashes of a different style though. The Championship as you know is unforgiving and the next three months or so will be telling.

How would you sum up last season?

“Waiting for Godot”

We knew about the takeover for a long time so when it finally came in January it almost created two seasons. The waiting though was excruciating at times. I do think we’d have stayed up either way though and Grant McCann deserves credit for doing that with very limited resources. He’s was a divisive figure at City but in bringing in players like Lewie Coyle, Nathan Baxter, Sean McCloughlin and Alfie Jones to go alongside youth players like KLP, Brandon Fleming and Jacob Greaves was some feat.

What are your general expectations for this season?

Looking up and not down the table. Play-offs for some but for me, just being in touch with the top six is fine.

Who’s your player to look out for?

It’s hard as we’ll have a ton we haven’t seen so much of so I’ll say Allahyar Sayyadmanesh, he got better and better on loan last year from Fenerbache, I think he’s some talent.

A younger name that could break through?

That’s a tough one as two did last year already in Greaves and Fleming, there’s not an obvious choice. I’ll go for a wildcard and say that if Billy Chadwick gets fit (he was injured last year on loan at Linfield) he’s a real talent. Andy Smith is also a huge prospect after helping Grimsby go back to the football league but I think our centre back room is pretty stacked.

Where will you finish?


Gabriel Sutton tweets from @GabSutton.

What did you make of Lee Bowyer’s exit?

I really appreciate what Bowyer has done for Blues, in a playing and managing capacity. He was a big part of our 2011 Carling Cup win and, as boss, kept us up comfortably from a tight spot in 20/21, and again last season we weren’t once fearing the drop.

That, though, was partly down to the issues with the dogfight, which Reading fans know all too well about.

As the season went on, I increasingly had issues with the standards Bowyer was setting for the club. He said performances were good when they weren’t. He said players are irreplaceable when they aren’t. For all our issues, I still want a manager driving standards.

How worried are you about the Blues’ ownership situation?

Very. Paul Richardson and Maxi Lopez are reportedly set to appoint Matt Southall as CEO - that bloke shouldn’t be involved in football. It’s ominous, to say the least.

I would take being relegated right now, if you could guarantee me that come May, Blues will have owners who care about the club, who have a plan, who have a reasonable amount of money and will put us on the right path.

How would you sum up last season?

It started with so much promise. There were some really good performances in the first few months of the campaign, and it felt like we had something approaching a settled XI.

Then we got loads of suspensions and injuries and never had all our best players on the field simultaneously, which led to some inconsistency in team selection and that translated into results.

What are your general expectations for this season?

Brutally, my general expectations are that we’ll get relegated.

I hate to say it, but I’m actually a little bit apathetic about what happens on the pitch because it feels irrelevant until we get new owners, even if in reality it isn’t entirely. I just want to feel like I’ve got a club to believe in again, a club that communicates, a club that’s got a heart, a soul, a passion.

Honestly, covering lower leagues, there’s times when I feel more connected to clubs like Accrington Stanley and others, because you feel like they actually stand for something.

I’m still a Bluenose because I was born that way and that’ll never leave me, but I find it so difficult to feel connected to my club these days.

Who’s your player to look out for?

Dion Sanderson. I’m amazed we got him back, as opposed to him being used by Wolves this season or getting a higher-end Championship move. He’s quick, strong and good on the ball. Can play anywhere on the right of defence, I’d imagine we’ll have him on the right of a back three.

A younger name that could break through?

Jordan James. The 18-year-old enjoyed a real breakthrough season last year and is an impressive all-rounder. I’m hoping he can kick on again.

Where will you finish?


Jacob South Klein can be found on Twitter @JacobSouthKlein.

Do you think Paul Ince is the right man to take us forward?

In the long term? Nah. In the mid-to-short term? Maybe…?

Anyway: like it or not, Paul’s here to stay. Or at least until the Dais get jittery in the run-up to Christmas and un-festively replace him with Tim Sherwood*.

When you strip back all the eyebrow-raising soundbites, and the guff about him not seeing the point of physiotherapists and whatnot, Ince Sr is… fine. He’s not going to win any awards for tactical innovation, nor do we need him to. He did just enough to inspire a squad of out-of-contract so-so players across the line last season, and hopefully can repeat the trick this term.

Current and prospective players cite the Guv’nor’s pedigree of captaining the national side as an attraction, and ultimately, they are the ones who need the most impressing day in and day out – not necessarily the fans.

Ince is a serviceable stop-gap manager, perfectly emblematic of a squad brimming with serviceable stop-gap players. Quite handy that his son Thomas is a bit of a baller, to boot.

*It’s going to be Mark Bowen again, realistically.

How confident are you about the running of the club behind the scenes at the moment?

In short: not very. The dilapidated shell that is Reading FC is still very much a crumbling/crumbled institution, and that withered husk won’t magically become juicy and succulent again overnight. The loss of our prized Category One academy status is a bitter pill to swallow, in particular.

That said, as of this summer, a more efficient and transparent management structure is seemingly being put in place once again. This marks a notable improvement on the previous power pyramid of [checks notes] um, “?¿?¿?¿?¿?”.

Headline-wise, Wales’ and Dai Yonge’s favourite son Mark Bowen is back upstairs pulling some strings, which makes for an intriguing behind-the-scenes subplot.

So far, the newly recruited recruitment team (now that a certain super-agent has been super-ceded to some extent) is working wonders on a shoestring budget, with quality arrivals such as Jeff Hendrick and Sam Hutchinson representing astute business.

For the club management to truly satisfy supporters, the fans will need to see evidence of an ongoing commitment to better, no-BS communication.

How would you sum up last season?

Unprecedentedly chaotic. An unrelentingly turgid soap opera.

A year that managed to crowbar in anniversary celebrations, a long-brewed financial disasterclass, supporter protests, a scarcely believable injury crisis, Covid-related match postponements, an overdue managerial sacking… we could be here a while. Yet, at a time of mass disillusionment with the direction of the club - coupled with historically turgid on-pitch results - 21/22 also somehow managed to produce a frugal smattering of the most memorable individual moments of recent seasons. (Looking at you, Tom McIntyre.)

January was especially bleak, with more losses than a crypto-bro’s most twisted, flaming-hot Cheeto-infused nightmares. For the longest time, all the portents pointed to an apocalyptically damaging relegation, only for it to be staved off by the skin of our white and blue teeth. There’s a Bluetooth joke in here about dodgy connections between club and fan that I can’t quite get to work.

Without factoring in deductions, and on points gained alone (i.e. not many), Reading should have dropped down to League One – and it is for that reason I propose that we erect a towering Mount Rushmore-style effigy of Mel Morris and Wayne Rooney next to B&Q.

Oh: and we briefly got to witness Actual Andy Carroll play in the famous hoops. That was a thing that happened.

What are your general expectations for this season?


Perhaps if I manifest it hard enough via the power of positive thought, there’s a chance we might not actually get relegated.

Here goes nothing:

don’tgetrelegateddon’tgetrelegateddon’tgetrelegateddon’tgetrelegated don’tgetrelegateddon’tgetrelegateddon’tgetrelegateddon’tgetrelegated don’tgetrelegateddon’tgetrelegateddon’tgetrelegateddon’tgetrelegated don’tgetrelegateddon’tgetrelegateddon’tgetrelegateddon’tgetrelegated don’tgetrelegateddon’tgetrelegateddon’tgetrelegateddon’tgetrelegated don’tgetrelegateddon’tgetrelegateddon’tgetrelegateddon’tgetrelegated

And now: we pray.

Who’s your player to look out for?

The long-dreaded, inevitable loss of John Swift (who hasn’t died, and instead simply departed on a free transfer to West Bromwich Albion) has left a gaping vacancy for creative talent in the middle of the pitch. Step up, Ovie Ejaria.

Ovie is due a big season. For Reading’s sake, as well as his own.

In pre-season, Ejaria has mainly been deployed in a more influential central role, which arguably plays to his natural strengths more than his (Covid-impacted, injury-afflicted) cameos as an auxiliary winger did last season.

*If* Paul Ince can coax a regular and reliable tune out of our bewitching, gangly, short-socked prince this campaign, and if Ovie himself can discover some semblance of an end-product, then Reading fans will be quickly re-won over. He is our most frustrating yet most preposterously, dazzlingly talented player, and one of the most obvious candidates to address our likely shortage of assists.

Hopefully we’re in for a year of Ejari-yah, rather than Ejari-argh.

A younger name that could break through?

After whetting our whistle of homegrown goals last year: it’s finally JahmariSZN, baby.

Jahmari Clarke is the latest in a long line of Reading-based Reggae Boyz, and I fully back him to follow up his vital double haul against Birmingham in 21/22 with a solid season this time out. The fresh-faced, brace-faced 18-year-old is rated by Paul Ince and is currently competing against an injury-prone Lucas Joao/Yakou Meite double-act - plus an aging Shane Long - for a starting berth.

Lovely lad with his head screwed on tight, too.

Where will we finish?

21st, which would be mission accomplished. That mission namely being: Operation Cling On To Our Precarious Championship Status So That We Can Splurge The Cash In 23/24 And Flirt With Financial Oblivion Once Again.