Vital Reading Q & A
1. After narrowly missing out on promotion to the Premier League having lost to us in the play-off final, were you and your fans confident you'd achieve promotion as you did, or did you think you missed your big opportunity?
I think the majority had thought that was our big opportunity to take that giant leap, considering the Championship is getting stronger every season and we would be likely to lose big players, which we did. As always, we started off the season very slowly but post-January, we were near off unstoppable. Brian McDermott adopts a system which is quite the opposite to Brendan Rodger`s renowned Swansea style of play, with a rather more direct yet effective style. To come up as Champions was fantastic, but it wouldn`t have felt as good if we had done it on that Wembley turf over a year ago.
2. How has your transfer activity been over the Summer? Who have you bought and sold?
We haven`t really sold anybody of note really, just getting rid of dead wood that we`re not even going to get a look into the Premier League. Our incomings however have, in my eyes, been very good. The acquisitions of Pavel Pogrebnyak, Danny Guthrie and Garath McCleary have all struck me as wonderful pieces of business, especially as they were all brought in on a free and all have adapted to our squad and the Premier League like a duck to water. Defender Adrian Mariappa also looks a decent signing from Watford having just come into the team, but I am still undecided about Chris Gunter, who has been fairly inconsistent for us so far.
3. Is your squad good enough to stay in the top flight? Where do you expect to finish this season?
On paper and especially Mark Lawrenson (who on his predictions page says the same thing every week), we don`t have a squad with enough quality to survive in the Premier League. However, what we have is a 'team` and not a group of 25 individuals. We have thrived on our team spirit over the years and not have any outlying individuals who ruin our team chemistry, through their poor attitude. I think for us it`s just a matter of winning the games we should and keeping ourselves ahead of the likes of Norwich and Southampton, who I feel have a poorer squads than us. I expect a relegation dog fight, but its too early to tell where we will finish.
4. How has your season started so far? Still no wins, but did you expect this at this stage? Have your performances been, reasons for optimism or do you expect a long, hard season?
Our performances have been inconsistent on the whole. Against Stoke we were very conservative and didn`t get going until the 20 minutes. The Chelsea game I felt we were fantastic and deserved a point, outplaying the European Champions for most of the half. Tottenham and West Brom we`re simply dreadful, while Newcastle was much more promising. I am very optimistic that wins will come if we maintain our belief and keep up the tempo like we did against Newcastle. We will face much worse teams than Tottenham, Chelsea and Newcastle, so there is nothing to beat ourselves about at this moment in time.
5. Brendan Rodgers, did you honestly expect him to be managing Liverpool after his forgetful spell at Reading?
If I`m honest, it doesn`t surprise me. Brendan was a fantastic coach, even as our gaffer, but it was too early for him to take over the helm considering the transition we we`re going through. We just had a disastrous end to the season and lost Steve Coppell, who adopted a very direct approach. In simple terms, our squad was not up to the Rodgers mentality of playing football. I always wanted Brendan to do well wherever he went as he really was a nice bloke, with great ideas and a superb philosophy of how football should be played.
6. What/who are your strengths and weaknesses?
Our strengths, probably similarly to yourselves last season, has to be our wing play. Jobi McAnuff is starting to hit form for us after looking out of his depth in the first couple of games, while lightning-fast Jimmy Kebe is back to full fitness and scored on his return last week. I may be wrong, but Angel Rangel is never a player that has inspired me and with your current left back problems, I hope we exploit that. In terms of weaknesses, conceding 11 goals in 5 games probably tells the story. Defensively, we look extremely poor at times. Our defenders really haven`t been sticking to their marker, which was evident for both goals against Newcastle and twice against Spurs. If Danny Graham has good movement about him, he could be in for a field day.
7. A prediction for the match?
Some Royals fans are seeing this as possible revenge for the play-off final, but I disagree to be honest. We are both in the Premier League now and both squads have been changed around a little. If you would have asked me this a few weeks ago, I would have expected us to get a battering. However, we are due a win at some point and if Ashley Williams isn`t playing, that could make a massive difference to our chances of winning. Brave, but 3-2 to us.
Thanks to Josh for answering our questions. You can visit Vital Reading here