Simeon Pickup (BucksRoyal) from the Reading blog The Tilehurst End was nice enough to answer some questions from us before tonight’s match at Elland Road. We also answered some of his, so be sure to check them out as well!
How has the season been going, and can Reading escape the pull of the relegation spots?
It’s not gone very well at all to be honest! We looked OK for the opening weeks though to be fair, when typically we weren’t too bad, but lacked that confidence and cutting edge to actually consistently put points on the board. However, despite a few wins here and there, we’ve not seen any major improvements, which is largely explained by constant injury problems (such as to key players Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Saeid Ezatolahi) and low morale.
Nonetheless, I still we should have just about enough to stay up, although it could depend on those injuries clearing up and new recruits in January giving us a mid-season boost. Most of this squad remembers last season’s close shave with relegation and you’d hope that would spur them on to avoiding that fate this time around, but we’ve not seen much fight so far.
Are the results the lack of investment or ambition by the owners, or have the players and manager just lost the plot?
Former CEO Ron Gourlay (a particularly unpopular man in these parts) suggested Reading had spent all they could in the summer due to financial fair play, but the recruitment was still largely uninspiring. Strikers Sam Baldock (£2.5m) and Marc McNulty (£1.5m) haven’t been among the goals, whereas problems with midfield balance and creativity weren’t properly addressed.
The Chinese billionaire owners do seem to care about the club - despite mostly being physically absent - but Reading FC is in a mess from top to bottom at the moment. That hasn’t happened overnight, and won’t be solved quickly, so I’m loath to lay the finger of blame at them too firmly.
On the whole, out recruitment (both of players and managers) has been patchy at best for years now, leaving us with a disjoined squad that doesn’t fit a coherent plan or philosophy. Individually a lot of these players are actually pretty good, but collectively they’re not up to much.
How safe is Paul Clement?
It’s hard to say really. The owners gave Jaap Stam a lot of time to turn things around last season so, by that metric at least, Clement should be quite safe for the time being. That said, the start to the season has been very poor (other fans will understandably use more coarse language than that), and Clement lost a key ally when Ron Gourlay resigned his position as CEO last week - they worked together at Chelsea. Gourlay’s replacement, whoever he is, may not be a patient chap.
Who should Leeds fans look out for, who is the danger man for Reading?
Reading players have a tendency to go missing, so I can’t give you any one name with much certainty, but Yakou Meite is the best answer. We signed him in the summer of 2016 from PSG’s academy and, after two frustrating years, he’s finally playing regularly in the first team (having moved from the wing to up top) and is scoring goals. He’s not the best technically, and can struggle to hold the ball up for his teammates, but he’s a fantastic finisher with his head and favoured left boot.
Otherwise, Leandro Bacuna is strong and energetic in the middle, making driving runs forward to get us up the pitch, and John Swift can be an effective playmaker on his day.
Predict the score.
3-1 to Leeds United. Former Oxford United man Kemar Roofe will inevitably score, but Yakou Meite will grab a consolation to add to his tally.