Another edition of Leeds Against The World Q&As with one of our fellow SBNation football blogs. This time, Simeon Pickup of the Reading FC blog The Tilehurst End was nice enough to answer a few of our questions about Reading and how things have gone since the two clubs last met.
Through It All Together: This season has been the exact opposite of last season for Reading. Does Jaap Stam survive the summer, or will both he and the club think it’s best to move on?
The Tilehurst End: Going by the dire run that Reading are on at the moment - just one league win in their last 15, we’re scratching our heads as to why he’s not been sacked already. Although there were calls for him to go back in September and October, a severe slump from December onwards has locked Reading into a relegation battle, with Jaap Stam seemingly unable to work out how to get us out of this mess. He’s not been helped by shoddy recruitment and disruptive injury problems, but his tactics are ineffective, whilst the players are critically low on motivation and organisation. That said, our owners seem to be unmoved (we’ve no clue why), so are yet to wield the axe. Whether Reading stay up or go down, it’s likely that this summer will bring the end for Jaap Stam.
TIAT: Who or what has been a bright spot so far this season?
TTE: Two words: Modou Barrow. The former Leeds man has been a spark of pacey brilliance in the darkness this season, providing the belief, creativity (and frankly goals) that no-one else does. His speed, and a desire to use it, gives Reading a whole new dimension both on the counter and in breaking teams down - and we’ve massively struggled when he’s not been in the team. He has a knack of coming up with the goods even when the rest of the side isn’t - Tuesday’s opener against Bolton a good example of that. Excluding him, there’s not much to write home about but I’ll add in youngsters Omar Richards (20), Any Rinomhota (20), Sam Smith (19), Danny Loader (17) and Tom Holmes (17) who have made their debuts this season - all big talents who could be the future of the football club if they’re given a chance long-term.
TIAT: Do you think Reading are in any risk of relegation, or will the clubs below them continue to do poorly?
TTE: Absolutely. At the moment, we’re relying on the theory of three teams being worse than us at the end of the season, but given our prior-mentioned form I’m struggling to see that being the case. The football is so bad at the moment that I can’t see where our next three points will come from. Frustratingly, safety is well within our hands, but we seem intent on throwing it away.
TIAT: How have the crowds and atmosphere been at the Madejski Stadium?
TTE: Dire. Attendance at the Madejski Stadium hadn’t dipped below 10,000 since 1999, but it’s happened twice in consecutive games going into Saturday. Reading fans aren’t exactly known for their atmosphere, but the tepid, soul-sucking nature of recent performances has been sucking any optimism left out of the supporters. Stam’s insistence on possession football - often to the extent of knocking the ball around the back constantly whilst losing - has isolated fans young and old and driven them away. That said, the last few home games has seen a noticeable change in mood from the home crowd - rather than endlessly booing, they’ve recognised the need to vocally back the team at key moments to push them over the line. It’s not worked.
TIAT: Predict the score.
TTE: Reading 1-2 Leeds United. The scoreline will flatter us.