Behind Enemy Lines: Reading

Behind Enemy Lines: Reading

After getting the 3 points and a clean sheet (remember them?!) against West Ham midweek, United travel to newly promoted Reading hoping to stay top of the league ahead of next weekends derby.

Ahead of the game I spoke to Reading fan Dave Stevens on the Royals’ season so far, McDermott and “the Pog”.

Thanks to Dave for his time. You can follow him on Twitter here

What are your thoughts on your start to the season?

Pretty terrible. From opening day relief (“well, Stoke are a decent side…”) to midweek anger (“the officials have ruined that game”) against Chelsea, to gradually seeing wins become draws and losses, behind the scenes spats (Pearce, Guthrie) take priority over team needs, and a real lack of quality in our play. The standout players from the breathtaking season we had last time out have not performed this season, and if not for a similarly poor start from those around us, we’d be cut well adrift. Add to that today’s news that one of the few shining lights of this season, Goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, is out for the season and it makes for a disappointing return to the top flight.

Is there any sense of pressure on McDermott, like there appears to be with Adkins, or do you think that he will have the full backing of the club for the full season regardless of your final position?

The fans are split, with some backing him and blaming the club, the board, the new owner, the old owner, or the players themselves, while others are suggesting its time for change. The latter camp are similarly split between those who so badly wish he can turn things around but fear he can’t and its time to turn to someone who’s managed successfully in the premier league, and those who have little good to say about him this season and want him gone yesterday.

The owners and the chairman are publicly backing him and we’ve not been too rash with such decisions in the past, though you have to imagine there’s some disquiet in the boardroom each time we post up 1 or 0 points each week. There are also questions around the level of investment the new owners are willing to put in, or indeed have available to put in. Dependent on that, we may see them stick with McDermott come what may, targeting the parachute payments as a decent income while rebuilding to have another go in a couple of years.

What have you made of your new signings so far?

Pogrebnyak and Guthrie excited me when announced. The Pog was initially showing signs that I was right to be excited, while Guthrie was soon shut out in the cold for speaking his mind about our style of play (worse still, he had a point). As our form dipped, Pogrebnyak followed suit and is currently being used as an impact sub, which doesn’t suit him at all. McCleary and Gunther didn’t have me jumping up and down, but the former has been a nice surprise- looks capable at this level, looks like he cares. The latter, while not as bad as some have made out, leaves a lot to be desired and was at fault for at least 2 of Wigan’s goals this past weekend. Mariappa has been good when he’s played but has been left out until this Tuesday just gone, not sure why. Shorey coming back initially bothered me, don’t know of too many return success stories and the circumstances of his final season with us and how he conducted himself having decided he wanted to leave did nothing to change my mind. However, he’s up there in the top 3 best performers of the season thus far and another rare positive. Taylor has just come in as cover and I doubt we’ll see much of him (though Federici has been poor).

How far do you think the team is from what you would like to see? Are there are positions you’d like to see strengthened in January?

A country mile, sadly. So much gratitude and respect for what they did last season but sorely ill-equipped for this league. Our central midfield (albeit injury ravaged) is just a one stop possession conceding horror show, our captain is leading no one, our defence is half excellent (Shorey, Morrisson) half terrible (Gorkks, Gunther), our Goalkeeper is a liability, our strikers aren’t scoring enough.

Bare minimum in January I’d like to see a pacey winger with good delivery and a good shot, a centre back proven at this level (assuming we continue the farcical treatment of our reigning player of the season, centre back Alex Pearce), a striker with a proven record of 10+ goals a season in this league, a and, with today’s news re: McCarthy, a goalkeeper who’s done alright in the top flight (Not Rob Green please). And for us to start playing Danny Guthrie. But then I also want a few million quid in the bank and that’s not going to happen either!

What was your view on Jason Roberts’, and ultimately Rio Ferdinand as well, refusal to wear the Kick it Out t-shirt?

Supported them 100%. Putting on a t shirt does nothing. Mention Kick it out to any football fan of the Premier League era and they’ll tell you what it is. Awareness isn’t a problem. Action is. That we still find ourselves, in 2012, dealing with racism amongst players, from the fans, from any walk of life, is unthinkable – and yet it’s the reality. Kick it out, like so many other such initiatives, started out with great intentions and was a great idea. But they aren’t doing enough to combat this social disease that extends beyond football and in to the core of public opinion. Roberts, Ferdinand, Richards and others who boycotted the tshirt did more to bring the subject in to talking points than the campaign itself has in some time.

Onto the game, who do you think will win and what will the score be?

My heart longs for a shock Reading win that acts as a catalyst for our season, but my head joins the rest of the conscious world in predicting a routine win for United. We’ve been saying its only a matter of time before we get a hiding and I think this may be it. 4-1 to the visitors, and another ruined Saturday for those of us who love this club.

You may not have many but have you got any favourite memories of this fixture?

In the league, our first season in the Premier League 06/07 was a cracker at home. We led through a Doyle penalty, looked to be holding on, then conceded an equalizer through a superb run and finish by Ronaldo, that split our team apart. That we held on for a point was just about enough to enjoy the day.

The FA cup games the same season were decent too, Brynjar Gunnarsson had a fine runout.

Where will you cause United the most problems?

I don’t think it’ll be on the pitch, sadly. If United have an off day, we might threaten from set pieces but I don’t think Fergie will need to bring the hair dryer this weekend.

Which United players will cause you the most problems?

RVP (if fit) and Hernandez both have pace, movement and striking ability that we will struggle to contain (see the Wigan game for examples). The united midfield will overrun ours and their centre backs will likely have no problem mopping up our long balls.

Where will you finish this season?

Sadly, in one of the three spots no one wants is most likely. If we make changes in January and get a bit of luck, we could scrape 17th which would feel like Champions League qualification at this point. Anything above that would feel like winning the league but is just as likely.

Where will United finish this season?

They’ll be up there in the mix as usual but I don’t feel they’re up to their best this season. 2nd potentially but I’ll go with 3rd.


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