Ahead of our home clash with Reading on Saturday I had a chat with Simeon Pickup, editor of the Reading fansite “The Tilehurst End”.
Hi Simeon. So, first off, have you recovered from the midweek defeat to Wolves yet?
Simeon: Haha! Usually it would take me quite a while to get over an abject performance and a 3-0 thrashing, but I wasn’t too surprised to see it happen at the best side in the league, so I’m trying not to read too much into the match.
As we experienced, when Wolves are in full flow they’re a force to be reckoned with. The speed of passing and movement is a lot to deal with.
Exactly. And Reading’s defending has been so bad recently that I’m not surprised we couldn’t deal with them!
Many teams have struggled to bounce back the following season after play-off disappointment. Were you expecting this season to have gone the way it has or are Reading fans as surprised as the rest of football is that you’ve struggled so much this year?
We’re all very surprised by it. Despite the play-off disappointment, Reading fans were hopeful of a top six finish after keeping Jaap Stam and investing a lot of money into the team. That said, we knew we’d suffer from the lack of a new striker, so our inability to bring in Norwich man Oliveira was particularly galling. The importance of not getting that striker has only become more evident as the season has gone on.
If it helps he hasn’t exactly pulled up trees for us this season either!
Perhaps you wish you’d taken the £8m plus offer from us!
At the time I was pleased we didn’t. Now I might give a different answer!
So what has changed this season for Reading? Is it just the lack of a striker?
On the whole, the team isn’t actually that much different – we create a similarly low number of chances and can’t defend that well – but we’ve lost our clinical edge.
Ali Al-Habsi, Danny Williams and Yann Kermorgant were key to that last season, providing brilliant goalkeeping, strength in the midfield and goals respectively. However, they’ve all been unavailable this season due to leaving or being injured, and just haven’t been replaced.
Stam’s had to adapt to that, and hasn’t managed it – he’s stubbornly stuck to the possession system despite other teams countering it quite easily.
Also, key injuries haven’t helped. We’ve been unable to play a proper back four regularly, whilst John Swift’s goalscoring and creativity has been hugely missed.
How secure is Jaap Stam’s position?
After one win in eighteen, we’re amazed he’s not been sacked already, and some fans are even wondering if the owners are completely oblivious to the state the team is in.
Stam’s also alienated a lot of fans with an arrogant attitude in post-match interviews – seemingly not willing to accept any blame for how bad the team is at the moment.
You’ve now gone eight games without a win, and as you say, have only one win in eighteen. Are you familiar with the phrase “Along Came Norwich?”
I’m not, no, but if it means you’re good at breaking other teams’ bad runs, we’ve a similar record!
Exhibit a) Birmingham had won no away games at all this season, then they came to the Madejski and were gifted three points…
We have an awful habit of being the fall guys and breaking other teams’ poor runs. It’s such a curse one of our fellow fan’s sites is even named Along Came Norwich. Saturday could be your day!
How much have you seen of Norwich and do you have a view of the changes that the club has made with a Sporting Director in charge of squad building and a coach responsible for the first team only?
I haven’t followed Norwich or the changes behind the scenes too much, but from my limited knowledge, you seem to be going through some natural teething stages. Stick with the project long-term and it’ll pay off. Rome wasn’t built in a day, etc etc.
My biggest concern for you is whether or not you can keep Maddison, who I’ve been very impressed with. Premier League clubs will inevitably come calling in the summer.
I think we’re all realistic enough to know that a youngster who is playing as well as he is won’t last long outside the PL. The choice of club will be interesting though as I think he’s sharp enough not to go to a big club where he won’t get regular football. He’s also unlikely to jump at any offer only to come back down again. It’s not so much about whether Maddison leaves, it’s who to, and how well we can spend the money we get for him.
We have to talk about it. Norwich 7, Reading 1, last season. Bizarre game. What was the Reading view?
Although it was horrific from a Reading point of view, it wasn’t completely unprecedented. We’d already gone to Newcastle, Brentford and Fulham and been trashed on each occasion – bizarre that a team finishing in third were still prone to getting tonked. Luckily, one of our best away performances of the season came the following week (3-1 at Villa), so we could move on pretty quickly.
What formation and tactics are we likely to see at Carrow Road on Saturday?
It’s been team selection roulette recently, so it’s hard to give a good prediction. At a push, I guess Reading will stick to 4-3-3 and their possession system but be quite happy to go long when the defence is put under pressure.
Who do we have to worry about?
To be honest, probably no-one. At a push, Modou Barrow has pace in abundance and loves to run at a defence, whilst Jon Dadi Bodvarsson is our main goal threat.
What’s your score guess?
Norwich 1-1 Reading. Oliveira to score at each end!
You have more faith in our ability to score at home than I do!
That was great, thanks Simeon.