For this week’s preview, I’m delighted to be joined by Simeon Pickup, assistant editor of The Tilehurst End – an award-nominated, independent fan blog covering all things Reading.
Following the handcuffed small talk, I delved straight into proceedings. The relationship between the two clubs (or at least the fans) has deteriorated somewhat following Reading’s relentless chase of Nelson Oliveira and as host I was keen to clear the air with the Royals, and asked Simeon to extend his hand of forgiveness and build a bridge. I think his response will please most…
Simeon: To hopefully extend the olive branch to Norwich fans, I’ll say that Carrow Road is a beautiful piece of architecture, whereas Portman Road pales in comparison.
In all seriousness, having any kind of rivalry between our clubs seems very odd – geographically, we’re nowhere near each other, and we’ve had few squabbles over the years. I’m sure that a good game of football on Saturday evening will smooth things out nicely.
In the style of a first date, I was keen to establish some common ground, and as I’m somewhat uneducated on Reading’s history, I asked him whether any ex-Canaries had shone in Berkshire, and he named quite a favourable one… Our affiliation for Robert Fleck could help establish middle ground… maybe…
I’ll also note an appreciation for former Norwich City player Robert Fleck who I believe scored about 50 goals for you in the 1980s and 1990s. He earned his place in Reading history books in August 1998 when he netted against Luton Town in the first ever game at The Madejski Stadium.
The elephant in the room couldn’t be ignored however, and Simeon and I began to discuss Nelson Oliveria. I asked for his opinion of Sone Aluko, a man who has ended up at the Madejski as oppose to the aforementioned Portuguese front man. Fair to say he is hardly impressed with the new man.
The club very probably wanted both those players, but for whatever reason they seemed to prioritise Aluko. So far, that’s looked like a very poor decision; Reading only have one fit senior striker at the moment, and are massively struggling for goals.
I’m a big fan of Sone Aluko, although he hasn’t started Reading life that quickly, but in hindsight going for Nelson Oliveira would have been the wiser choice.
At this point, I was keen to stop all flirtation of Oliveira from Simeon’s part and felt we needed to stray away from the Portuguese striker. He reluctantly agreed, and I continued leading the conversion onto a happier period between the two clubs.
We saw Reading fans taunting Ipswich fans with a Canaries shirt upon their trip to the Madejski, and here Simeon went on to tell me more, along with who Norwich fans could return the favour too…
Haha, I believe it was done in Y26 (the block in the East Stand nearest the away contingent) during our 2-1 win last season – they’re a naughty bunch in Y26.
We don’t really have any close rivals in the division, so holding up a Reading shirt wouldn’t have the same impact as anything involving the Norwich/Ipswich rivalry. We’d love it if you could wave the blue and white hoops at Oxford, Swindon or Aldershot if you draw them in the cup but, if you don’t, doing it to Fulham when you play them on March 30 would go down a treat.
A lot has been made of Delia’s ownership of the club recently, and as a fan who has endured a change in ownership, from the stability of John Madejski to Asian alternatives, I was keen to see how he felt on the change at the top. I also asked him for advice, should Norwich seek to explore that particular avenue.
So far, so good. Despite their vast wealth, the Dais have been cautious in their spending, and have prioritised investment behind the scenes over assembling an army of mercenaries. Reading likely won’t see the fruits of this investment for a couple of years at least.
Because owners differ so vastly from club to club, there’s not much that Norwich can take directly from our takeover. The only advice that I would give to the powers-that-be at Carrow Road is to only accept investment on their terms. Wait for the right sugar daddy, rather than rushing for the cash.
Talk then turned back to matters on the pitch. Jaap Stam’s men have endured a slow start to the campaign amidst expectation from the stands, and I asked about the Royals start to the season.
The squad has been disrupted by high profile departures (Ali Al-Habsi and Danny Williams), key injuries (Jordan Obita and last year’s top scorer Yann Kermorgant) and a lot of arrivals.
At the moment, we’re very much struggling to turn our possession dominance in games into goals. Opposition sides seem to have worked out how to negate our attack, and Stam hasn’t adjusted tactics accordingly. The play is too slow and too predictable
But the Berkshire club and its supporters are still seemingly behind Stam.
The supporters are starting to have doubts over Stam’s long-term future, particularly if things continue as they are, but the general consensus seems to be that he deserves time to turn things around. In a Twitter poll that The Tilehurst End ran a few days ago, 73% of fans gave complete or partial backing to him, and only 12% said they’d had enough.
Simeon was brutally honest upon my questioning of confidence upon City’s arrival. I asked him if the Royal’s fans were confident of victory on Saturday.
In a word, no. Reading are on a very bad run at the moment, confidence is low and faith in the manager is starting to wane. I probably speak for most Reading fans in saying that we’ll be very happy with a score draw.
I then passed the metaphorical microphone to Simeon for some advertisement of his excellent website. He delivered wonderfully.
We’re an award-nominated, independent fan blog that covers pretty much everything Reading FC-related. Everyone involved with the site writes for the love of the club, so everything you see on the blog is the fruits of the labours of honest, normal Royals fans.
Content wise, we cover an awful lot: game previews, match reports, player ratings, general news and plenty of original analysis and opinion, which I’m particularly proud of. We also often open the floor to guest writers to keep things fresh.
Oh, and we have a fantastic podcast. Everyone loves podcasts, right?
A podcast, now there’s some food for thought…
To conclude our tête-à-tête, I asked him the generic stuff – how would Reading line up, score predication, all that jazz.
Jaap Stam’s team selection has been borderline bizarre recently, to the extent that I honestly can’t tell you if we’ll start with a striker or not.
However, assuming that he does bring one in, I’ll predict a 3-5-2 formation, lining up as follows:
Paul McShane, Liam Moore, Tiago Ilori
Chris Gunter, Dave Edwards, Joey van den Berg, Liam Kelly, Tyler Blackett
Sone Aluko, Jon Dadi Bodvarsson
We agreed on a score draw, and he rode off into the sunset. It was wonderful to chat to Simeon Pickup from The Tilehurst End, and it’s hopefully something we can recreate soon. A huge thank you to him for being our guest this week.