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      OPPOSITION VIEW - READING Q&A


Ahead of Saturday's cup clash at the Madejski Stadium, we spoke with Royals' supporter Dan from the Reading website
The Tilehurst End. He gives us his views on his team's season so far, Brian McDermott, the former Baggies playing for Reading, and more. You can also follow Dan and The Tilehurst End on twitter @TheTilehurstEnd.

You're currently sitting in 16th position in the Championship, how would you rate the season so far? Better or worse than expected?

By pre-season standards it's been a little underwhelming but by September standards it's been awful. In the summer we were hoping for a solid top-half season but given that we were second in early October and have now failed to win an away game since September, it's been an awful collapse. Quite why that happened we'll never know but Steve Clarke paid for the slump (and talking to Fulham) with his job. Now all we want to see is some sort of fight under Brian McDermott and hopefully a platform with which we can build on for next season.

What's the Royals' recent form been like?

At home it's been pretty decent and we've only lost once at the Madejski since Brian returned in December but as mentioned away from home we've been dire. Goals have been the big issue and a return of just five in our last nine league games has contributed to the fact we've only won once during that spell. The cup has been the opposite story and we've hit eleven in three ties so far including five and four in our two home games against Huddersfield and Walsall.

Back in December, Brian McDermott returned to the club to replace Steve Clarke as manager. Was he a popular choice to succeed former Baggies' boss Clarke?

Yes and no. For some fans it was the best possible choice and plenty of Reading fans felt he was harshly sacked in the first place after a terrific first spell in charge. For others it was an appointment that demonstrated a 'lack of ambition' by the club's Thai owners and there's a minority out there that are just waiting for him to fail. His slow start has done little to win over the sceptics but a spot in the quarter-finals of the cup should go some way to turning that around.

How have former Baggies Paul McShane, Matej Vydra and Simon Cox done for you this season?

McShane has been excellent at the heart of the defence and as club captain, although his patchy injury record has already flared up again this season. Matej Vydra has really divided the fanbase with some outraged that we'd spent 2.5m on a loan fee for a man whose netted just two league goals and those who feel he's been let down by his team mates and managers who haven't given him enough support. At the moment he's looking unlikely to be fit enough to start on Saturday. Simon Cox has barely featured this season and had an uneventful loan spell at Bristol City towards the end of last year. Sadly he's run into Steve Clarke twice in his career and it's safe to say Steve isn't a big fan of his. Simon hasn't scored a league goal now since December 2014 and he may well have scored his last at that level.

Talk us through your squad, strengths? weaknesses?

Strength-wise we're pretty well organised at the moment, with a decent ability to hit teams on the break. In terms of weaknesses and as I mentioned we've not been much of a threat in the final third as of late. Our defence has never been the quickest either and Andre Gray should have had a hat-trick last weekend but fluffed his lines. I do worry that Berahino could well have his fun if given the right service this weekend.

Reading player for Albion to watch out for?

Hal Robson-Kanu has a strange love affair with the FA Cup where it's almost as if he's playing in a Wales shirt. He's powerful, reasonably quick and had a decent strike on him so if he's on form he'll be a real threat. Likewise Garath McCleary is a real threat on his day with pace down the wing and a habit of scoring belters from long range. We could also see a full debut given to our new Latvian signing Deniss Rakels who's impressed in his two brief cameos so far.

How important is the game for Reading? How much interest in the game is there from Royals' fans?

Our Championship season is basically over aside from the odd look over our shoulder at the bottom three so a defeat on Saturday would really hurt interest levels for the rest of the campaign. We had an awesome run to Wembley last season which was a great day out for 35,000 or so Royals, aside from yours truly who'd booked his wedding for that day never dreaming we'd be in a semi-final, so to get there again would be excellent. I'm not sure if it's going to be a sell out but the 10 ticket prices should see the crowd top out above the 20 thousand mark for the first time in a long while.

Thoughts on Albion? Any of our players you rate?

Berahino is the obvious one and now January is out of the way you've got that nagging feeling that he'll be keen to turn it on to convince teams he's worth a punt in the summer. James McClean is also someone that can turn it on when he fancies it while you've got plenty of fight in the middle with players like Fletcher. The worry I have is that you'll get a lead because we're pretty awful at breaking down a team that's well organised, something Pulis teams are usually known for.

How are Reading likely to line up on Saturday?

Depends on the fitness of Vydra but if he's out I can see a 4-1-4-1 with newboy Deniss Rakels leading the line. Then you'll probably have a midfield four of Robson-Kanu, Oliver Norwood, Stephen Quinn and Garath McCleary, Michael Hector in front of the back four of Jordan Obita, Jake Cooper, Paul McShane and Chris Gunter. Ali Al-Habsi should keep his place in goal as we've not been rotating our keepers in the cup.

Thoughts on the game and prediction?

It's the sort of game I can see us gutting out a 1-0 win from. Both sides haven't got a lot of flair or form behind them so I don't expect to see an open attacking game. I'll go with my heart and say we'll win 1-0.


 
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