by Bob Lethaby
As a Reading fan I found myself in quite illustrious company on transfer deadline day, joining Liverpool and Arsenal fans in a sense of disappointment on a day when nothing happened at our club, despite the alleged riches coming in from Russian billionaires. Reading fans are torn between two divisions at the moment, with some wanting the Russian’s to splash cash, whilst others are delighted with the continued frugality that has stabilised the club as others, notably Portsmouth, have collapsed into oblivion. Personally, I would have liked to have seen a semi-marquee signing like Jordan Rhodes coming to the Madjeski Stadium, but it is worth remembering that a lot of our business was done early and the new signings such as Pogbrebynak and McCleary have looked the real deal in the few games we have played so far.
On the pitch it is hard to ascertain our credibility as Premier League club as we have played just two matches courtesy of a waterlogged pitch at Sunderland (my heart goes out to the poor buggers who travelled up there) and they were in the first four days of the season. Somewhat bizarrely, by the time Reading play their next fixture against Spurs, twenty-six days will have passed since they lost in unfortunate, some might say dubious circumstances, after a heroic defeat against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, the type of defeat that I fear will become common place, gaining plaudits but not points. In our other fixture, at home to a well drilled Stoke side, we earned a late draw in a game that was encouraging in the fact we always looked a match for a side that have gained solid PL pedigree and are well financed by strong backers.
What has caught me out, is the early season form of teams I expected to be in a bottom half scrap with, notably West Ham, West Brom and Swansea and to a certain extent Norwich and Wigan. It is too early to make a general assumption but the early home form of the Swans, the Baggies and the Hammers suggest we may have to look elsewhere for relegation candidates, hopefully the detestable QPR, the likeable Fulham and just for fun, Liverpool, who have decided that goal scorers are not a necessary asset to compete for the top four places. Brendan Rogers is outwardly confident but after offloading en masse to get “his man” Clint Dempsey, he could end up with a huge metaphorical custard pie in the face. He must have surged forward in the sack race and could end up in a photo finish with AVB at Spurs, a guy who is already doing his best to upset everyone within striking distance of White Hart Lane with a revolution that is akin to the disaster at Stamford Bridge last season. If nothing else, AVB must be bloody good at job interviews.
My early assessment of the new season is that I am more worried about our (Reading’s) future than I was pre-season, but until we play teams in our bracket, it is best to reserve any justified judgement. Chelsea away will not decide our fate, It is games like Fulham, Southampton and Norwich at home that make or break a season, lose them and the trap door opens, win them and mid table is achievable, that is how critical those game will be. Early season results indicate that there won’t be one awful side cut off from the rest on 15-20 points and I have a feeling that the bottom three may well be on 30+ points at the end of the campaign. However, looking at my pre-season predictions, what the f*** do I know?
Finally, with regards to the Royals, I will write again in early October when the picture is clearer, but one thing is for certain, if goalkeeper, Adam Federici, doesn’t get his act together, he will be for the chop long before manager, Brian McDermott.