We should be used to the staccato starts to the season by now but personally I don’t find the England interruptions any less irritating. I’ve had countless opportunities over the years to witness Roy Hodgson teams do their underwhelming best and don’t feel duty bound to enjoy participating in any more. Watching an André Villas-Boas team though, well that’s a different matter.
If nothing else the fortnight since the Norwich draw will have given AVB time to contemplate how exactly he’s going to get his team to equal more than the sum of their parts. At the swanky new training ground he’ll have had time to ponder Sunday’s match with perhaps “Where exactly is Reading?” being highest on his list. It’s not a familiar battleground for us.
The last time we visited the Madejski we were also in the midst of one of Levy’s exotic foreign manager experiments; in May 2008, under Juande Ramos, we won 1-0 thanks to a Robbie Keane goal. The League Cup final win over Chelsea a couple of months previously had heralded a brave Spanish-tinged dawn, one though that failed to arrive as we know. Such has been the churn of players since then only Huddlestone, Dawson and Jenas, all by the skin of their teeth, survive from that day.
Reading’s start to the season has been even more of a stutter than ours thanks to the postponement at Sunderland. They’ve been steady though in the games they’ve played with a draw at Stoke and a noteworthy performance against Chelsea. Despite being slightly older than Rodgers, Lambert and our own gaffer, former gooner Brian McDermott seems to belong to the current spate of young(ish) and slightly bookish managers currently in jobs and in demand. His purchases in the summer were cautious and mostly from the shelves marked Free or Undisclosed with Adam Le Fondre, Pavel Pogrebnyak signed to help up front and Nickey Shorey and ex-Spur Chris Gunter doing the same further back. Ian Harte, Danny Guthrie, Jobi McAnuff and Mikele Leigertwood are other familiar names in the home team.
Reading’s run to the Championship title last year was built on their home form meaning that we’re in for a tough battle no doubt. Adebayor, Dempsey and Dembele may well all start with Defoe, Sigurdsson and Livermore/Sandro missing out though Lennon’s place is under threat if AVB decides that one of the new boys can cut in from the right effectively. It will be interesting to see whether the Gallas/Vertonghen partnership is persisted with, we’ve looked weak in the centre so far. Dawson would improve matters but the bravest and most positive move would be to give Caulker a chance. Friedel’s shot stopping has kept us in the last couple of games but his being glued to his line too often is one of the things that has contributed to the ‘uncertainty at the back’ and apparently one of the things Lloris is known for is his confidence when the ball’s in the air so get him in I say.
Joy of joys, Howard Webb is in charge, apparently though without his normal ‘helpers’ on the sidelines, G Beswick and P Bankes don’t look like familiar names to me.
Not an easy game. A win would take a bit of pressure off and hopefully force the media to train their guns elsewhere. Anything else will have us attempting to redefine the word ‘patience’ and convince ourselves that we’re not in that much of a hurry are we? COYS.
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