Roger Titford* is a market research specialist, writer and prominent follower of Reading FC, having served as chairman of the supporters’ club. In the first home ‘Who are You?’ of the season, he talks up Berkshire’s potential appeal to the stars, remembers a rare bad decision by Charlie Hurley and makes the case for muckier football …
Back in the Premier. Last season must have been a dream, but what lies ahead (beyond tonight’s visit to Chelsea)?
Last season everything fell into place unbelievably well. Even with six new signings we won’t be as good as the last time we came up (106 points, beating you know who’s record! And then finishing 8th). But I think we can stay up, just.
Can a smallish town hope to sustain a Premier League club. What gates do you expect in the coming season and how many Reading supporters will get to away games?
Smallish town??!! It’s only the historic and gerrymandering borough boundaries that make Reading seem so small. ‘Greater Reading’s’ population is not far short of Sunderland’s and is the biggest urban area in the UK not to be a city. The stadium will be sold-out much of the time with crowds averaging 23,000. Having said that we don’t tend to travel well for routine fixtures a long way from home so just expect to see a single drove of us.
Our transfer activity has , as I write, been lamentable (though picking up). You’ve bought Chris Gunter and brought in a few others. Happy, or do you still need strengthening?
Happy we’ve done the business early in the window and not been ridiculous about it. Pogrebynak and Danny Guthrie look to be the right class but we may need more of that calibre in January.
Oddly enough, you’re probably at an advantage over Sunderland in attracting players who won’t go north even if their Wags will. But are you still stuck with hopefuls and fading stars?
We’ve got new owners, hopefully really rich ones, we’re closer to Heathrow than many London clubs and we’re surrounded by beautiful countryside and upmarket small towns. What’s not to like for Messi? The beer?
Royals or Biscuitmen. Madejski Stadium or Elm Park?
Biscuitmen any day (and not just because Charlie Hurley chose ‘Royals’ as the winner in a nickname competition in 1976!). Who wants to be known after a cheap brand of cigarettes or a dysfunctional family from the east end of our county? There’s still much lurve for Elm Park but the Madstad has been the key to unlocking our brightest decade.
Do you have any memories of games against Sunderland that stand out? I am not just talking about that dodgy goal-line decision the last time we played at your place!
Don’t remember that! I do remember that in the only season we’ve ever finished bottom of any table (1998) that we beat you 4-0 on a day you couldn’t do anything right. As our keeper was about to take a goal kick one of your lads came over the fence and booted the ball into our net. Huge acclaim all round but disallowed all the same.
Have you been to the Stadium of Light, Sunderland or the North East? Any thoughts on club, city, region?
I did a football tour of the North East way back as part of my 92 Club qualification and caught a game at Roker in the Third Division and a photo of the Roker Pie shop. It rained, you didn’t win and no-one seemed very pleased. It was much the same at Hartlepool a week later.
In some ways I’m envious of the strong, proud and coherent ‘one team’ football culture your city has. Kevin Dillon, ex-Reading assistant manager, never tires of saying he was captain of Sunderland Boys though I believe he played ‘elsewhere’ later. I saw the documentary about Cup Final day in 1973 again recently and thought I’d liked to have had some of that. You put us out in the 4th Round that year but even if we’d made the final a TV documentary about us would have been quite different; sarcastic insurance clerks in kipper ties everywhere.
Do we have any players you’d love to see in Reading colours?
In what sort of mood for the snarling, money-grubbing face of football have the Olympics left you?
It’s all been a bit Diana, hasn’t it? Hopefully it’ll fade away soon and let the main attraction come back to the fore in a few weeks. Football is such a great spectator sport fortunately. Who wants to go and see Rebecca Adlington swim 100 metres 40 times a year? But football definitely could do with less of a John Terry snarl and more of a Jess Ennis smile.
Name this season’s top four in order, and the bottom three.
Man City, Chelsea, Man United, Arsenal at the top; Norwich, Southampton, Wigan at the bottom. Reading 16th and Sunderland not far above that.
Is cheating in the game simply something we have to accept as a product of the training ground as much as players’ instincts, or can we still stamp it out?
I think it’s possible to stamp it out – look at how differently players act towards officials in rugby union, in American football, how differently we played football a century ago, what codes of honour still exist today in football (putting the ball out etc). But it’s unlikely.
Club versus country. Who wins for you and why?
This is not an issue with which Reading supporters are familiar.
Name one step Reading or the authorities should take to improve the supporter’s experience of the game.
I’d quite like to see the return of ‘heavy grounds.’ We could do with a bit of mud to even things up this season and it adds to the variety.
Will you be at our game and if not how will you follow it?
Certainly not. Have you seen how far north you are?! I shall follow in the usual multi-media combination of Sky Sports/local radio/internet fan site. I’m expecting a 1-1 draw.
Roger Titford on Roger Titford : I’m a regular contributor to When Saturday Comes and a former chairman of Reading Football Supporters’ Club. My latest work The Legend of Robin Friday, a digital photo-essay, is available via http://www.exacteditions.com/read/legendfriday at £3.
Interview: Colin Randall