Reading vs SAFC Who are You?: dark magic

This is not our Who are You? interviewee

Salut! Sunderland is not too keen on anonymous Who are You?s. It seems bizarre to insist on being a nameless supporter but we must respect all choices, especially when we’re the ones asking for favours. Rarely, we grant @TalkReading* that anonymity (but then the alternative was not to have a Reading (a) Who are You?). His/her explanation? ‘@TalkRaeding is completely anonymous on Twitter (keeps the magic going!) hope that is okay with you – would still love to help. The replies are good all the same …

Salut! Sunderland: not quite safe yet, but you must now be reasonably confident of keeping your heads above water. Has it been a very disappointing season or did you expect problems?

Talk Reading: it has been a very disappointing season, nobody can deny that. After being just two penalty kicks away from the Premier League, the club was hoping to go one better this year and invested a lot of money in the summer to try and make that happen. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons quite the opposite has happened. Under Jaap Stam, Reading were sliding down the league and edging closer to the bottom three, that prompted the owners to make a change and bring in Paul Clement. I am confident (and so is he) that Reading will be a Championship club next season.

We have suffered appalling goalkeeping weaknesses all season – three keepers, none inspiring the least confidence. How has Vito been for you?

Vito Mannone had very big gloves to fill after two time player of the season winner Ali Al-Habsi moved on in the summer. Most Reading fans would agree that, while not winning the team quite as many points as the outstanding Al-Habsi, Vito has been a decent goalkeeper and looked good value for the £2 million paid. Towards the end of Stam’s reign, Mannone was dropped for Anssi Jaakkola but Clement has reinstated Mannone as number 1. Vito’s best moment in a Reading shirt without doubt came in our last game, saving a stoppage time penalty to secure the first win under Paul Clement.

And what about other players linked, if in two cases only tenuously, with both clubs? Paul McShane seems to keep going on (I was surprised to see he wasn’t a lot older than 32) and we have at different times been interested in Stephen Quinn, little seen for you this season. I think, and Chris Martin

Paul McShane has been with us for three years now and is club captain. Last season he was fantastic, but has struggled with form and injuries this campaign. Stephen Quinn is nowhere to be seen and I think the general consensus is that his contract has been mutually terminated as he battled against a horrific knee injury. Chris Martin hasn’t made the impact fans hoped he would after coming in on Deadline Day with just one goal so far. Having worked with Martin before, hopefully Clement can get the best out of him.

How surprised if at all have you been at our headlong fall? What do you see as our short-term future?

Honestly, Sunderland’s decline hasn’t come as much of a surprise to me. It seemed in the Premier League that relegation was inevitable for years and years, now it has finally happened problems deep in the club have shone and another relegation is on the cards. I don’t see Sunderland staying up, unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be enough fight in that team. A serious rebuilding job is needed in League 1.

Any other thoughts on Sunderland – the club, the fans, the region, Chris Coleman?

I thought Chris Coleman was a very impressive appointment and keeping him next season (whatever league Sunderland are in) will be vital. I do sympathasie with the fans as you have had a torrid time recently and hope the ownership problems can be sorted as I know all about how tough they can be.

Who has given you most pleasure in Reading colours over the years?

Danny Williams over the last four seasons has been a standout player for me. Since his move to Huddersfield it is clear we never properly replaced him and he has been a huge miss this year. The last 20 years has been the most successful in the clubs 146 year history, in particular the record breaking 2005/06 team had legends across the park, namely Graeme Murty, Steve Sidwell, Dave Kitson and Kevin Doyle (although that whole squad deserve their own mention).

And who should have been allowed nowhere near the place?

Two words: Royston Drenthe.

Your highs and lows as a supporter?

This modern era has been so successful, we have been spoiled as fans. Promotions in 2002, 2006 and 2012 have all been greatly enjoyed. On the other hand, play-off finals and Reading FC don’t mix well together. Defeats in 1995, 2001, 2011 and 2017 have all been heartbreaking.

Given your proximity to London, does the town suffer the impact of gloryseeking or do you sense a strong community spirit in support of Reading FC?

There has always been a core support of around 10,000 fans. In the Premier League, we attract over double that and in the Championship around 16,000 is average. Undoubtedly, there’ll be some fans that have Reading as a second team. What does help is that there is no big clubs that near to Reading which does also mean we are without a derby (until Swindon or Oxford get up to the Championship!).

Shouldn’t recruitment be relatively easy, especially when it comes to seriously promising overseas players who want a stepping stone towards bigger clubs?

Reading is situated in a good location as players can choose to live in London or at least be near the big city. Not too many players leave Reading and go on to bigger and better things, but attracting a 16 year old Icelandic midfielder by the name of Gylfi Sigurdsson back in 2005 was certainly a stroke of genius.

Is Paul Clement in it for the long term – to the extent any managers are these days – and can he, and your present ownership, take you back to the Premier League?

Clement has been given a three-year deal and has spoken of his long term ambitions with Reading so hopefully he can deliver on that. The owners backed Jaap Stam an awful lot in the transfer market and gave him more time than 99 per cent of owners would before making a change. It will take a few years, but I think Clement does have the capability to get this club promotion in the future.

I have already asked about us. Assuming you survive, where do you think you’ll be this time next season? Another troubled campaign or pushing for playoffs or better?

I can see a mid-table finish, which I would be perfectly happy with as long as we see some progression on the pitch and the players playing Clement’s style effectively. It will be interesting to see the recruitment in the summer – a lot depends on that.

The Dele Alli question: does diving no longer matter, as his manager has said, or is it still a scourge that needs to be eradicated even it means upsetting international prima donnas?

The referee’s job is the most difficult on the pitch. Diving makes that job even harder so should be punished severely.

Will you be at our game? What will be the score?

I will be there. A scrappy 1-0 win for Reading.

Jake says: ‘click the Who are You? banner to see the series so far this season’

* Talk Reading on itself:@TalkReading is an account that has been running for around four years and grown way more than I could have imagined; aiming to cover everything Reading related, with a good relationship with a number of the players.

Interview: Colin Randall

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