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How are Reading preparing for the new Premier League season?

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Since achieving promotion at the end of May, Brian McDermott has started to prepare his squad for life in England’s top division.

The English manager has already brought in 5 new players, in a bid to avoid relegation in the next league campaign.

Pre-season so far has seen a mixed bag of results. Reading began by destroying Wimbledon 7-0.

Adam Le Fondre opened the scoring from the penalty spot for the Premier League new boys after Aaron Downes had tripped Noel Hunt.

Le Fondre doubled his and Reading’s tally just before the interval having been put through by Kaspars Gorkss.

Michail Antonio bagged the third after the break before Church struck twice, with a header and a close-range strike after Jason Roberts’ shot was saved.

A minute later Jordan Obita’s left-footed strike made it six before Church completed his treble with a low shot 20 minutes from time.

McDermott’s Reading then battled to a 1-1 draw against Portuguese side CDR Quarteirense.

Ian Harte’s superb free kick was not enough to win the tie for the Royals. Overall it was a fairly low-key game in the European heat although Brian McDermott will have been happy to give his team a run-out to step up pre-season preparations.

Although Jason Roberts hit the post early on, the second half was the brighter of the two periods, with Noel Hunt having an effort cleared off the line and both Jobi McAnuff and Garath McCleary going close.

And then Quarteirense scored with a nice chipped finish to level matters late on. There was a suspicion of offside but based on their effort it was not more than the home side deserved.

So far we haven’t had a great chance to see Reading’s new players in action. For anyone keen to know more about McDermott’s latest signings, here’s a brief summary.

Pavel Pogrebnyak – Forward (Striker) – Free

Pogrebnyak was born in Moscow and began his football career with the Spartak Moscow football school, progressing through the ranks and eventually playing for the first-team.

He went out on loan at various lower league clubs in Russia before FC Tom Tomsk, where he went on to make a name for himself after scoring 13 goals in 26 games.

Made his international debut for Russia against Latvia in August 2006, scoring in his first match, and now boasts a total of 33 caps and eight goals.

After impressing at Tom Tomsk, Pavel got his big move to Zenit St Petersburg in 2007 and went on to win the Russian Premier League and the Russian Super Cup.

Was a key figure in the club’s 2008 UEFA Cup triumph, scoring the joint highest amount of goals in the tournament. He then scored a vital goal in Zenit’s famous 2-1 win over Manchester United in the subsequent UEFA Super Cup.

Signed for Bundesliga club Stuttgart, where he made 68 appearances over three seasons before signing for Premier League Fulham on loan in January 2012.

In his brief spell at the Cottagers, Pogrebnyak scored six goals in 12 appearances, including a ‘perfect’ hat-trick against Wolves.

Pavel was part of Russia’s 23-man squad for Euro 2012 and made an appearance from the bench in the final group stage game. His contract with Stuttgart expired in the same summer and consequently signed for Reading.

Nicky Shorey – Defence (Left Back) – Free

Romford-born full back who began his career at Leyton Orient at the age of nine and progressed through the Brisbane Road youth system to make 16 first team appearances for Orient.

He first joined the Royals in February 2001 for a fee of just £25,000, after a successful week-long trial that saw him first turn out in a Reading shirt in a reserve team win over Bristol City at Palmer Park.

His first team debut came in a 4-0 demolition of Luton Town in the League Cup on 21st August 2001 and he soon dislodged Matt Robinson from his left-back spot to become one of the first names on Alan Pardew’s teamsheet.
Once in the side, he wasn’t going to let the shirt go. He made 39 starts and scored two goals in our successful promotion campaign in 2001/2, playing a part in that famous promotion-clinching draw at Griffin Park.

Under Coppell his consistency never wavered. A superb passer of the ball, calm in possession, Shorey was a set piece specialist and his delivery into the box proved dangerous time and time again – and he hardly ever made a mistake at the back.

By the time he became one of a select few players to ever win promotion twice with Reading, Shorey had developed into one of the team’s most potent creative forces and an invaluable member of a back four that was to go down in Royals history.

He was named in the Championship PFA team of the season after a record-breaking promotion to the Premier League in 2005/6.

He continued that fabulous form in the Premiership, coming second in the club’s official Player of the Season vote in 2006/7

Chants of ‘Shorey for England’ regularly rang out around Madejski Stadium and, after an England B appearance against Albania at Turf Moor, Nicky earned a senior cap, becoming the club’s first player to represent England for almost 100 years when he started in the national side’s first ever international at the new Wembley Stadium against Brazil.

Back on the domestic scene, Shorey enjoyed seven incredibly successful years at Madejski Stadium, making a total of 296 appearances, scoring 12 goals. In a supporters vote, aimed at compiling the Royals’ best-ever eleven, Shorey was named as our best left-back with 53.1% of the vote.
After relegation, Shorey joined Aston Villa. His  His debut came in a Uefa Cup clash against FH Hafnarfjordur and after four Premier League seasons with Villa, Fulham and West Bromwich Albion, he has totted up 159 top flight appearances so far – and now he’s at his first ever club.

Besides renewing acquaintances with some of the staff and players who were part of the Royals set up when Shorey was last at the club, Nicky’s dad Steve – who was formerly a scout at Orient and then became Reading’s Academy Recruitment Officer in the summer of 2004 – is now Chief Scout for Brian McDermott.

Adrian Mariappa – Defence (Centre Back) – Undisclosed

Born in nearby Harrow, Mariappa started his career in Watford’s youth system. He captained the club’s under-18 side during their FA Youth Cup quarter final against Tottenham Hotspur, and later captained the reserve team.

After signing his first professional contract with Watford, Mariappa made his first team debut in a League Cup match against Notts County on 23 August 2005, playing 90 minutes in a 3–1 win. In this season, the team won promotion to the Premier League.

Watford started their 2006–07 Premier League campaign at Everton, with Mariappa starting in central defence in place of first-team regular Jay DeMerit. He was substituted at half-time, and, aside from a League Cup appearance against Accrington Stanley, did not make another first-team appearance until December 2006, when in an away match at Newcastle United he came on for the injured James Chambers at right-back. He continued in that position, playing regularly for the rest of the season.

With Watford back in the Championship for 2007–08, Mariappa found himself largely on the substitute bench, making 13 league starts and 3 in other competitions, as Watford again reached the play-offs. By contrast, he started 45 games in all competitions in the 2008–09 season, under the management of Aidy Boothroyd, Malky Mackay and latterly Brendan Rodgers, and scored his first senior goal for Watford in a 3–1 defeat at Wolves on 31 January 2009. At the end of the season he signed a two-year extension to his contract.

Mariappa skippered Watford for the first time on the 12 September 2009, in a 1–0 victory against Barnsley. Watford finished the 2009–10 season 16th in the Championship; Mariappa was the only player to start each of the club’s games in the Football League, FA Cup and League Cup. 2010–11 followed a similar pattern to the previous campaign; Mariappa started every game for which he was available.

Mariappa’s run of 113 consecutive league appearances for Watford is the fourth highest in Watford’s history.

Mariappa continued to play in the 2011–12 season under new manager Sean Dyche. He was the focus of transfer speculation during the January 2012 transfer window when Watford received a number of bids for him from Premier League clubs.

Three bids from Newcastle United were rejected; an offer from Wigan Athletic was accepted, but Mariappa turned down a move. He stayed at the club until the following summer, and his good form saw players and fans vote him 2011–12 Watford F.C. Player of the Season.

Now a Reading player, Mariappa will hope to achieve success with his new club in the coming Premier League campaign..

Danny Guthrie – Midfield (Centre Midfielder) – Free

Talented and determined centre-midfielder who has an array of top-flight experience at the relatively young age of 25.

The Shrewsbury-born player was part of Manchester United’s youth set-up while at school before moving to Liverpool to play for their rivals on Merseyside.

Coincidentally, he made his debut against Reading in a League Cup tie in 2006, coming on as a substitute for Mohamed Sissoko. Went on to feature in a UEFA Champions League clash against Galatasary before joining Southampton on loan in March 2007.

He was at the south-coast club for the remainder of that season before signing on loan at Premier League Bolton Wanderers for the 2007/08 campaign. Scored four goals at the Lancashire club and played against Bayern Munich in the UEFA Cup.

Caught the eye of Newcastle United’s Kevin Keegan, who signed Guthrie in July 2008. He went on to play for the Toon for four years, and was a key figure in the club’s promotion back to the Premier League in 2009/10.

Made 19 appearances for Newcastle in 2011/12, helping the club to a fifth-placed finish in the Premier League before signing for Reading ahead of the coming season.

Garath McCleary – Midfield (Winger) – Free

Oxford-born winger who has established himself as a goal scoring wide-man at Nottingham Forest. He spent time at both Oxford United and Oxford City as a teenager before joining Slough Town in 2005.

Moved to Bromley in 2007 where he impressed Nottingham Forest manager Colin Calderwood, who offered McCleary a trial and eventually signed him.

After a steady few seasons at the City Ground, he flourished in the 2011/12 season. Though he suffered injury mid-way through the season, McCleary bounced back to score six goals in March 2012 – four of which came in a 7-3 thriller at Leeds.

The speedy winger was named Championship Player of the Month for March and was eventually voted Forest’s Player of the Season before signing for Reading this Summer.

In my opinion, McDermott has done extremely well so far with respect to Reading’s transfers. The Royal’s head coach has signed several players with a wealth of Premier League experience for almost no money – McDermott is clearly a shrewd spender.

Danny Guthrie will no doubt strengthen the central midfield positions at the club. Whilst for Fulham last season, Pavel Pogrebnyak showed how clinical he can be in the Premier League. Shorey and Mariappa will add much needed depth to the defence. I’m looking forward to seeing these new players in action.

Reading open their Premier League campaign against Stoke in August. But they have 5 friendlies remaining to fully prepare for this fixture. It’ll be interesting to see how McDermott approaches these warm up games. Regardless, I wish Reading all the best next season.

Please feel free to comment on any of my articles, all feedback is much appreciated!

Chris is the founder of The Boot Room. He is a Swindon Town supporter, having lived in Wiltshire for most of his years. His work has also featured on Squawka, Bleacher Report and Eurosport.

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Reading

How will Reading’s transfer window impact the rest of the season?

Two January arrivals at Reading could prove enough to lift the spirits among Jaap Stam’s side and provide a springboard for the rest of the season, writes Calum Pettitt.

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Reading
Photo: Reuters

When Reading entered January it was fair to say that there was a great deal of pressure of Jaap Stam and his scouting team to deliver some big changes to the playing staff.

It has been a difficult season so far for the Royals and they have found themselves in the lower reaches of the Championship table.

The Reading faithful were looking to January as an opportunity to put right some of the issues surrounding the club, but with limited funds and an increasingly frustrated set of fans; Jaap Stam has no choice but to deliver.

The Dutchman has managed to add two new faces to the club in what was by and large a quiet transfer window for the Royals. However, Reading have signed what on paper look like pretty solid acquisitions.

The first to arrive was Tommy Elphick from Aston Villa. The former Bournemouth man looked calm and comfortable during his debut in the desperately needed midweek victory over Burton Albion and adds experience to what at times this season has looked like a ropey defence.

Reading have at fielded a slightly makeshift back line at times this season and will be pleased to have acquired a player that can operate on the left, the right, or in the centre.

The second and final player Reading added was a name the fans had been crying out for. Indeed, Chris Martin arrived from fellow Championship side Derby County, with a reputation for scoring goals and plenty of them.

The Scot has experienced some difficulties in the final third this term, but has a proven track record in the second tier and could prove to be the focal point that Reading have been looking for since the decline in the form of Yann Kermorgant.

However, with a maximum of 16 games available to Martin to turn around his own form, it remains to be seen whether that will be enough for the former Fulham man to make a serious impact in Berkshire.

The two main departures of the transfer window were Roy Beerens and Adi Popa, who left for Vitesse Arnhem and Al-Taawoun, respectively.

Beerens, brought into the team by Stam, was a regular in the Royals line-up. However, some quiet performances had left question marks over the the midfielder’s commitment to the club.

There is no doubt that the one time Dutch international is a talented player and was a consistent performer in the promotion push of last season, but often struggled with the physical side of the game.

Popa has departed on loan, but his Royal’s future seems to be in doubt. The Romanian international was never really given an extended run in the first team. Perhaps not as technically gifted as some of his colleagues, the winger possesses an excellent work rate and often looked bright and lively in his infrequent appearances under Jaap Stam.

The Romanian’s move to Saudi Arabia has frustrated some Reading fans, who feel that, with the likes of Sone Aluko and Garath McClearly struggling for form, the decision to reduce the club’s wide options, and not bring in any replacements, could add to the Berkshire side’s woes.

One player that Reading fans will be delighted to not see departing the club is Liam Moore. There was rumoured to be a great deal of interest in the imposing centre half and Jaap Stam will be delighted to have kept hold of the former Leicester man.

If Reading are to turn around their form, Moore will be crucial. He was a key man in the promotion charge last season and always plays with a great deal of passion and commitment, which has endeared him to the club faithful.

It is fair to say that Reading have not enjoyed the best of seasons. The win against Burton was massive. It was a long overdue result and many were calling for Jaap Stam to leave the club.

However, the club are now operating within a tight financial situation and it is thought that the cost of sacking Stam and hiring a replacement could be beyond them at this time, which leaves the Reading faithful with little option but to back the Dutchman and his current team.

Sometimes in football, supporters are quick to demand a complete overhaul of the team and management when a club is going through a rough couple of seasons. However, this is often not the best possible solution.

If Stam was going to be moved on, it would have happened earlier in the campaign and it is fair to say that Reading do still have a talented squad full of Premier League experience and current internationals.

While the club have only added two new players to the fold, this may just be enough to lift the spirits around the club.

If they can deliver a victory against Millwall on the weekend, it could be a springboard for the rest of the season.

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Reading

Why Jaap Stam desperately needs an upturn in form at Reading

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Jaap Stam
Photo: Reuters

When Reading fans watched on as Huddersfield Town won in the cruelest of ways at Wembley all the way back in May last year, it sparked what many fans thought would be a time of uncertainty at the club. However, as the majority of the core squad remained and many additions were made, it led to a sense of quiet optimism around the Madejski Stadium.

Jaap Stam had played down the Royal’s chances of promotion, the pundits were predicting a far less glamorous season than the last – but this wasn’t enough to dampen spirits too much. Reading fans were used to seeing their club being underestimated and told that they simply weren’t cut out to go to-to-toe with the Championship elite.

However, perhaps even the biggest of skeptics would not have anticipated that the Royals would find themselves in their current league position at such an advanced point of the season.

At the start of the campaign it felt like the additions that Jaap Stam and his director of football, Brian Tevreden, had acquired were garnering a good deal of praise from Reading fans and, with the majority of the core squad intact, there was certainly cause for optimism as the campaign got underway.

The losses of Ali Al-Habsi and Danny Williams have definitely left a mark on Reading, which is now becoming fully apparent. At times Al-Habsi was producing 2-3 world class saves per game and Danny Williams put together a brilliant season from the heart of the club’s midfield. Currently, their replacements have not done enough to fill the void left by the departed duo.

The 2016/17 campaign was an excellent time to be a Reading fan. The club had a clear philosophy and style under Jaap Stam and were agonisingly close to returning to the Premier League after a four year absence. However, there were definitely some fans that were never convinced of the Dutchman and particularly the style of play that the club employed throughout the season.

At times, the Royals struggled to create goal scoring opportunities and certainly had some defensive frailties. No side had conceded more goals entering the play-offs and the Royals also had the second worst goal difference in the top ten.

It was easy to overlook some of the issues with the team last season as the Royals stormed a fantastic third place finish. However, this time around Jaap Stam’s men have massively underperformed.

Winless runs and a poor home record have left the club in a very difficult position that you feel no fans, playing staff, or management could have foreseen the club being in.

At times, Jaap Stam’s men play at walking pace and have little-to-no adventure going forward, seemingly not knowing the next step once they enter the final third. They have been beaten for quality against the top sides in the division and beaten for desire against fellow relegation candidates.

When going behind in a game, there is no ‘Plan B’ for Jaap Stam and the side often loses shape completely as they chase the game. Frustratingly, they have only recovered three points from losing positions.

Reading have flirted with relegation a couple of times since they were relegated back to the Championship in 2013, but this season has a much more toxic feeling considering the expectation for the club to follow up on the heroics of the last campaign.

This toxic feeling has spread amongst large portions of the support and is damaging the relationship between the players, the manager and the fans. This was perhaps epitomised by the events that occurred after Reading’s uninspiring 0-0 with League Two Stevenage in the FA Cup third round at the start of January.

Club captain Paul McShane made a heat of the moment decision in refusing to thank the travelling Reading faithful after the fans made it perfectly clear how they felt the team had performed during the game, as well as in recent weeks.

It was a flashpoint that had threatened to boil over as a result of Reading fans’ growing frustrations. The Royals are winless in eight and have found the net just twice in their previous seven games. Of course, things could change very quickly with a handful of quick wins, but this is certainly a very worrying period for Jaap Stam and his side.

Obviously, there are two options that the Reading board has to choose from – sack Jaap Stam or keep the Dutchman at the helm.

The case for sacking the former Manchester United man is growing. However, with the club allegedly treading the line with Financial Fair Play, you wonder if the club has the leeway to dismiss the Dutchman.

The January transfer window is nearly at the half way point and if the board were looking to bring in a new manager, the time would have been at the start of the month. For someone new to come in now, they would have a tough time learning the squad and acquiring new players in just a two week period.

If Jaap Stam’s men fail to put in a convincing performance in their FA Cup replay against Stevenage on Tuesday, it could spell absolute disaster for Stam.

The club have invested heavily in new signings; breaking the transfer record twice in the last two seasons with the additions of Tiago Ilori and Sone Aluko – neither of whom have justified the substantial price tags that arrived with them as of yet.

Reports are also circulating that Liam Moore’s time at the club could be limited, as interest in the centre half is growing. Given the situation the club currently finds itself in, you can understand why the 24-year-old could be willing to listen to any offers that come his way.

It has become increasingly common in the Championship that clubs can be on the brink of relegation one year and chasing promotion the next; and vice-versa. Jaap Stam may be a victim of his own success and is always quick to say that the club overachieved massively throughout last season.

Lee Johnson and Bristol City are a shining example of why sticking with your manager can sometimes pay dividends, with the club forced to wait until the penultimate game of last season before securing survival – despite having loan striker Tammy Abraham firing in 26 goals.

Johnson’s men are now flying high in the Championship semi finals of the League Cup with several Premier League scalps to their name.

Nonetheless, it is clear that the Reading faithful’s patience for Jaap Stam’s approach and lack of results are wearing thin. The Dutchman desperately needs an upturn in form if he is to fight off more talk of the sack and the first challenge will be getting a convincing win against Stevenage on Tuesday night, albeit, at the second time of asking.

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Fulham

How Twitter reacted to Reading signing Sone Aluko from Fulham

Jake Jackman

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Aluko

Reading completed the signing of Fulham forward Sone Aluko in a deal reported to be worth around £7.5 million, according to BBC Sport. The 28-year-old has signed four-year-contract with the club and will be hoping to help fire his new club to the Premier League. He leaves Craven Cottage after only one season, in which he contributed eight goals and ten assists.

This has been a move that has been rumbling on under the radar for a number of months and Fulham have done well to bring in the fee that they have. They signed Aluko on a free transfer last summer and have made a significant profit at the hands of a Championship rival.

There will be some that think Fulham have made the wrong decision as they have strengthened a team that finished above them last season. However, it is up to the Cottagers to bring in a better replacement and become stronger, despite the departure of Aluko.

Reading have wanted to add pace and directness to their attack this summer. Aluko provides that and he is a player that is proven in this division. The Royals came very close to promotion last season and will be hoping the addition of the Nigerian international will give them the injection of quality that they need. Although some will suggest they overpaid, it won’t matter if he helps them reach the Premier League.

Jaap Stam had the following to say on the arrival of Aluko:

“With his pace and ability on the ball, he can make life difficult for every opponent we face,”

“He poses a threat going forward, he keeps the ball well, he can play as a striker or out on the wing and I am sure he will improve us as a squad.”

Here is how Twitter reacted to the news:

Reading fans were pleased with his arrival:

However, Fulham fans had a mixed response:

https://twitter.com/PiazonPassion/status/902656481560076288

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