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Could Brentford’s Scott Hogan be the perfect man to boost Reading’s promotion push?

Calum Pettitt

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Reading’s striker issues are a topic that have being looked at throughout the last couple of seasons as the club have failed to find a reliable goalscorer since the departure of Adam Le Fondre. However, with the news of an apparent Chinese takeover bid injecting a new cash-flow into the club – it appears that the Royals may finally have the funds to compete with other clubs for the biggest stars in the league; namely Brentford’s Scott Hogan, with GetReading reporting the club’s alleged interest.

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Many Reading fans would have laughed off the possibility of the club bidding £9m for a player, especially considering the club’s record transfer fee is still £2.5 million for Emerse Fae back in 2006. Fae himself was injury-prone and the club have never invested big money into one player since. The Berkshire outfit have always had to do things on the cheap and it has become something of point of pride with the club’s current success under Jaap Stam.

However, if the wealth of the new Chinese investors is to be believed – it would be a fantastic way for them to endear themselves to the Reading faithful who are rightly skeptical of any new owners following the near administration under Anton Zingarevich’s ownership.

Scott Hogan has taken the Championship by storm since signing for Brentford from Rochdale. The 24-year-old forward started his career in non-league and played for the same team as Jamie Vardy – Stocksbridge Park Steels. Although, the two never played together. It is becoming a familiar trend for English strikers to be let go from their youth sides and working their way up into the higher reaches of the game. The likes of Vardy, Charlie Austin, Dwight Gayle and now Hogan has become one of the latest to make the breakthrough.

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Reading will certainly face tough competition if they are to sign Scott Hogan as he is certainly a man in demand. Any number of clubs would love to have a player capable of finding the net as frequently as the Brentford man. Brentford boss Dean Smith will no doubt he keen to keep Hogan as a member of his squad but the forward has made it clear that he wants to play in the Premier League – with the Bees sat 14th in the league it may appear that a transfer would be the quickest route for Hogan.

Reading are currently suffering from some striker problems and while results are continuing to roll in the Jaap Stam’s men, a new star striker would really help them mount a push for the automatic promotion places. A quick look at the Royals squad will show the need for a new forward. The club only has four recognised senior strikers – they are Yann Kermorgant who while a talented player is reaching the twilight of his career and is perhaps not seen as a long-term solution for the club. Dominic Samuel and Joseph Mendes are both speedy young forwards but it will take time for them to both come up to speed with the Championship. The final forward in Deniss Rakels who has spent a great deal of the season injured and no return date is currently in sight for the Latvian international.

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Hogan could prove to be a perfect fit for the Royals as his ability to score on either foot and with his head will ensure that the likes of Swift and McCleary will have no problem providing opportunities for the forward. Hogan would likely be the striker in a front there should he sign for the Royals. The speed and aerial ability of the forward will mean that he would be a perfect middle ground between current strikers Yann Kermorgant and Dominic Samuel.

It may still seem like a pipe-dream for Reading fans to see their club splash £9 million on a new star striker but if the potential new Chinese ownership bid is to be believed, then that sort of money could definitely be the hands of the Royals very soon. It will be no easy task to persuade Scott Hogan to sign for the Berkshire outfit, particularly if the club faces competition from any Premier League sides, who will certainly be aware of the Brentford man’s goalscoring form. It remains to be seen as to what will happen in January but the club have made it no secret that they will be chasing a new striker to step in and further to Royals’ promotion push.

Calum is a Reading fan and has been a season ticket holder for many years. He is currently studying for a degree in Sport & Exercise Psychology.

Brentford

Who will win the race for the Sky Bet Championship play-offs?

The Championship play-offs are just around the corner.

The Boot Room

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The Championship is a league renowned for its unpredictability and twists and turns in what is a 46 game long season.

On any given weekend, any team can beat another which makes it one of the closest and exciting leagues in the world.

This season has proved no different, with six teams still competing for a play-off place with just six games to go.

In 5th place currently is Derby on 68 points, three points clear of 7th placed Millwall with a game in hand.

They are at the moment the favourites to secure a play-off spot, with the top three having already practically guaranteed their places if they do not gain automatic promotion.

Aston Villa look to set to join them, with a maximum of eight points needed from their last five games to be sure of making the play-offs.

Gary Rowett’s side have bounced back well from the loss of Johnny Russell in January to the MLS and a string of first-team injuries that have decimated the squad in recent months.

Most of their stars, including Tom Huddlestone and Joe Ledley, returned for their 1-0 away win over Preston on Easter Monday, a result that was desperately needed.

They followed that up with a 3-0 win over Bolton at the weekend, and the goals of Matej Vydra plus the defensive experience of Curtis Davies and Scott Carson should see them over the line.

(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Two points behind them in 6th is Tony Pulis’s Middlesbrough, who have seen an upturn in form since the former West Brom man took over in December.

Pulis is known for his defensive style of play but Middlesbrough have scored plenty since he came in, with Adama Traore in particular impressing.

A club like Boro will be expecting play-offs as a minimum, and you would expect them to achieve that goal given the quality of their squad, although even if they don’t get there this season, they will be one of the favourites to go up next season under Pulis.

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The surprise package of this season has been Millwall, with Neil Harris leading his side to an unexpected 7th place berth at this stage of the season.

The Lions have only lost one game all season, that being on New Years’ Day at Norwich.

They have relied on a mixture of youth and experience, with younger players like Jake Cooper, Jed Wallace and George Saville complemented by the likes of veteran Steve Morison, and an immense run of form has given them every chance of making the play-offs, which would be a remarkable achievement.

Most fans surely would have been happy with a mid-table finish on their return to the Championship, but they have defied expectations so far.

They face tricky trips to Middlesbrough and Sheffield United, and home games against Fulham and Aston Villa, but win at least a couple of those and the Lions could be roaring at the end of the league season.

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Behind them on 62 points is Bristol City, who have had a mixed run of form since the turn of the year.

They briefly went 2nd in the table after a Boxing Day win against Reading, just a week after Lee Johnson’s side defeated Manchester United to reach the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup.

They eventually lost on aggregate to Manchester City after giving them a stern test, but have only won twice since then.

Like Millwall, they too face a trip to the Riverside to play Middlesbrough and host Sheffield United on the final day, but they are only four points off the top six and can still make it in.

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Another side who had an excellent first half of the season is Sheffield United, Chris Wilder’s side briefly sitting in top spot after a 2-1 away win against Leeds in October.

They have fallen away since then, currently sitting 9th and behind Bristol City on goal difference, but regardless of whether they qualify for the play-offs or not, it has still been a good season for Wilder’s men.

They drew 1-1 with Cardiff last week, a game which they had the better chances in, showing the fine margins that exist in the Championship.

The Blades lost in the Yorkshire derby against Barnsley on Saturday, a result that puts them four points behind Middlesbrough.

They host Preston before the season is out, a game which could still prove crucial for both teams, and also play Bristol City and Millwall.

Brentford sit just one point behind them in 10th, having shown some resurgence in recent weeks.

Their transfer policy is a very effective one, using a stats model to sign players both from England and all around the world.

Some of their signings appear to be gelling together well, with summer signing Neal Maupay netting the winner in both of their previous two games.

Manager Dean Smith has been linked with Premier League jobs in the past, and has done an excellent job at the Bees, who will surely be challenging at the end of the season.

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The final team that have a realistic chance of reaching the play-offs is Preston North End, Alex Neil’s side currently occupying 11th place on 60 points.

They have lost their last three league games, although they were unlucky to lose against Derby and had the fair share of possession and chances against Reading.

Neil’s side face only one team out of the top 11 in the remaining fixtures – Sheffield United – which could work in their favour.

They have missed the firepower of top scorer Sean Maguire, who missed four months of the season due to injury, but his return has boosted the team, who have seen some outstanding performances already this season from the likes of Ben Davies, Ben Pearson and Alan Browne.

If Neil’s side can get substantial points out of their remaining games, they still have a chance of qualifying for the play-offs, although like the teams above them up to 7th, will need to rely on Derby and Middlesbrough dropping points.

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Three takeaways from Tuesday’s Championship action

Cardiff and Wolves extended their lead at the top of the Championship table.

Max Cohen

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Last night featured a blockbuster slate of Championship matches, with all of the top three clubs in action. Here are the main talking points from Tuesday’s fixtures…

The title race is not over yet…

Cardiff City continued their scorching hot run of form with a 3-1 win over Brentford at Griffin Park. The Bluebirds notched their seventh straight league win thanks to goals from Sol Bamba, Matthew Paterson, and Kenneth Zohore. Cardiff showed impressive fortitude to fight back from a goal down, and after conceding just five minutes in, they clinically rebounded to claim the three points.

The win brings Neil Warnock’s side just three points behind the league leaders Wolves with nine matches to play, and given Wolves’ recent slip-ups, a late title bid is not out of the question. Mark your calendars for April 6th: the matchup between Cardiff and Wolves which could serve as a battle for first position.

But the battle for automatic promotion probably is.

As much as supporters of Aston Villa and Fulham would like to believe they have a chance to achieve automatic promotion, the top two is most likely settled. With Wolves joining Cardiff in picking up maximum points on Tuesday, the gap between second and third is now seven points with nine matches to go.

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With Cardiff showing no signs of letting up, it looks immensely difficult to topple the Bluebirds off their perch in second. Although Fulham is in the midst of a 15-match unbeaten run and making an impressive late charge, Neil Warnock’s side are on an 11-match unbeaten run of their own.

The Championship cements its reputation as the most exciting league in England

There is arguably no league in England that is as intriguing and unpredictable as the Championship. The vaunted status of the division was on full display Tuesday night when Queens Park Rangers shocked Aston Villa 3-1 at Villa Park.

Villa sat in third and had just come off a brilliant, comprehensive 4-1 thrashing of Wolves on the weekend. QPR, on the other hand, came into the match mired in lowly 16th position. Yet Rangers embarrassed the Villains on their home pitch and raced out to a 3-0 lead. That’s just the magic of the Championship.

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Romaine Sawyers – Blossoming in the Championship with play-off contenders Brentford

Finding himself in the best form of his career at Brentford, Romaine Sawyers talks us through his experiences adapting to life in the Championship with the Bees.

Romaine Sawyers

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Photo: Reuters

The step up to the Championship, moving from Walsall to Brentford, was a difficult one.

For one, the quality of players is much different, no disrespect to League One.

There are a number of quality individuals and teams, but there is also a greater emphasis on the tactical side of the game, largely due to the strong balance of clubs from the top right through to the bottom of the division.

At first I was inconsistent and spent a fair bit of time trying to find my feet. But now I am over that hurdle and playing at a level I am happy with.

This season has been good. In fact, probably my best one to date. I feel that I’ve been quite consistent and in really good form.

I can’t thank Dean Smith enough. His influence has been massive. He gave me my first real chance at mens’ football and he has continued to have faith in me as I’ve progressed through the levels.

I was fortunate to spend my formative years at the West Brom in the club’s academy. I was there from the age of seven and received a great footballing education. I still speak to most of my coaches that I had at a young age there, even now.

Dean initially brought me to Walsall when I left West Brom, and he has been a key factor throughout my development. He knows to get onto me if need a kick up the arse, or he will compliment me if I need an arm over my shoulder.

Above all, he is a great man manager. He quickly finds your strengths and weaknesses as a player and knows how to get you performing.

He gets the balance of praise and constructive criticism just right, in order to get the very best out of the individuals in the team.

I would say recently is the best I have performed in my career and my Player of the Month nomination for December was recognition of the work me and my Brentford teammates have been doing.

It feels like a real group effort every time we go out on the pitch and that has shown both on and off the field.

At the same time as myself being nominated for an award before Christmas my teammate, Lasse Vibe, was in the mix for the PFA Player of the Month prize.

We have players who are topping stats charts left, right and centre and we have some real depth and versatility in the team. This means we can attack from all areas, whereas in the past we have maybe been reliant on one or two individuals.

Personally, I like to get on the ball and make things happen, helping the team to score goals by creating chances. I think I could probably add more goals to my game by getting behind the opposition defence more regularly.

I’ve scored four times this season, so far, but this is something I’m working on in training with the coaching staff at Brentford. We do a lot of work with video analysis to help me and improve this aspect of my game, but it is a work in progress.

Stats are a well known aspect of the backroom work at the club. Personally, I don’t read into them as much as others. I’m a player who prefers to be visual, making decisions and reacting based ‘on the eye’, rather than through what the data says.

It is good when you feel you are in positive form and you consider yourself to be in a good place, then the stats back it up. I prefer to see it as a secondary option, rather than a first.

Having said that, in terms of recruitment, it has shown to be a success time and time again through the players that the club have signed from lower divisions and abroad – there is a lot of talent to be found outside the top English leagues.

I have fond memories from my time with Walsall and being nominated for League One Player of the Year in my final season is probably the best moment of my career to date, alongside signing for Brentford.

However, I also hold a lot of pride in representing my heritage country, Saint Kitts and Nevis .

It is a very fulfilling ambassadorial role, in terms of giving hope and confidence to the youth of the country. Whether it is through football or something else, it is possible to provide for your family and that is the message I like to send.

Every time I go back there I try to motivate them a little bit more.

From a football perspective, it is a different culture and a new style. I think that has helped my game. It is a lot more physical and rough. You get kicked about and you have to learn to deal with that.

Playing for my country means a lot to me because of my family history. If I am there actively with football it gives me the chance to get involved with the people and their community.

Away from the pitch I am also involved in the Kick It Out campaign, which is a role that is very important to me.

I remember growing up and being a young boy wanting to be a professional footballer. It is extremely important that we continue to try and bridge the gap in today’s game.

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