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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.

Championship

Reading should target ambitious Fernando Llorente and Paul Clement reunion

The Spanish striker worked with the Reading manager at Swansea City.

Mathew Nash

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It is looking fairly likely that Fernando Llorente will be on his way out of Tottenham Hotspur this summer. The Spaniard, who joined from Swansea City in the summer, has not lived up to the billing of being Harry Kane’s back-up option and it seems he could be on his way.

Llorente has settled nicely into life in the UK however, after a brilliant two-season stint at Swansea City preceding his disappointing Tottenham spell.

One team that should make an ambitious move to keep Llorente in the area is Championship side Reading.

(Photo credit should read GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

The Royals were in the Championship play-off final last season under the guidance of Jaap Stam. However, this season has been a struggle. It cost Stam his job and the new manager is Paul Clement. The 46-year-old has won two and drawn one of his five games in charge so far, which has helped them stay clear of the drop-zone so far.

If Reading do stay up, they must address their main problem area, which is scoring goals. The Berkshire club did not do enough to replace the injured Yann Kermogant, who scored 19 goals last season and they have been made to pay.

Llorente, who has 24 caps for the Spanish national team, would certainly bring them that.

But how could Reading lure a former Spain star to the Madejski Stadium?

Firstly, he would not have to up roots considering the location being so close to London.

Then there is the main reason Reading would be an ideal place for him … the manager.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Clement was the man who got the best out Llorente when the manager at Swansea City. Under his guidance, Llorente scored nine goals in 17 games and helped Swansea survive the drop. It included a run of four goals in his final five games for the club.

Reading would love to have Llorente and, at 33-years-old and out of form, Spurs would struggle to fetch a big fee for the player.

The best move for them would be to send him out on loan, which would suit Reading. If they could negotiate some sort of wage-share then Llorente suddenly enters their price range.

It is a long shot, but if Reading stay up something drastic needs to change if they are to get back to promotion hunting. Bringing in Clement’s former star striker would be a start.

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Reading

USA international Andrija Novakovich deserves a call-back to Reading

The 21-year-old has been in fine scoring form over in Holland.

Max Cohen

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Photo: Getty Images

Reading supporters will be forgiven for blank stares when one mentions the name Andrija Novakovich to them. After all, the young American striker has only made two appearances for the Royals.

Nonetheless, Novakovich was rewarded with his first appearance for the United States National Team on Tuesday night, due to his prolific form on-loan in Holland.

The 21-year-old striker deserves a call-back to the Reading first team at the end of the season, as he could provide an answer to their scoring woes.

Novakovich was signed in June 2014, as an 18-year-old US under 20 international, but struggled to find opportunities in Berkshire.

An unsuccessful loan spell to Cheltenham Town followed in 2015/16, until the striker finally found joy at Dutch second-division side Telstar.

The American has netted an incredible 18 goals in 29 appearances this season for Telstar, a remarkable goal tally for a player of his age.

Novakovich stands at an intimidating 6 feet 4 four inches, yet has a deft finishing touch and intelligent skills; a skill set that makes the forward a handful for oppositions defences.

After spells in the Reading academy set-up, next season may finally prove the perfect time for Novakovich to break through into the Royals’ first XI.

The Royals are currently mired in 20th in the Championship, sport the division’s ninth worst scoring record, and recently parted ways with manager Jaap Staam.

This summer will surely lead to a clearing out of the squad, providing opportunities for young talents like Novakovich to emerge.

After his fruitful spell in Holland, the striker should be ready to make the transition to the Football League, and present Reading with a much-needed attacking boost.

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Championship

Jaap Stam dismissal could be too little too late for Reading

Jaap Stam was dismissed by the Royals earlier this week.

Jake Jackman

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Photo: Getty Images

Reading were one penalty shootout away from the Premier League at the end of last season and it was hoped that they would go one step better to clinch promotion during this campaign.

However, it has been a disastrous season for the Royals and they currently find themselves three points above the relegation zone with eight matches to go.

Jaap Stam had retained faith from the board for his overachievement during his first year as manager, but with their position looking more and more precarious, it became untenable.

The club announced his dismissal on Wednesday in an online statement that featured the following:

“Jaap has not wavered in the time, effort and sheer determination he has put in to try to steer the team away from the position we find ourselves in. However, after careful consideration, the decision has been made that a change is now necessary.”

The Dutchman can’t complain that he wasn’t given a fair chance.

There are only eight matches remaining in the season and it has become obvious that he was no longer the right man for the job.

(Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

It was inconceivable at the start of the campaign that Reading would be battling relegation. They were a team with promotion ambitions, but 2018 has been terrible for them.

The Royals have won only one Championship match during this calendar year.

A number of draws have kept the club stuttering along, but now they are only three points above the bottom three, a decision had to be made.

Stam will look back at his time with Reading as a positive one.

He managed to surprise a lot of pundits by taking them to third position in his first season and was unlucky not to be promoted, but there are a lot of people still scratching their head at how the Royals managed to finish as high as they did.

The likes of Fulham, Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday were all seen as better teams, but something clicked for Reading and it is difficult to explain what.

Mark Taylor made an observation on Twitter using expected goals. Stam’s team massively overachieved based on that metric, which projected them as finishing 19th.

This season, the model projects them in 17th. In short, this decline in league position was predictable.

Although there are problems with expected goals, it does provide a good explanation for Reading’s decline this season.

Their results have simply returned to the mean and they are now getting the points to match their performance level.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

It isn’t that they have got worse under Stam’s management, but rather that last season was the outlier.

If Reading, as a club, want to be competing for promotion, Stam wasn’t the right manager to deliver that. The underlying numbers throughout his tenure highlight that.

His side scored 112 goals and conceded 121 in the Championship during the Dutchman’s time as manager.

That isn’t a record that suggests he is good enough to lead the club back to the Premier League.

The time for dissecting Stam’s tenure and his failures isn’t now. Reading must concentrate on making the right appointment to secure their place in the Championship.

It would be a huge blow if they were to fall to the third tier for the first time since the 2001/2 season.

With only eight matches left, there is little room for error for any incoming manager. The club must hope that this decision wasn’t too little too late.

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