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02/03: Preview: Reading
Opposition opinion
by Royals fan Rob Evans

What happened last season?
After the heartbreak of a second playoff disaster (this time a freak owngoal put paid to our dreams), I started the season wondering how the club would turn it about. Promised little in the way of funds, I expected a hard struggle.

The first third of the season was a mixture of fairly convincing wins and some abysmal reverses (Swindon at home, anyone?) And then it went mad. Injuries forced Pardew to bring in some loan signings in the shape of Marcus Hahnemann, Kevin Watson and John Salako. Our strikeforce was reduced to the fast-yet-really-quite-ineffectual Rougier and fast-and-good Forster by injuries and poor form. And then we won almost every game for 2 and a bit months, storming to the top of the table in the process. Our run-in should have seen us storm home as champions, but Brighton overtook us as the wins turned to draws. In the end, a draw at Griffin Park was enough, but it should have been over long before then....

What's going to happen next season?
God knows. Again, we're told that there are no funds to spend (yet why are we seen as a rich club? Oh yeah, arrogant supporters and a flash new stadium) and our almost hilarious loss of form at the end of last season make me and a lot of others apprehensive. Yet, I really can't see us going down. There are worse clubs, and clubs which are less financially secure, so we should achieve a reasonable mid table finish.

And if youth is brought in, like Nicky Shorey, Joe Gamble and the magnificently named Basir Savage, we could have a squad capable of dealing with 1st Division football. Our strikeforce of Martin Butler, Jamie Cureton and Nicky Forster is one of the best outside the Premiership so goals won't be a problem.

So, at worst, we get a lower midtable position, but build on it next season. At best? Well, Millwall have set a good target this season. And remember last time we got promoted to this division?

Can you recommend a pub for away fans?
Pubs are a problem as most operate a no football-shirts policy, and there aren't many around the stadium, although beer is served inside. Best bet would be to find somewhere in town. That's the problem with a flashy out-of-town stadium.

Additional information, from Steve (aka Mr Angry):
The Swan at a place called Three Mile Cross; go to Jn 11 and instead of going right (if coming from London) to the ground, go left (heading toward Basingstoke - but for God's sake don't GO to Basingstoke if you ever want to see your family ever again!!). Go down about 0.25 miles of dual carriageway til you get to the first roundabout, go left, then follow the road for about 0.5 mile and the Swan is on the left. The landlord doesn't mind you parking, the ground is 20 mins walk, which is great to exercise off the excellent chilli (5) or the beers (6X @ 2.50, Pride etc)

What's the nearest railway station?
Reading Station. There are regular buses both directly to the stadium and nearby it.

Where is the best place to park?
Catch train into Reading, and there are buses. If you drive, well, that's your problem.

Soundbites (from assorted Census correspondents)

"Joe Gamble is the best midfielder in this division by a distance."

"The majority of this (worst 11) vast array of talent were signed by the legendary Scot 'Tommy Burns'"

"Lets all Laugh at Watford, la la la la."

"Jamie Cureton, what a bargain!"

"RFC have the potential to go all the way to the PREMIERSHIP!"

"i really fancy jade out of bb3, loose morals, can't handle her drink and a fine chest on her.... oh and swindon is truly heel on earth" (sic)