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04/05: Preview: Reading
Opposition opinion
by Royals fan Rob Evans

What happened last season?
It could have been so easy. We'd spent well up front with Goater and Murray arriving with very good reputations and the side burst out of the traps. Unbeaten with good away points and home wins, we played Wimbledon and thrashed them. Meanwhile, in East London, 'nice guy' Trevor Brooking was relieving Glenn Roeder of his job and making it quite obvious that he wanted Pardew. Pardew resigns, Madjeski refuses to accept it, Pardew complains, it goes to court. Its not that Pardew left that annoys - it's the fact that he signed a contract saying that he could only speak to Premiership clubs, its the fact that Brooking pretty much admitted that he'd tapped up Pardew and that he'd find 'other methods' of getting his man and the fact that Pardew could have achieved far more at Reading. Move on? Not for a while yet. While we did OK this season, what would have been achieved under Pardew could have made him a living legend in Reading. And I still don't know why Pardew was wearing a West Ham tie immediately after the court hearing releasing him from Reading. Obviously he signed the West Ham contract on the steps of the court!

So, manager gone. In steps Kevin Dillon. Our first game is away at West Ham. We lose. One win in 7 follows. We try to get peter Taylor. He refuses. We're linked with Tony Adams. We approach Steve Coppell and are given permission to talk to him and then are promptly accused of poaching Coppell ourselves. Its hardly poaching when your chairman lets him leave. It is when the manager breaks a contract. Coppell becomes manager and we can finally concentrate on the football...

So, the football.

I'd tried hard to forget about that at times. Christamas saw three 3-0 defeats in a row. Including one to Wimbledon. Small runs of good results were followed by momentum shattering defeats. Players had dire spells, followed by even worse ones. It was a young team and the change in management shattered the side's morale and belief. We spent the season a two-win run from the play-offs, and even on the last day of the season, where a win would have kept our hopes alive we slumped 1-0 to a softer than soft goal at Watford. But you think of the poor runs we had, the bad luck, the lack of two centre-backs and a left back for large chunks of the season, the winner Norwich scored set up by the referee, the game we play one up front but after his sending off fail to play anyone upfront for nearly 40 minutes and then look at the table - one win instead of a loss and we could have been in the play-offs!

And I'm not going to mention how bad Goater and Murray were. Murray ended up back at Bristol City less than 10 months after being bought from there. Goater was one of our top scorers but hardly impressed. Other players had poor seasons - Hahnemann was found wanting at times and got injured. His replacement, Ashdown, played well, refused to sign a new contract and has since left the club.

There were good moments, mind. Even though we lost 1-0 to Chelsea, we kept them at bay and even threatened them. Hahnemann had an inspired game in goal. And for once, the normally quiet home crowd discovered its voice.

Beating West Ham 2-0. David Kitson scored two but his overall performance would have earned him the praise anyway. There were some good results across the season - beating Sheff Utd, beating West Brom, losing 5-1 to Rotherham ... sorry, I'm getting confused ...

The development of Bas Savage ... um, sorry .. getting confused again ...

Coppell's signings have been pretty good - Ingimarsson shored up a slow defence, Kitson looks like he can partner Forster, players like Morgan and Brooker look solid. There was a slow turnaround as the season went on as the side slowly picked itself up and fought back into contention.

What's going to happen next season?
Look at last season, and I was optimistic. If Pardew had stayed, we would possibly have been in that play off final and perhaps looking forward to a season of big games.

This time round, and I'm still quite optmistic. We were getting there at the end of last season. The squad is young and quite inexperienced but its also strong throughout. We've bought to strengthen the dodgy areas and Coppell is a proven manager and has doen this before - taking a relatively smaller club to the top division.

Up front is where we'll look very good next season. An injury free Forster and Kitson have enough between them to threaten any defence. Sidwell links well with them and we have the mighty Bas Savage. With decent wingers as well, we should score goals.

So, playoffs. Our opening games see us play a Mark McGhee-led Brighton and then Alan Pardew's West Ham, which could give us a flying start to the season. Looking at who has come down, Leeds will hopefully sink further. It might take time for them to realise that they are not a Premiership club anymore, but like many clubs before them, they will get used to the fact eventually. Wolves and Leicester will threaten and there might be a dark horse from the promoted clubs. So Reading should slip into the playoffs. I think we're far from being a promotion contender but there's a season of football ahead.

Soundbites (from assorted Census correspondents)

"I'm getting married on the 17th, my Reading shirt will be under my suit."

"I have just bought a second hand HP LaserJet 5L off eBay for a tenner"

"Craig Ramage was a legend on one of the early versions of CM!!"

"Don't put boiled eggs on a pizza - the end result is the production of windy pixies"

"I look forward to alleviating my best mate who happens to be Golden Boy of another 30 quid at the end of the season"

"If you approached a red traffic light fast enough, it would appear green. Or blue for that matter"

"Pardew will get sacked as Manager by West Ham before Xmas."

"The light at the end of the tunnel is just a train coming towards you."

"I don't exist unless I think."

"I was a male model you know"

"Why didnt Reading turn up to play at Watford last year"

"When are you getting that garden shed of a stand knocked down?"

"this took far too long to do you tossers"

"There are in fact various ways to get to San Jose, depending on whether you are approaching from the east, north or south, or west if you are on a boat. Also the method of transport has a bearing on the direction, for instance on a train from New York you might have to go to San Francisco and change, whereas on a boat you just sort of have to point it and it will go straight there. Unless it's a sailing boat, in which case it might have to tack, depending on the wind direction.

What I am saying really is that it is impossible to answer this question within the confines of this questionnaire."

"Daley Thompson was a crap footballer. Badgers make fine pets. There should be a statue of Lee Nogan in Reading, with a nose that reaches to Watford. That'd be about right."

"Your stewards have still got my beach ball - bastards!"

"I'm having spaghetti tonight."

"I actually live 40 miles from San Jose. I hate to admit, but I really do know the way to San Jose - what a dump - although I did contrive to get lost on my first trip down there. Also the San Jose Earthquakes play there, but not for much longer apparently. On another note, I have been known to be an excellent prognosticator. Remind me at the end of the season about the Royals final standing. As for your lot - 14th! "

"Ramage was dirty."