STAR Fans' Forum - 28 April 2005

Fans Forum 28 April 2005 at the Madejski Stadium.

After the season we've had, just how on earth are we still up there! Do you think the overall standard of the division has improved or stood still - are we a better team than last season?
A tremendous start - very conscious of the three 3-0 defeats, didn't want the dip in Dec, so we had it Jan Feb and Mar! Cost many sleepless nights. We are vulnerable without Kitson and aware no goals from wide, so opponents just have to stop him scoring. Defensively we have improved dramatically thanks to Wally Downes. That is the fundamental reason we have improved. This summer need to work on scoring goals. The league is determined by the spend - and we have won our league as we are 8th from bottom on spend. Not many teams have a variety of match winners just hard work as a unit.

What's been the high point of this season from your perspective and which debacle was the most embarrassing?
Sunderland high point, Millwall was v important, low point Rotherham away, with one point would have been bitterly disappointed and the last minute goal was dreadful, especially as that point could still make the difference.

Reading Football Club is better than it was last season: what have you learnt this season about your players, the fans and about yourself?
I am learning all the time about the players, even with a small squad you get players unhappy when not playing, at this stage this season know better what we need next season. If we can get the players we have targeted we will be a stronger outfit, but that may not be higher in this league as cannot bank on the 3 teams relegated failing (assuming we are in this div) if we get promoted things will have to change to compete.

Which player on our books do you think has progressed the most this season in terms of their game development and who has been your player of the season - dare you say?
Player improved most - Sonko. When he came in was very raw and now is still raw but so committed as well as a lovely warm human being. Still can get better and better. Kitson has made most impact.

This season, excluding Reading of course, who have you really rated in the Championship and Coca Cola Leagues as a team as a player and as a manager?
Team Sunderland, with the best foundation (best creative back 4), Wolves play most pleasing football on the eye, Joe Royle has the gift of finding positives from even a bad performance.

Is it worse knowing other results/scores of the teams around you than not knowing. How do you try and calm the nerves of players, do you try an prevent news of other games and scores getting through?
At Palace we were 8 points ahead of Oldham with 3 games to go and they won all three so Palace was relegated. Since then assume everyone will win all remaining games. Can see from players how other games have gone, but controlled nerves are good.

Why no loan players taken on at all-all season-some Premier players during our bad run would have given us automatic promotion !
Availability of right players, even Martin and Les took a while to slot into place. This season was different as prem clubs had smaller squads so players available were inexperienced. Situation can change (for instance Blackstock inquiry - not available then 2 weeks later gone to Plymouth). With hindsight should have brought someone in Oct Nov Dec to just give a boost.

John Salako, Shaun Goater, Adie Williams, Nicky Forster... Most fans were very upset over how these players were treated. Are you concerned that RFC will get a bad reputation concerning players' contracts?
No absolutely not. We have been consistent and we do better than most clubs. My way is business in summer and will not look at anything else until January. Players accept it - it is unsettling but that is a footballer's life now.

If Reading Football Club is still in the Championship next season will Steve Coppell receive a strong transfer budget?
Strange club from that point of view, do not have a budget but not in that way. If the opportunity arises the Chairman will finance a new player. I treat my money like my.own and strive for 100% hit rate If we could get top players here he would find money especially for a young player who will get better.

How much of a change to the squad is planned in the summer - just a few tweaks or a little bit of surgery?
Nothing from wide and midfield sparse, and defence could have scored more. Pleased high in the fair league, with the benefit also of not many suspensions. Will need a bigger squad next year with the transfer window. But we have good young players in the squad so will grow from within.

While a small squad is probably a good idea in that it helps the spirit within the squad to grow and all players know they're likely to play some part or get their opportunity during the course of the season, do you not perhaps think that the squad at the start of the season (and as now come to that) was/is just a little too small and over-stretched. Also that it is unbalanced with a preponderance of 'winger' types?
Not too small, not really stretched. Maybe need more variety so that the bench is not like for like. Maybe in a search for wide players there are too many. Having more players does not make a better squad - need better players. Some players still look on Reading as a footballing backwater

Just what has been the difficulty this season in getting players to come to the club? Are the club perhaps being too blinkered in those players they are interested in or are those players the fans see moving to other clubs (and who they feel could do a job here eg. Rob Hulse, David Johnson, David Unsworth, Darren Powell, Danny Cullip, Michael Ricketts, Brett Ormerod etc...) really not that good at all - and therefore not worth the effort - or did we try for some but were rejected.....
Money is a big issue, our wage structure means that a lot of prem players would not fit into our structure. So alternatively they want long term deals. Not many home town boys in football - it is now all about money.

Don't suppose you'd like to tell us who two players we tried to sign before deadline day? Assuming not, will we still be pursuing them in the summer or are those deals dead now.
Can't remember. Got the notes though. Wanted an impact player, Les was designed for that and has made an impact in a way I did not foresee. He makes most impact coming on as sub.

How do you prepare the squad for a game? Do you just stick their good points and get them to work at their opponents conceived weaknesses or do you impress on them the strength and ability of the opposition and get them to watch out for this and that rather than building their own game?
Meeting with Niall to plan the intensity of training, need to keep freshened up so intended to play golf on Monday, but it was cancelled after the result which may have been bloody minded! Having seen Wolves on video did specific work on how we can get to Wolves yesterday. Players are off today, tomorrow will see an edited video of where we can get at Wolves, light training and set-pieces. Day before game is next to nothing physically. Come in 1.30 Sat post team at 2 and then play….

Have the club tried to go to a higher level of league with the reserve team as the gulf between reserve football and the first team looks immense. Also has this impacted on Steve's squad size as the fringe players get very little competitive football.
Another reason for smaller squads. Reserve games do not perform the function needed. Older players can get disillusioned and training session is better for them. Have been playing youngsters, game against Crawley this week was a good game because their season has finished so quite a lot of their first team played. Trying to get to the prem league although would cost us as we would have to have a bigger squad.

Louie Soares looks to be very impressive, Johnny Mullins has done outstandingly well in a difficult situation at Kidderminster, Simieon Howell has travelled with a few 1st team squads, Peter Castle and Darren Campbell played fleetingly under your predecessor, Jon Hayes looks awesome on occasions and James Henry seems to be earning Owen and Rooney type reviews at only 16 yet none even make the bench. Do you think that any of the current crop will break into the first team or do they all still have too much to learn to be given substitute opportunities?
Down to playing a match on Sat and bench comprises injury cover and different options (not just appearance money). Youngsters have been unlucky as there have not been injuries. Now the reserve team looks a promising outfit compared to last year.

Does the fact Reading Schools have just won their 'FA cup' bode well for the future in view of the proposed rules on 'home-grown' talent? Apparently the Football League have considered a rule similar to the EUFA rule but even stricter in restricting foreign players - would this be good for English football and Reading in particular?
Great for Reading, the amount spent on the academy has not yet paid off. But the Chairman sees a responsibility to local youngsters, to give them an opportunity as we are as good as anyone else at that level. Half the team academy in the schoolboys winning side is brilliant, result is kids proud of the club, with a feel for the supporters and the area all is a massive boost for the club and the area.

Given that this season we've already been abiding by the Premiership transfer window guidelines, do you think this will give us an advantage for next season! Does its ridiculous enforcement on all league clubs mean that we will have to carry a larger squad and if so what sort of size squad do we need to have (this season we've generally had a 1st team squad of 19 players).
and With the imposition of the idiot transfer window, is the loan market now dead?

Loan market not dead but window is much shorter, now 6mth or season long loans. Championship divides into 3 sections, first parachute payment 6, then group in middle, then bottom group of clubs. Bottom group will cut wage bills and spend for next season so will only be trying to avoid relegation. The next 8-10 teams aspire to prem but do not commit (spending) - we are the top of that group. Need to be there to start well next season.

Can you finally clear up whether you actually watched Bobby Convey play in the flesh, before shelling out a huge percentage of our transfer budget on him?
No, loads of videos but not in the flesh. Maybe wrong but in view of Eddie Lewis being kept out of the US team by him, felt it worth the risk.

Has Bobby Convey not achieved what you hoped in his first season. If not what do you think are the reasons? Are you hopeful he will make a bigger impact next season?
Wasn't intending to buy a reserve team left winger. Looking for that elusive left-sided player and didn't think we would find it at a price we could afford in this country. He had not been to college so had not been away from home, so has not coped so well initially. Hope that given time he will contribute, he is working well to make himself stronger physically and still think he will come good.

Why is the left wing such a problem, not just for us but, seemingly for the most part, at all levels of the english game. Do we have an answer for us and when will Bobby get his chance again?
Nick Shorey ought to be good but whenever we try it he looks so uncomfortable

Adrian Williams - what happened there exactly? He was the captain and in many respects the heart and soul of the defence yet he was allowed to go with no apparent attempt to persuade him otherwise and at a time when the squad was already too stretched defensively, then to compound it we totally failed to get anyone in to replace him (even Darren Powell on loan).
Adie wanted a contract in October, he was not prepared to wait to January, but I was not prepared to make an exception because of the other 5 players in the same position. Nothing happened for 4 weeks then left when Coventry offered a 2.5 year deal, despite being told we would rather he stayed. Defence is better than last year, so it has not been a defensive loss because lucky with injuries. Enquired about Darren Powell but got nowhere.

Why doesn't Shaun Goater 'fit' any more? Surely his experience and goalscoring presence would make up for any lack of pace/power, as well as worrying the opposition, particularly in the latter half of the season where we've actually managed to become quite consistent at getting the ball in the box.
Judgement call made at the start of season, there were too many strikers, there still are. Fozzy and Kits are the best 2 strikers - not always been the case on the pitch - see the strikers more with training etc so as the Goat was not the future for the club decided that in view of the contract clause not to play him.

Goalkeepers. Hahnemann's done well this season despite the seeming lack of competition. How do you rate Jamie Young and, now, Adam Frederici are either likely to make the breakthrough with us? Will you be looking for a more experienced keeper in the summer to allow Jamie out on a season loan somewhere?
Possibility of letting Jamie on loan. Marcus is hard working committed player and maybe the lack of competition is why - he enjoys the responsibility. Jamie has suffered as he needs to play first team football now he may go out on loan. We need 3 goalkeepers in view of the restricted loan rules.

Ricky Newman, completely underrated star or what?
He's terrific. First 6 months didn't get a look in, spent time on the bench but still with 100% commitment. Now has come in and played, depend upon and trust him in the team. When he played reserve team football he was a fabulous example for the youngsters. Nothing but praise for the man.

Questions from the Floor:
Do you feel one reason for not scoring is that front two lack concentration when we do not have ball?

Body language important and talk about a lot. Some players like Kits look apologetic. His size and hair colour means he stands out, but concentration - no. Fozzy, yes he loses concentration, should not be caught offside.
Goals from other areas big problem

Ever get frustrated for players not playing to his strengths eg Harps driving forward?
No agree, wanted and encouraged even pushed him to take the ball past players, but he thinks he has to be the cover.

Transfers, are prem clubs interested in kits and siddy?
No-one has ever approached me, no phone call or even conversation about them or anyone else.

People critical about mnotivation, how do you do it?
Look around football, take Arsenal they play good football and cannot imagine Wenger throwing cups. In this division it seems you are expected to be the jump up and down monkey on the line. Passion is going to watch the reserves and missing the Champions league semi-final last night! Motivation comes from pre-season setting standards and making the most of ability.

Chairman spent 2.5 million pound garden should it be on players?
Not really a garden kind of man. Chelsea have shown money counts, and at this level with many millions you could buy success. Understand why the chairman wants club to wipe it own face and have no complaints with it.

How do you account for performance like last Saturday?
Said keep them quiet for 20 mins, but we made a mistake on 12 mins. More open in second half trying to get a goal, it is not our style to throw 5 up front and the frustrated long ball does not work for us. Also does not reflect well on us. Did not have post mortem as it could be counter productive - the players knew.

Little town on M4 quote, does the national media annoy you?
Post match press conference I was asked 'were players overawed?' no, pressure is great when you are at top of division, club with no footballing history and we know can make history. But the Sun quoted some of it without the context. Love it seeing READING colours everywhere, and increasingly.

Under 11s, more and more wear reading shirts, with Martin and Les, can they encourage youngsters more?
All player do a lot, Hughesy should be getting MBE for what he does. We try to use them but both are on short term contracts and it is the lads who have been here for years who understand and put the time in.

Back to submitted questions:
Having Forster, Ferdinand and Kitson on the pitch currently seems to make us much more dangerous opposition yet we seem to 'play safe' by not starting with this combination, why?

Frightening but unbalanced. For last 4-5 games not sure have the combinations are working

I remember the year Glen Little scored, I was there the day Andy Hughes struck - why don't our midfield score more goals ?
Glen is high on shots without scoring. Wide players should get a goal in 7 games and we have none! Hasn't happened

Do you feel taking the captaincy has effected Murty's game at all?
He is a proud man and felt the poor run most. That is not what the captain should do, and he let it affect him a little. He is learning the position following a strong captain.

Sidwell and Harper are both young players, how much more do you think they have to learn before they peak - can we provide that experience for them?
Start of season as good as any team. The bad run made me question that. As a combination they are as effective as anyone and given their age can only get better.

How can you get our wingers to more consistently take on players and get to the goal line to cross a ball rather than take the easier option of lamping the ball over from about 25/30 yards?
Not by telling them to take players on. Glen has had niggling injuries all season. If we had real penetration in wide area we would be more effective.

Andy Hughes, great player but he is not a winger. He can excel at full back and as a box to box midfielder he is superb but a wing player is probably his least successful position - does this mean that you just don't rate any of our actual wingers or, more to the point, is our central midfield just so strong that you cannot leave any of them out?
I like Harps and Siddy in the middle and that is why Hughesy has not been there. He is jack of all trades as he can fit in anywhere on the pitch. Needs to calm down but invaluable and may prove the case on Sat if SHorey does nto make it. Hughesy defensive abilities balances Glen a little more.

Do you know what our proposed pre-season schedule is as yet?
Depends when this season ends! Sweden again on west coast.

Please, cheer us all up and say something to get us all up in the right frame of mind for Saturday (and if it works please say it to the players as well).
Can only echo Lloydy, another player who has given everything as a sub, he goes around saying to himself and anyone else who will listen 'believe it, believe we can win'.

Steve said a few words about wanting the club to do well, wanting to be part of the growth. Start of the season, worried about the expectations but we are there or there abouts. Whatever happens in the next 2 games appreciate the support of the fans

Thanks to STAR for the above information supplied to Hob Nob Anyone?

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