Reading Football Club News: January 2017

Reading Wrap Up Third Loan As Grabban Signs

31 January 2017
By Hob Nob Anyone?

Reading wrapped up a very successful transfer deadline day with a third straight League victory - a 1-0 win at Birmingham City - and a third confirmed loan signing as Lewis Grabban signed from Bournemouth. Grabban could be the striker that Reading have been missing and an important part of the promotion jigsaw after we saw Jordon Mutch arrive from Crystal Palace and central defender Reece Oxford arrive from West Ham United.

Grabban had attracted interest from other Championship sides on transfer deadline day - including play-off rivals Leeds United. However, Grabban chose the Royals over other options as he looks to return to first team action and his Championship goal scoring ways. Grabban has found it increasingly difficult to get any action at Premier League Bournemouth where he has been kept out of the side and has much proven success at finding the net in the second tier.

Twenty nine year old Grabban moved back to Bournemouth nearly exactly a year ago for 7 million pounds but his return spell has been dramatically less successful. In his return spell he has been restricted to having most of his match action from the bench and has scored just one goal from 22 appearances. Despite his lack of success in the Premier League Grabban was hugely successful in the Championship for both Bournemouth and then Norwich - and could be exactly what we need to keep us up at the top of the table.

Meanwhile, tonight's victory saw Reading move four points ahead of fourth placed Leeds United and move to just three points behind second placed Newcastle. Reading played with a much depleted back line due to injuries but still managed to keep a clean sheet. John Swift scored the only goal of the game on 77 minutes, slotting home Jordan Obita's low cross.

Reading's out-going transfers saw Dominic Samuel move to Ipswich Town on loan, and goalkeeper Stuart Moore head to Luton Town also on loan.

See Also:

Oxford Joins Reading: Not The Thames Valley Royals

31 January 2017
By Hob Nob Anyone?

Oxford joining Reading is a nightmare headline from 1982 when Oxford United chairman Robert Maxwell announced his plans to merge Oxford with Reading. Thankfully that all fell through, Reading survived and went on to grow from strength to strength. We are now in the position to attract quality young players from the Premier League - such as Reece Oxford who completed his loan move to Reading this afternoon.

Oxford joins the Royals until the of the season from West Ham United. Oxford became Reading's second confirmed incoming transfer of deadline day, following Jordon Mutch who signed from Crystal Palace on loan earlier in the day. Oxford, who is unlikely to find his name printed on any replica shirts this season, has been signed to provide cover in the centre of defence where injuries have taken their toll on Jaap Stam's squad. Ilori has been out injured, McShane has been playing with a wrist injury, and Joey van den Berg picked up an injury this week. Oxford will be expected to come straight into the side next weekend.

Oxford made his West Ham debut aged just sixteen at the start of last season after becoming a professional with the Hammers. He went on to make 12 appearances last season, including 7 in the Premier League (3 starts and 4 from the bench). His opportunities have been more restricted this season and he has appeared just twice - both in Europa League fixtures. His move to Reading should give him plenty more first team action as he looks to build his career.

Meanwhile, yesterday's new signing, Adrian Popa who arrived from Steaua Bucharest on a permanent deal has managed to receive his international clearance. The clearance means Popa is cleared to play, and not only travelled with the team to Birmingham City for tonight's League fixture, but has been named on the bench and could now be set to make his Reading debut.

The final possible transfer of a busy transfer deadline day is the arrival, also on loan, of Bournemouth striker Lewis Grabban. Unlike some of the rumours during the day this one seems a strong possibility with the highly rated player unable to get match action at Bournemouth.

Twenty nine year old Grabban moved back to Bournemouth nearly exactly a year ago for 7 million pounds but his return spell has been dramatically less successful. In his return spell he has been restricted to having most of his match action from the bench and has scored just one goal from 22 appearances. Despite his lack of success in the Premier League Grabban was hugely successful in the Championship for both Bournemouth and then Norwich - and could be exactly what we need to keep us up at the top of the table.

Jordon Mutch Loan Signing Confirmed

31 January 2017
By Hob Nob Anyone?

The signing of Crystal Palace midfielder Jordon Mutch has been officially confirmed by the club. Mutch has been pictured in the usual manner, surrounded by cans of Carabao, as he put pen to paper on his new loan deal. Mutch will be with Reading until the end of the current season - with the possibility of making his transfer permanent in the summer.

Mutch has made 8 appearances for Palace this season but has spent most of his time on the bench after joining Palace from QPR in January 2015. QPR had paid 6 million pounds for Mutch form Cardiff in August 2014. The 25 year old was picked up by Cardiff City from Birmingham City in 2012 after working his way through the England youth squads. His International success saw him move for a transfer fee that was understood to be over one million pounds. Mutch has played for the England U17s, U19s, U20s and U21s after spending his youth at Derby County.

Jaap Stam was pleased to complete the signing and increase the strength of his squad as the Royals look to maintain a promotion push: "Jordon is a good technical player, he is quick and he has good stamina as a runner in midfield. He has a lot of experience of both Championship and Premier League football and it is good to bring a player with his quality into the squad"

Reading Travel To Out Of Form Birmingham

31 January 2017
By Hob Nob Anyone?

Alongside all the news and rumours on transfer deadline day, the Royals travel to Birmingham City tonight in the Championship as they look to build on a run of two league wins over Fulham and Cardiff City. Those two wins allowed Jaap Stam and his team to put behind them in a blip in form that saw them temporarily drop from third place. The Royals now find themselves back in third and eight points clear of seventh place and, with 28 games of the season played, now have to be recognised as serious play-off contenders.

New signing winger Adrian Popa, who arrived this week from Steaua Bucharest, is unlikely to be able to play as he waits for his international clearance to be confirmed. With Tiago Ilori out injured, the Royals look set to bring in Reece Oxford on loan from West Ham United to fill the gap in the centre of defence. However Oxford will also have to wait before making his debut. Liam Moore will be playing in the centre of defence but Stam has limited other options. McShane is likely to feature despite injury and Tyler Blackett will replace Joey van den Berg who failed to complete the first half against Cardiff City on Saturday.

Birmingham City are down in 12th place and in terrible form, without a win in 9 games in all competitions. Their last seven league games have returned just three points as they slipped from in the hunt for a play-off spot to midtable. Birmingham manager Gianfranco Zola finds himself under pressure to conjure up a win from somewhere and would perhaps be wishing for an easier game this evening: "In Reading, we're playing a side that plays good football and will create problems for us. So, we will have to be stronger and compact while at the same time not just go forward. It will have to be a complete performance."

Recent Meetings With Birmingham City

13 September 2016 Championship Birmingham (HOME) D: 0-0 Read report...
09 April 2016 Championship Birmingham (HOME) L: 0-2 Read report...
08 August 2015 Championship Birmingham (Away) L: 1-2 Read report...
22 April 2015 Championship Birmingham (HOME) L: 0-1 Read report...
13 December 2014 Championship Birmingham (Away) L: 1-6 Read report...
22 March 2014 Championship Birmingham (Away) W: 2-1 Read report...
28 September 2013 Championship Birmingham (HOME) W: 2-0 Read report...
28 April 2012 Championship Birmingham (Away) L: 0-2 Read report...
06 November 2011 Championship Birmingham (HOME) W: 1-0 Read report...
03 May 2009 Championship Birmingham (HOME) L: 1-2 Read report...
20 December 2008 Championship Birmingham (Away) W: 3-1 Read report...
22 March 2008 Premiership Birmingham (HOME) W: 2-1 Read report...
15 December 2007 Premiership Birmingham (Away) D: 1-1 Read report...
27 January 2007 FA Cup Birmingham (Away) W: 3-2 Read report...
07 February 2006 FA Cup Birmingham (Away) L: 1-2 Read report...
28 January 2006 FA Cup Birmingham (HOME) D: 1-1 Read report...

Deadline Day: Reece Oxford And Jordon Mutch On Loan

31 January 2017
By Hob Nob Anyone?

Reece Oxford has arrived at Reading ahead of signing on loan from West Ham as the Royals remain busy on transfer deadline day. Jordon Mutch, the Crystal Palace midfielder, has been confirmed as expected to join Reading on loan today. Other rumours include a two million pound offer for Australian striker Tomi Juric - but the player has been reported as rejecting the transfer and it remains unclear if the Royals can tempt him away.

Reece Oxford is expected to complete the paperwork on his move to Reading on loan today, and has been at the Madejski Stadium this morning, after West Ham United confirmed they have been in discussions with Reading. West Ham boss Slaven Bilic confirmed he was in favour of the loan move after talking with Reading manager Jaap Stam: "The manager there was really important for me in that decision."

Oxford, despite his unfortunate surname, is a talented young central defender and is expected to come into Reading to provide cover while Ilori is out through injury. Opportunities at West Ham have been limited after he turned professional for West Ham over two years ago. Oxford made 12 appearances last season for the Hammers, including in the Premier League, but has been restricted to just 2 games in the Europa League so far this term. With Reading needing cover for injuries and West Ham trying to get experience for the player it appears a straight forward short distance loan move for Oxford.

Jordon Mutch has been rumoured to join Reading for several weeks - but that rumour gathered much more pace on transfer deadline day with the midfielder seen at the Madejski Stadium this afternoon as he arrived to sign his loan contract. Mutch has made 8 appearances for Palace this season but has spent most of his time on the bench after joining Palace from QPR in January 2015. QPR had paid 6 million pounds for Mutch form Cardiff in August 2014.

Meanwhile, the Royals are rumoured to have put an offer equivalent of 2 million pounds for the services of 25 year old striker Tomi Juric who is currently playing for FC Luzern in the Swiss Super League. Although Juric doesn't have the best domestic strike rate he has scored four international goals for his country while clocking up 20 caps over four years. The transfer fee would be very difficult for Luzern to turn down after they picked up the player on a free transfer in the summer from Dutch club Roda JC.

With his Dutch connections, his age and rumoured style of play, Juric appears to be very much a Jaap Stam style purchase. The latest is that despite the club allowing discussions and being happy with the offered transfer fee, the player has been unable to agree terms with the Royals.

Transfer Deadline Day - Discussion:

Adrian Popa Signing Confirmed

30 January 2017
By Hob Nob Anyone?

The club have confirmed the incoming transfer of 28 year old Romanian winger Adrian Popa. The deal was widely reported in Romanian media last week after the club made revised bids for the player who was due to be out of contract in the summer. An initial bid of 500K Euros was turned down, but the Royals went back with an increased bid of 600K Euros which was accepted by Steaua Bucharest.

Popa has an impressive CV with 21 senior caps for Romania, three league titles with Steaua Bucharest and appearances in the Champions League and Europa League. Popa signed for Steaua in the summer of 2012 and went on to make 113 appearances for his side, hitting 16 goals in the process. His last appearance was in December when he scored the only goal in a 1-0 home win. He has also scored two goals for his country so far this season, including what turned out to be a crucial late goal in a 1-1 draw with Montenegro in a World Cup qualifier.

The confirmed signing of Popa is not expected to be Reading's final activity in the transfer market with Reading boss Jaap Stam hinting at a couple of likely signings last week. Popa is also seen as a good deal on transfer fees for the club, leaving money spare from the 10.4 million transfer and contract pot that was loaned by the club's potential new Chinese owners earlier this month. Fans will be hoping for one further signing to join new players Tiago Ilori and Adrian Popa, before the transfer window closes tomorrow evening at 11pm.

Reading 2-1 Cardiff City: Things We Learned

30 January 2017
By Alex Bower

Reading moved back to third in the Championship table with a 2-1 win over Cardiff City on Saturday. John Swift initially opened the scoring after being picked out by a spectacular flick from Garath McCleary. Liam Moore went on to give away his second penalty in two games as he fouled ex-Reading player Sean Morrison. Joe Ralls tucked the ball into the corner past a sprawling Ali Al-Habsi, who could not prevent the goal on this occasion. In the second half, it was a Yann Kermorgant free-kick that would give Reading a 2-1 lead and seal the victory for the home side.

Here are some things that we learned from the game.

Formations: Curiouser and Curiouser

In recent times, Jaap Stam cannot be accused of being predictable. Against Fulham he set up his team with two wingers as strikers. Against Cardiff, Reading set up with no natural left-back in the starting eleven and top scorer Garath McCleary filling in as the right wing-back. As the game went on, the players seemed to be featuring in all kinds of positions and formation seemed to go out the window. Players like Liam Kelly, Garath McCleary, Liam Moore, Yann Kermorgant and Roy Beerens all featured in a variety of positions throughout the game with varying effectiveness.

After the game it was revealed that there were a number of injury concerns amongst the Reading defence. Tiago Ilori is facing a spell of four to six weeks on the sidelines after doing some ligament damage in the game against Fulham. Jordan Obita and Tyler Blackett both started on the bench after taking knocks while Joey van den Berg was taken off after picking up a hamstring injury. With such injuries affecting the defence in particular, weird and wonderful setups may be something we will get used to.

Putting Games To Bed

Based on the first half performance, Reading were by far the better of the two teams. The Royals were dominating possession and seemed to be dictating the majority of play. The issue was, that the home side were not moving the ball with any real pace and were not creating a lot of shooting opportunities for themselves. As a result, the score was level at half-time.

Looking back at the second-half, despite taking the lead, the win was hard-fought. Reading have a habit of becoming increasingly defensive as the final whistle approaches with their usual possession based style fading into the ether. While it is great seeing the team fighting together to win games, from a spectator standpoint it would be nice to have a stress-free end to a game sometime soon.

Liam Kelly Continues To Shine

One of many good things to emerge from Jaap Stam's reign is the emergence of Liam Kelly. The academy graduate has grabbed the opportunity of playing in the first team with both hands. Against Cardiff, it was another memorable performance from the young midfielder. Right up until the final whistle he was chasing down the opposition, whether that was in defence or attack. His work rate is exemplary and he has the technical ability to go with it. While it is still early in his career, his recent performances will have no doubt turned a few heads.

Pitch Problems Persist

One concern that has been voiced this week is the state of the Madejski Stadium pitch. It is common knowledge that the stadium is also used for London Irish rugby fixtures and every year it has a negative impact on the condition of the pitch.

This year, however, it seems to be a greater concern due to the style of football Jaap Stam wants the team to play. A threadbare pitch does not lend itself well to a possession based style and subsequently is a problem for the home side. So far, Reading have been able to deal with it and are still winning games. Over time, however, it will only get worse and could become a real concern for the Royals.

Points Tally Equaled

As time goes on, Reading fans become almost expectant when it comes to making the play-offs. Jaap Stam has worked wonders during only a short time at the club and that is represented by the current number of points the team have already earned. The Royals are currently on 52 points, meaning that they have already equaled their points tally from last season with eighteen games still to play. It is clear that there is belief amongst the team and the supporters. If that can be maintained for the rest of the season, anything is possible.

Kermorgant Free Kick Secures Another Win

28 January 2017
By Hob Nob Anyone?

Yann Kermorgant's superbly struck free-kick was a worthy winner in a match which hung in the balance until the very end. Having taken the lead through Swift just before half time, the Royals were pegged back when a rare spell of pressure from City produced a penalty in first half stoppage time which Ralls converted. Reading regained the lead on sixty minutes through Kermorgant's strike and then withstood the footballing equivalent of The Blitz as City launched an incessant aerial bombardment from corners and long throw-ins. In spite of City's considerable physical presence in the box, with McShane, Moore, and Kermorgant on duty, Al Habsi's goal was well protected and Reading saw out the final phase of the game to claim another valuable three points.

Cardiff Match Preview And Popa Transfer Rumour

27 January 2017
By Hob Nob Anyone?

Reading returned to winning ways on Tuesday night as they played out a 1-0 win in the re-arranged game against Fulham. After three straight defeats, fans were expecting the worst. However, the fog stayed away until full time this time around, and Reading won the fixture despite starting without a recognised striker on the pitch. It was a game of two penalties - with Reading scoring theirs from the rebound thanks to Roy Beerens and Al Habsi taking all the credit with a last minute penalty save to secure the full three points. The win was just about a fair reflection of an entertaining game, and saw Reading briefly return to third place. Cardiff City are the visitors to the Madejski Stadium this weekend, where a victory for Reading would lift back to third and close the gap on Brighton and Newcastle who are both in FA Cup action on Saturday.

Cardiff City turn up at the Madejski Stadium under the charge of our favourite manager Neil Warnock. Colin has guided Cardiff to 16th place in the Championship after his arrival and the Bluebirds are in decent form, despite their recent defeat to table toppers Brighton on Tuesday night. Cardiff were always unlikely to get any points from their trip to the South coast - but before that they picked up a maximum of 9 from 9 with victories over Aston Villa, Bristol City and Burton Albion. Despite Reading turning the corner with their win on Tuesday night, Warnock will be hoping, perhaps expecting, to leave Reading with some points.

Reading manager Jaap Stam is likely to shake things around again for Cardiff's visit. He may choose to include a striker in the starting eleven this time out, with Yann Kermorgant hoping to be back in the side. Meanwhile, Jordan Obita is likely to make a return after Tyler Blackett struggled to cope on Tuesday night and found himself substituted. Obita was suspended on Tuesday night but is available again after serving his one match ban.

Off the pitch, the proposed Chinese takeover still continues to simmer away without confirmation in either direction if they will eventually take control of the club. The takeover continues to wait with the Premier League unhappy with the history of the Chinese, leading to them keeping the brakes on the deal. The Thai's have made it clear they want out of the football side of the club and are desperate for the take over to complete.

After splitting the club into two, to enable them to redevelop the area surrounding the Madejski Stadium via their own separate entity company, they allowed a large percentage of the property development company to be used as security on a loan provided by the Chinese two weeks ago. The 10.4 million pound loan, the details of which were released on Monday this week, came into the Football Club before the Ilori deal completed. This was essentially the Chinese funding the transfer via a loan ahead of their takeover.

Jaap Stam is still likely to get a remainder of that loaned cash before the transfer window shuts next week, and will hope to add at least one player to continue an unlikely promotion push. Stam may include winger Adrian Popa in his incoming transfers if Romanian media is to be believed. Reports suggest after a 500K Euro bid was turned down, the club upped it to 600,000 Euros, and that bid has now been accepted by Steaua Bucharest. Popa is a Romanian international and Steaua are reported to be set to cash in with the player's contract up in the summer. The same reports suggest Popa will sign a three and a half year contract with the Royals. True or not, it is likely to be one of many rumours over the next week.

Recent Meetings With Cardiff City

27 August 2016 Championship Cardiff (Away) W: 1-0 Read report...
19 March 2016 Championship Cardiff (HOME) D: 1-1 Read report...
07 November 2015 Championship Cardiff (Away) L: 0-2 Read report...
04 April 2015 Championship Cardiff (HOME) D: 1-1 Read report...
24 January 2015 FA Cup Cardiff (Away) W: 2-1 Read report...
21 November 2014 Championship Cardiff (Away) L: 1-2 Read report...
02 January 2012 Championship Cardiff (Away) L: 1-3 Read report...
19 November 2011 Championship Cardiff (HOME) L: 1-2 Read report...
17 May 2011 Championship Play-Off Cardiff (Away) W: 3-0 Read report...
13 May 2011 Championship Play-Off Cardiff (HOME) D: 0-0 Read report...
01 February 2011 Championship Cardiff (Away) D: 2-2 Read report...
10 November 2010 Championship Cardiff (HOME) D: 1-1 Read report...
10 April 2010 Championship Cardiff (Away) D: 0-0 Read report...
16 September 2009 Championship Cardiff (HOME) L: 0-1 Read report...
03 January 2009 FA Cup Cardiff (Away) L: 0-2 Read report...
26 December 2008 Championship Cardiff (HOME) D: 1-1 Read report...
25 November 2008 Championship Cardiff (Away) D: 2-2 Read report...

Reading 1-0 Fulham: Things We Learned

25 January 2017
By Alex Bower

Reading avenged their 5-0 defeat at the hands of Fulham on Tuesday evening as they secured a 1-0 win at the Madejski. The only goal of the game came about through a Roy Beerens rebound after John Swift saw his penalty saved. An Ali Al-Habsi penalty save in the dying minutes made sure the Royals earned all three points.

Here are some of the things that came out of the game.

Kelly Continues To Shine

In case you haven't quite cottoned on yet, Liam Kelly is quite the talented footballer. The Academy product has made a well-timed breakthrough into the first team this season thanks to the belief placed in him by the coaching team.

Against Fulham, Kelly put in yet another performance to be proud of. Whether it was driving forward runs or hassling opponents, the midfielder was involved in all facets of the game for the duration of time he was on the pitch.

While it is still early in his career, Kelly's performances have already earned him a lot of respect from those involved with the club. Subsequently he is a player that many will be hoping will stay at Reading for years to come after recently signing a new contract with the club.

Don't Doubt Stam

At around 7pm last night you could almost hear the collective questioning of Reading fans as the teams were announced. Jaap Stam opted to change things up a bit, having probably been influenced by what he saw from Fulham in the postponed fixture.

The Reading manager opted to go with what was probably a 5-1-2-2 formation with wingers Roy Beerens and Garath McCleary handed the striker roles. Recognised strikers Yann Kermorgant, Dominic Samuel, Joseph Mendes and Yakou Meite, meanwhile, had to contend with places on the bench.

On paper it looked like a very strange choice but ultimately it was a good move from Stam. Much has been said in the past about the Reading manager's lack of a plan B, but on this occasion he used one and it worked.

The back five looked largely solid, the midfield were highly proactive both offensively and defensively and the partnership of Beerens and McCleary worked well with both getting in behind the Fulham defence on several occasions.

If there was a particular lesson learned from this game it would be never doubt Stam. Turns out he knows what he is doing.

There's No I In Team

If there is one particular thing that is standing out in Reading's performances this season it is the team spirit. It is clear the belief is back and as a fan it is great to see.

Against Fulham the work rate amongst the entire squad was exemplary and you could see how determined they were to get back to winning ways.

As we creep ever closer to the end of the season it is that belief that could make the difference between a top six finish and mid-table.


Penalties have often been the subject of discussion at Reading this season but no more so than against Fulham.

For whatever reason, the Royals cannot seem to score penalties at the first time of asking these days. At the start of the season, Garath McCleary used to be able to convert them for fun. Now, penalty duty seems to be being passed around the squad until they find someone who can score.

While Reading cannot score from the penalties, the rebound scoring technique seems to be catching on. The Royals have now scored five goals on the rebound from eleven penalty attempts. Yes it suggests that their alertness is top notch but one day they will not be let off the hook so lightly.

Down the other end, it was the late heroics from Ali Al-Habsi that would earn Reading all three points. If you thought Reading's penalty form was bad, just take a look at Fulham's. Chris Martin's second penalty miss in only a matter of days was the seventh miss for his side this season. Ultimately it was Al-Habsi's save at the death that made the difference. Perhaps he should start taking them down the other end too...

Promotion A Real Possibility?

Based on recent years I'm not sure that any Reading supporter will have expected to be in the position they are now. Stam, however, has made a real positive difference to the team. From the players the Stam name has brought to club to the style and mental attitude the team now possess, the Reading manager has already made a noticeable impact.

In the Championship Brighton and Newcastle occupy the top two places and look set to stay there for the duration. While it is mathematically possible for them to be caught, their form suggests that they will be automatically promoted to the Premier League come the end of the season.

Based on the table, therefore, any of nine teams could probably make it into the play-offs. From there on in it is anyone's game. On their day, Reading are capable of playing some impressive football. The question now is whether they can hold their nerve long enough to keep themselves in a position to challenge for promotion.

Al Habsi Penalty Save Secures Win Over Fulham

24 January 2017
By Hob Nob Anyone?

Reading deservedly came out on top in a highly entertaining match which simmered through the first half before coming to the boil just after half time with the award of a penalty for the Royals. Although Reading once again failed to convert the penalty, Beerens gave them the lead reacting fastest to smash home the rebound from Swift's spot kick. In a dramatic finale Al Habsi saved a penalty awarded to Fulham almost on full time to deny the visitors an equaliser. Reading saw out the five minutes of stoppage time to claim the three points which lifted them back into third place in the Championship.

Spare Cash From 10 Million Pound Loan

24 January 2017
By Hob Nob Anyone?

Jaap Stam is expected to have spare funds ahead of the closure of the transfer window after only part of a 10.4 million pound loan from Chinese pair Xiu Li Dai and Yongge Dai was used to complete the transfer of Tiago Ilori from Liverpool. Although Ilori's transfer fee was undisclosed and will include hefty wages, the total fees should leave spare cash from the advance payment made by the Dais who are still looking to take control of Reading Football Club. Despite the huge uncertainty that continues to hang around the club, Stam is still likely to be allowed at least one major signing as he looks to continue what would be a vital promotion push.

The Ilori deal took much longer than expected to complete while the details of the loan, made via Dai's Hong Kong based Golden Shine International company, were agreed and the money made available. The signing of Ilori was immediately followed by Gareth McCleary putting pen to paper on a new contract to keep him at the club. The up front investment seems aimed at maintaining a promotion push while all parties wait for resolution on the overall club ownership. With the club already in debt, promotion to the Premier League is seen as an instant fix.

The Chinese pair are still hopeful of completing the purchase of the club from our current Thai owners - but checks around the potential new owners continue. There is still no guarantee the takeover will complete, after it looked dead and buried only a few weeks ago - but that was the same time in which loan was being negotiated. Should the takeover fail to complete the club will have additional debts in a complex financial picture with the new loan secured against 24.66% of the Thai owned RFC Prop Co Limited.

Fog Forecast As Reading And Fulham Try Again

24 January 2017
By Alex Bower

"We are ready to play a very good Fulham side once more. We know our opponents play good possession football and we're all aware of the quality they possess, so we need to try to make it difficult for them and hopefully get ourselves a win."
- Reading FC Manager Jaap Stam

"It is a massive game - every game in the Championship is massive, because everyone wants to be up there fighting to be in the play-offs and chasing everyone that's above them. So it's massive for us, and it'll be massive for them as well."
- Reading FC Midfielder John Swift

"The abandonment was a bit strange. It was lucky the game was level because otherwise I'm sure it would have been a bit controversial. We have to show Reading respect because they are ahead of us in the table. They play a similar passing style to us, so we are wary of them."
- Fulham Goalkeeper David Button

Due to a somewhat controversial postponement, Reading FC face Fulham on Tuesday evening for the third time this season. The last time the two sides met at the Madejski, the game was brought to a halt prior to the commencement of the second half because of foggy conditions.

Reading go into the rearranged game fifth in the Championship but have been suffering a dip in form of late. The Royals have now succumbed to two narrow league defeats against QPR and Derby following their 4-0 FA Cup exit at the hands of Manchester United. Fulham, meanwhile, are in ninth having won two, drawn one and lost one so far this month. Last time out they managed a 1-1 draw against a QPR side who have recently beaten the Royals.

The reverse fixture between the two sides earlier in the season is one that Reading will be hoping to avenge. Fulham won the game 5-0 courtesy of goals from Reading's own Chris Gunter, a brace from Chris Martin, Sone Aluko and Stefan Johansen.

If Reading are to get back to winning ways, they will have to do so without left-back Jordan Obita who is absent through suspension. Jaap Stam, however, has no new injury worries going into the game. Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic also has no new injury concerns but Floyd Ayite and Neeskens Kebano are away on international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Based on the first-half of the abandoned fixture, it will be a tough game for the Royals. Both sides play in a similar fashion so it will be hard to break the away side down. Ryan Fredericks is a continuous threat for Fulham from the full-back position and has already shown that he has the beating of the Reading defence. The Lilywhites will also be boosted by the availability of Chris Martin, who did not feature last time out due to drama surrounding his loan.

If Reading are serious about contending for promotion, however, these are the kinds of games they have to be winning. Losing three league games on the bounce would also have an unwelcome impact on confidence so this is the time to string some positive results together.

Tonight's forecast: Dense fog with a severe weather warning due to poor visibility!

Tiago Ilori Officially Completes Move To Reading

18 January 2017
By Hob Nob Anyone?

Tiago Ilori has finally - and officially - completed his move to Reading FC. His transfer had been expected to complete "tomorrow" every day over the past two weeks, but he has finally been unveiled as a Reading player this morning. The 23 year old central defender has signed a three and a half year contract with Reading and signs for an undisclosed fee that is believed to be worth over £3.5 million to Liverpool.

Ilori signed for Liverpool in September 2013 from Sporting Lisbon but failed to make an impact for the club after failing to appear in the Premier League. The player has been restricted to just three FA Cup appearances - which all came last season. He featured in a 2-2 draw with Exeter, a 3-0 replay win at Anfield, before Liverpool were dumped out of the cup at the hands of West Ham United. Before that he had loan spells at Granada, Bordeux and Aston Villa - but failed to make a competitive appearance with the Villians.

Yesterday Gareth McCleary fought his way through promotional cans of Carabao to put pen to paper and extend his contract for a further three years. McCleary's contract was set to expire in the summer and he was widely expected to be on his way out of the club. His new contract came as a bit of a surprise but it great news as Reading look set to keep this squad together during this transfer window and extend it with the addition of Ilori.

See also:

QPR Defeat - Post Match Talking Points

13 January 2017
By Alex Bower

Reading's impressive home run in the Championship came to an end on Thursday evening courtesy of a 1-0 defeat to QPR. Rangers were seventeenth in the league prior to kick-off but ex-Royal Jamie Mackie scored the only goal of the game to seal their third league win in a row.

Here are some of the talking points from the game:

Ilori Transfer An Increasing Necessity

Among the many concerns that arose from the defeat, the defence was probably the worst of the lot. The usually reliable combination of Ali Al-Habsi, Paul McShane and Liam Moore has been split up in recent games due to the injury sustained by McShane.

While he recovers, Stam has resorted to playing Joey van den Berg in the centre of defence. This is where a lot of the problems have surfaced, with the Dutchman's temperament and brash style of play getting him and the team in a fair amount of trouble (to say the least).

The recent return of Rob Dickie and the continuous inclusion of Jake Cooper on the bench shows that Reading do have natural options when it comes to the centre-back position. Dickie, however, has not had any real experience at Championship level and Cooper has fallen out of favour since Stam's arrival.

McShane's absence has demonstrated how important it is to have experience in the centre of defence and it is for this reason that the Tiago Ilori transfer needs to go through. Ilori is still young at 23, but he attracted the attention of Liverpool and has represented Portugal from U18 to U23 level.

While he has less experience at Premier League level than McShane and Moore, Ilori should offer a welcome option in defence. His arrival would also provide the option of returning to a seemingly successful formation of having three centre-backs and two full-backs. Most importantly, it would also prevent the likes of van den Berg from playing there.

Troubling Takeover Talk

The QPR defeat will have been a worry following the FA Cup exit against Manchester United, but one of the major concerns will be the talk surrounding the takeover. You need only cast your mind back a few years to remind yourself of the saga surrounding Anton Zingarevich but it is a period that many would like to forget. In September 2014, a Thai consortium purchased 100% of Reading FC from Sir John Madejski. Since then they have helped to finance a number of signings including the likes of John Swift and Liam Moore (to name only a couple) who have already become fan favourites.

With their speeches to the fans from the pitch, the Reading FC themed song that we sadly cannot forget, pitch-side pyros and trips to sit with fans during matches, the Thais at one time seemed to be fully immersed in Reading FC and its fan-base. Now it appears to have all been a facade with the Thais only concern being the redevelopment of land around the stadium.

Ahead of the January transfer window, the Thais are aiming to sell the stadium, the club and the training ground to Chinese brother and sister Dai Yongge and Dai Xiu Li. The duo famously tried to buy Hull earlier this year but failed the FA's fit and proper person test. Subsequently, with the plausibility of Reading achieving promotion at the end of this season, there is some concern surrounding this potential purchase.

In a season where Jaap Stam is performing above expectation, the last thing he or the team needs is unwarranted uncertainty and distraction regarding the ownership. Stam felt he had the full backing of the Thais when they came on board but it turns out that was not the case. The January transfer window is upon us and in an ideal world I am sure Stam will want to build upon his pre-existing squad in order to continue pushing for promotion.

The drama surrounding the ownership is not only potentially derailing any transfer plans but it is also risking Stam's future at the club. Stam has shown that he has the ability to succeed in a managerial capacity and is working wonders with a club that has under-performed in recent years. While I do not believe it is enough to force Stam out the door at the current time, it is an unwelcome distraction that needs to be quashed as soon as possible.

Toothless In Attack

Much has been said about Reading's possession based style of play and subsequently teams come to the Madejski Stadium with a willingness to sit back and defend deep. It is a tactic that fans will see time and time again this season, with the occasional opponent willing to press Reading slightly higher up the pitch.

The concern is that in some games, such as against QPR, Reading are unable to break down stubborn defences that sit deep. When opponents regain possession and push players forward, the Royals don't counter with speed either. Yann Kermorgant has managed to get a fair few goals this season which is impressive bearing in mind his sole striker status. Against QPR he had two particularly good headed opportunities but failed to get them on target.

With Reading struggling to get a goal, many will have looked to young Dominic Samuel to try something different up front. The issue is that with such limited space available to the Royals, the striker who relies on getting in behind defences would have struggled.

Stam also clearly has a number of different tactics up his sleeve and several formations in his canon. Against QPR he adopted a plan that saw Danny Williams take up the strange positioning at times as a right full-back. For whatever reason, players looked confused as to where they were supposed to be and did not know who they were meant to be marking.

The QPR game showed that if Reading go behind at home, they struggle to break down an increasingly defensive and compact style of play. Stam still does not really have a plan B and in games like this such a plan is important to perfect.

Crisis Of Confidence Following FA Cup Exit?

An FA Cup tie at Old Trafford is not something you experience every day as a professional footballer. There would have undoubtedly been nerves prior to the tie both amongst the players and Stam upon his return to his old club. Unfortunately the nerves showed and Reading gave their opponents too much respect.

Ultimately the score could have been greater than 4-0 but with a quality squad like Manchester United's at his disposal, Jose Mourinho was always the favourite to get the win. The concern for Reading fans will have been whether the team could immediately get that out of their system and re-focus on what had been a good spell in the Championship. The immediate instinct was yes, especially with QPR at home first up. In reality no one seemed up to their usual standards and they struggled to make an impact on Thursday evening. No professional likes to lose and could be suggested that their minds may still be on what happened at Old Trafford rather than back on the job at hand. That or there was simply fatigue amongst players who had been outplayed only a few days prior.

With over a week now to go until the next game, it is even more important to put in a good performance against Derby.

Reading Frustrated As Fans Stay Away

12 January 2017
By Hob Nob Anyone?

In a game in which Reading dominated possession without ever testing the Rangers 'keeper, John Mackie seized his opportunity midway through the first half to inflict a second home defeat of the season on his former club. It was a workmanlike performance from the visitors, content to sit back and frustrate Reading, and take advantage of mistakes to break out of their own half; and there were plenty of mistakes. It was not a good night for Reading or their fans. Having seen their team significantly underperform they heard Jaap Stam expressing frustration doubts about the uncertainty of ownership and future direction of the club on their journey home.

Lower Turnout Expected As QPR Visit In TV Game

12 January 2017
By Hob Nob Anyone?

It looks set to be a lower crowd than might be expected at the Madejski Stadium tonight after Reading's home game with QPR was moved to Thursday night at the request of Sky TV. The inconvenience of a Thursday evening combines with the forecast of a cold and damp evening as rain, sleet and possible snow clear just before the 8pm kick-off. Although there should be no issues with the game going ahead, many fans may well still be tempted to watch the game on live TV in warm surroundings instead of turning up at the Madejski.

Paul McShane and Callum Harriott are both out for what could be many weeks after picking up recent injuries. Harriott has a hamstring injury sustained in the last minutes of the first half in the fogged off Fulham game, while Paul McShane is sidelined with a fractured wrist. Tiago Ilori will not feature for Reading. His signing from Liverpool was widely reported last week but has taken much longer to officially complete than expected. Future signings in this transfer window also could be doubt with the collapse of the Chinese takeover deal. Reading's Thai owners are expected to only offer very limited funds to manager Jaap Stam to strengthen a club they had been hoping to sell.

Jaap Stam will be aiming to avoid worries of events off the pitch and focus on returning to winning ways after last weekend's thrashing at Old Trafford. The Royals lost 0-4, but the score was generous to Reading if anything as the Royals offered little resistance against a strong Manchester United side. Al Habsi had an excellent game but will be looking to put his one very well reported mistake in that game behind him tonight - hopefully with another cleansheet.

QPR have Kazenga LuaLua available for selection after the winger arrived at QPR from Brighton on loan.

A win for Reading would see them close the gap on Newcastle United in second place to just three points. QPR are down in 17th place after a disappointing campaign so far. Although Reading had no chance in their FA Cup third round fixture, Rangers might have hoped to progress last weekend but instead lost 1-2 at home to Championship strugglers Blackburn. Before that QPR had put a run of six straight Championship defeats behind them. That shocking run was finished with a 2-1 away win at Wolves and another 2-1 victory at home over Ipswich Town as they stopped their slide down the table.

Reading's form is much better with three consecutive league victories in recent weeks. Reading have won 9 games out of their last 11 in the League - an amazing run that has got everyone talking about very much unexpected possibility of promotion. For a change, Reading are firm favourites with the bookies for a win. As everyone says, anyone can beat anyone else in the Championship, and QPR remain difficult opposition according to Stam: "It would be arrogant and misplaced to think that in any game in the Championship we are going to get three points very easily. We have to work very hard and show some quality on the ball, otherwise a well-organised team like QPR can be very hard to score goals against."

Reading Hope For Upset At Old Trafford

06 January 2017
By Hob Nob Anyone?

The Royals are on the road this weekend as they make the journey to Old Trafford to face Manchester United in the third round of the FA Cup. The game has been much hyped up with the return of Reading manager and former United defender Jaap Stam to Manchester. Stam played a big part in Manchester United's success between 1998 and 2001 - including being part of their famous treble winning side. He insists his return to Old Trafford shouldn't be about him but about his new club attempting to pull off what would be a huge, and massively unlikely, cup upset: "It's nice to go back. I love the club, I love the fans and I had a great time there. But this game is not about me, it's about Reading facing Manchester United at Old Trafford."

The game has attracted a lot of interest from the media with the Jaap Stam angle, and Reading's recent success in the Championship may make it an interesting clash. As with any cup competition game featuring Manchester United, the tie was immediately selected for live TV coverage and will be shown on BT Sport. The game kicks off at 12:30pm which means an early start for nearly 5,500 Reading fans supporting their side at Old Trafford as they attempt to avoid an early exit from the cup. Reading fans will be heading north looking forward to a day out rather than a realistic hope of pulling off a shock, but we can always hope the magic of the cup makes an outing too. Reading's ticket allocation has been sold out for some time, but did go down to general sale, meaning most fans that wanted to go will be there.

When the draw was made BT Sport might have had hopes of screening some kind of upset with Reading up to third in the Championship and Manchester United struggling in the Premier League. However, since then Jose Mourinho has truly turned his club's fortunes around, guiding them to six consecutive Premier League victories. Since the draw the Red Devils have conceded just 3 Premier League goals while picking up maximum points to close the gap on the top four.

The only positive news for Reading fans is that Mourinho is likely to rest some of his star players to give some fringe players a run out. The United boss has confirmed however that Wayne Rooney will start and captain his side. Sergio Romero is confirmed to start in goal. However, even an under-strength United team is likely to be world class and will be expected to dish out a firm defeat to Reading. Mourinho is likely to go with some youth so that will probably include massive future, and current, prospect Marcus Rashford. United are also likely to go Dutch themselves to give some game time to the talented 19 year old Timothy Fosu-Mensah. He made 8 Premier League appearances last season but has clocked up just one so far this term. Luke Shaw is also likely to be included for the home side.

Jaap Stam has fielded reasonably strong sides in the League Cup, and is likely to go with a strong line-up again in the FA Cup. He has also vowed not to change his style of play stating "Our belief is possession. We still want to play." With Stam determined to continue his tactics that have been so successful in the league this season, a dramatic changes of personel seems unlikely. Ali Al Habsi signed a new contract this week to keep him at the Madejski Stadium until the summer of 2019. With Jaakola recently struggling with injury, Al Habsi seems near certain to continue in goal. Callum Harriott will miss out after picking up an injury just before the game against Fulham was abandoned at half time. Blackett will probably be given a chance to play against his old club, although Jordan Obita will be hoping to take his place in the starting eleven. The in-form Liam Kelly will be hoping to be given another starting chance.

Ali Al Habsi Extends Contract

05 January 2017
By Hob Nob Anyone?

Ali Al Habsi has been rewarded with his continually consistent performances with a contract extension to keep him at Reading until the summer of 2019. Al Habsi was due to be out of contract in the summer after two years with the club, but the new deal secures the services of Reading's first choice goalkeeper. There were plenty of question marks over, and critical nicknames for, Al Habsi when he arrived as seemingly second choice goalkeeper to Bond who signed at the same time. However Al Habsi more than silenced his critics by becoming Reading's main goalkeeper and deservedly winning the fans vote for player of the season last term.

Al Habsi is currently very much in the running to claim the player of the season award for a second consecutive season. He is currently second, behind Liam Moore, in the Hob Nob Anyone? man of the match voting for the season so far. Al Habsi has been named as man of the match six times so far this season on this website - more than any other player. His best performances came in the early part of the season where there was no doubt his performances earned vital points as the Royals steadied the ship and started their climb up the table.

Talking about Al Habsi committing to a new contract with Reading, Jaap Stam was full of praise for the 35 year old: "As we all know, Ali is a great goalkeeper - a fine shot stopper with good reactions who even at this stage in his career is still improving his game and becoming better and better as a player"

Wigan paid Bolton a four million pound transfer fee in 2011 for the services of Al Habsi and he went on to make well over 100 appearances before signing for Reading after four seasons at Wigan. Al Habsi has made 65 appearances for the Royals since signing - and now looks set for plenty more.

Tiago Ilori Set To Sign From Liverpool

05 January 2017
By Hob Nob Anyone?

Rumours are gathering pace that Reading are set to complete the signing of Liverpool defender Tiago Ilori. Initial rumours suggested Ilori would be signing on a loan basis, but the Liverpool Echo are now reporting that the transfer deal has been done with Reading set to pay 3.75 milllion pounds for the player. Ilori joined Liverpool in a deal worth seven million pounds in September 2013 from Sporting Lisbon. Half of that fee was initially payable but other payments have failed to trigger with Ilori failing to break into the Reds first team and not making a single Premier League appearance during his time in Liverpool.

The player has been restricted to just three FA Cup appearances - which all came last season. He featured in a 2-2 draw with Exeter, a 3-0 replay win at Anfield, before Liverpool were dumped out of the cup at the hands of West Ham United. Before that he had loan spells at Granada, Bordeux and Aston Villa - but failed to make a competitive appearance with the Villians.

Ilori, initially from Portugal, is 23 years old and is reported to a tall, fast, left footed central defender. He played 33 times for Sporting while also playing for the Portugal youth teams, which attracted Liverpool to pay such a large transfer fee at the start of the 2013/2014 season. Despite his lack of Premier League action he continued to work through the Portugal national set-up and has ten under 21 caps and 3 for Portual's under 23s.