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Title READING fans are used to sitting out transfer deadline day watching other clubs make exciting signings, and wondering what might have been - but not this year. Royals made three top-notch acquisitions in the last 24 hours before the transfer door closed, all loan players, but some with the newly-trendy dimension of a “loan fee”. Those, however, were offset by the £4million sale of centre-half Michael Hector to Chelsea, with an immediate loan back to see out the season with Reading. The Monday night arrival of Brazilian Lucas Piazon from Chelsea was followed by the deadline day completion of loans for Watford’s proven Championship scoring ace Matej Vydra and the Dutch winger Ola John, from Benfica.
It brought the total of summer signings to a remarkable eleven, the new Thai owners fulfilling their promise to back the judgement of manager Steve Clarke, and giving him the best possible chance of a serious crack at promotion. The new faces are keepers Ali Al-Habsi (Wigan) and Jonathan Bond (Watford); defenders Andrew Taylor (Wigan, loan) and Paul McShane (Hull); plus midfielders Stephen Quinn (Hull) and Alex Fernandez (Espanyol, loan); along with wingers Paolo Hurtado (Pacos de Ferreira) and Ola John (Benfica, loan); and strikers Orlando Sa (Legia Warsaw), Matej Vydra (Watford) and Lucas Piazon (Chelsea, loan).
It’s a truly sensational effort by the club - but Clarke’s problem now is how to knit them together to make not only a team, but one with the team spirit which can see them through the crunch games. Already the Royals have started the season as good as unbeaten, having suffered only one defeat in seven league and cup games, and that an absolute freak at Birmingham. All these arrivals mean the end of the road - or at least a long spell on the sidelines for some “original” Reading players. Just seven of the 14 who took the field for Royals against Arsenal at Wembley are still with the club and one of those, Hector, is now technically not RFC property. The likely starting eleven now could be along the lines of…. Bond; Gunter, McShane, Ferdinand, Taylor; Hurtado, Quinn, Williams, Piazon; Sa, Vydra. The subs choice then would be Al-Habsi, plus Fernandez, John and four from the “old Royals”, Hector, Obita, Robson-Kanu, McCleary, Blackman, Norwood, Cox. It also shuts the door firmly on promising Academy graduates such as Dom Samuel, Tariq Fosu, Jake Cooper, Jack Stacey and Aaron Tshibola.
Some of those will surely follow out of the loan door Aaron Kuhl, who will spend the season with Dundee United. It’s surely certain that some of the older, now surplus, players, will also go out either on loan or as “free agents”. It’s hard to see where, for example, Simon Cox would now get a game or even Hal Robson-Kanu, despite being an established, and successful, international. It could yet be a fun season!
RAIN OR SHINE? COMPREHENSIVE WEATHER FORECAST FOR THE READING AREA (Met Office)
IF THE SEA TURNS YOUR TUM LET TRAIN TAKE THE STRAIN - FRANCE BY UNDERGROUND (Eurotunnel)
------------------------------------- NATURALLY, they did it the hard way - but Reading’s first league win of the season is safely in the bag. After dominating the first half and taking their interval cuppa with a 2-0 lead, Royals lost their way a little after the break. They conceded soon after the hour mark, then had to withstand a storm of pressure from a Brentford side which was hoping to replicate their previous home game, where they came from two down to draw in added time. There was another goal in added time this time - but it was Reading who got it.
Hero of the day so far as the goals-for column is concerned, was the man Royals fans used to love to hate, Nick Blackman. Nowadays they love to love him because right from the start of the season he has been Reading’s only in-form striker. It was Orlando Sa who gave Reading the lead on 16 minutes with a superb header, his first goal for the club. Blackman doubled the lead just after the half-hour from a brilliant 25-yard free kick. He curled the ball, left-footed, way out of David Button’s reach, and it was Button, who kept Brentford in with a chance with a string of fine saves. Afterwards Blackman revealed how hard he and Ollie Norwood had been working on free kicks with goalkeeping coach Dave Beasant.
At half-time Reading swopped the ineffective Hal Robson-Kanu for the potentially more-dangerous Garath McCleary, but the pendulum swung the other way, with Brentford having more of the game. They pulled one back on 67 minutes through Lasse Vibe, a Danish international star who is surely too good to be playing at this level, and for the first time in the game really stretched the Royals’ defence. Those not at the game, but following it on Sky Sports or Radio 5, must have thought “here we go again…” when, deep into added time, came the ominous words “there’s late drama with another goal at Griffin Park…” But it was OK, Blackman had won a penalty - and, unlike so many Reading spot kicks in recent years, he actually scored it to seal a memorable day out in the M4 derby. Match Picture Gallery.
THE Royals’ squad shuffle has continued with the club revealing they have released striker Pavel Pogrebnyak so that he can return to Russia to join Dynamo Moscow. The Pog, who was rejuvenated during the second half of last season after Steve Clarke’s arrival, still had a year remaining on his contract, but the big “elephant in the room” has been the reputedly huge salary awarded to the former Fulham striker by Anton Zingarevich. The unofficial guessing on that started at about £40,000 per week and went up as high as £75,000. Even if it’s somewhere in between, Reading could put as much as £3million back in the kitty now that they do not have to cover his wages. On that basis it’s unlikely there was anything but a modest fee - if any - involved. CLICK the headline above for the club statement.
AFTER a 24-hour wait, Reading FC learned that Everton will be their opponents in the third round of the Capital One Cup at the Madejski Stadium on Tuesday September 22 (8pm). And on the evidence of Wednesday’s remaining second round game, Everton will need to raise their game if they are to avoid getting turned over by the Royals. Roberto Martinez’s side were taken to the brink by League One Barnsley, who led 2-0 at half-time and 3-2 later in the game before Everton scrambled an equaliser and added two more against tiring opponents in extra time. Nearly all the big guns were out there for Everton, and they needed them to break the spirit of a brave Barnsley side who even hit the woodwork at 4-3 down in extra time. FULL DRAW: Middlesbrough v Wolves; Norwich v West Brom; Hull City v Swansea; Leicester v West Ham; Aston Villa v Birmingham; Tottenham v Arsenal; Manchester United v Ipswich; Liverpool v Carlisle; Crystal Palace v Charlton; Fulham v Stoke City; Sunderland v Manchester City; Newcastle v Sheffield Wednesday; READING v EVERTON; Preston v Bournemouth; Walsall v Chelsea; MK Dons v Southampton. In the draw, on Tuesday’s Sky Sports News, Charlie Nicholas drew the home teams and Phil Thompson the aways.
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