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TitleDISAPPOINTING ROYALS ROLLED OVER BY WOMBLES
IT’S only pre-season, it was only a friendly - but Royals boss Jaap Stam will be disappointed with a 2-0 defeat at Wimbledon. It was another chance for him to start completing the picture of how he wants his team to look and perform in two weeks’ time when the serious action starts - but what will concern Reading fans most is that this was almost a carbon copy of so many frustrating games last season. Although there were quite a few changes throughout on a boiling hot afternoon, this game could have come straight out of February, March, April or May. Royals dominated the play, conceded a couple of soft, preventable goals, and couldn’t make the most of even one of many chances at the other end. It all went wrong inside 15 seconds when the Dons took the lead straight from the kick-off. Royals were immediately caught square at the back and a clever through ball sent midfielder Dean Parrett through to score. By 20 minutes it was 2-0, Dominic Poleon given too much time to cut in from the left and squeeze a shot past Ali Al-Habsi from a tight angle. After that most of the decent football came from Reading, but there was no finishing power. The nearest to a Reading goal came late in the game when Jack Stacey’s header hit the woodwork. For sure Stam will want to see a much sharper performance - at both ends - in the one remaining friendly, at home to Bournemouth on Friday. Match Report from the club website.
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------------------------------------- MIX ’N MATCH ROYALS WIN A FRIENDLY AT SWINDON
IT’S so far so good for new Royals boss Jaap Stam as his pre-season experiments continued with a 2-1 Tuesday night win at Swindon. Fielding a sprinkling of their new signings, mixed with a selection of Academy graduates, Reading kept their 100pc friendly record by completing their third straight win - albeit that all have been against junior opposition. With seven youngsters, plus Chelsea newcomer John Swift in the starting eleven, Royals failed to impose themselves in the first half and ironically, fell behind just on half-time to a goal by ex-Reading Academy striker John Goddard. His shot took a wild deflection to beat new keeper Anssi Jaakkola. Royals had earlier suffered a setback when Dom Samuel, who so many fans are hoping will have a breakthrough season, went off injured. It was his replacement, Deniss Rakels, who eventually scored the equaliser. Craig Tanner, another for whom there are high hopes, sent in a low cross from the right, which Rakels converted clinically. Tariq Fosu, surprisingly omitted from last week’s training camp in Holland, staked his claim for a more regular place with a lively second half display, and it was his intelligent off the ball run which opened the space for Jack Stacey to slot the winner. Royals now have two friendlies remaining before the season starts in earnest - away to Wimbledon this Saturday, 23rd, and home to Bournemouth on Friday 29th. The first league game is home to Preston on Saturday August 6th. Swindon match report from the club website. Having lost 4-1 at Lincoln City on Saturday a young Reading Academy X1 won 4-0 away to Enfield Town on Tuesday.
DUTCH WINGER SIGNS WHILE ROYALS WIN FRIENDLY
WHILE the Royals were completing a successful training camp in Holland with a 3-1 win against leading Saudi Arabian side Al-Taawoun in Arnhem, back at the Mad Stad another signing was being completed. Royals have beaten a batch of European clubs to the signature of Dutch winger Roy Beerens (left) from Hertha Berlin. The 28-year-old former PSV Eindhoven, AZ Alkmaar and Heerenveen player has signed a three-year contract, with manager Jaap Stam describing him as “a player with a lot of qualities who can play on the left or right and who has pace - I think he’s a player our fans will enjoy watching.” Beerens also has two appearances for the Dutch national team after being a regular at Under-21 level. Full story from the club website. As for the match in Arnhem, Stam again used it to give game time to as many players as he could, 19 in total, with first appearances for new French striker Joseph Mendes and trialist Argentine defender Gaston Campi. A faintly ridiculous own goal gave Royals a 39th minute lead, and a minute later Danny Williams - a transfer target for several clubs - scored the second with a diving header. The Saudis pulled one back late in the game, when Jake Cooper proved he still sometimesd has the L-plates on with a howler of a square pass across his own penalty area which was easily intercepted and converted - but Yann Kermorgant quickly rounded off the scoring with a 25-yard free kick. Match report from the club website.
FANS SAY READING’S £5m CASH-IN ON TISH IS TOSH
THE Royals have taken a battering from fans on social media for ‘lack of ambition’ after the club accepted a £5million offer and allowed midfield starlet Aaron Tshibola to join fellow-Championship club Aston Villa. New boss Jaap Stam was quoted last week saying he was very keen to keep Tshibola, who made a big impact when given his first team chance at the start of last season. Two serious injuries ended his season prematurely, but he obviously did enough to impress former boss Steve Clarke, who is now assistant to Roberto di Matteo at Villa. Clarke is said to be his biggest fan. Tshibola discussed terms and had a medical with the fallen Midlands giants, and the move is now complete - while Stam having found out very early that for a club in Reading’s modest financial state, every player has their price. The only slight thing is whether Villa are taking a gamble on a player who is said to be back to full fitness, but who has played only ten minutes competitively since last October. Full Story from the club website. Another player on the move is young striker Rowan Liburd, who has signed for Stevenage.
After the shock of losing Tshibola, there could be a lot worse to come for the new Reading management team with the club’s apparent desire to balance books being noted down by some of the big spenders in this bracket. Apparently Chris Gunter, one of the stars of the brilliant Wales effort at Euro 2016, has a £1million release clause in his contract with several clubs circling ready to trigger that. Danny Williams has at least three clubs on his trail, as does Ollie Norwood. And you can expect Clarke to cherry-pick at least one more Reading player, maybe someone such as Garath McCleary, an excellent player who massively under-achieved last season. Whoever can get him back to his best will be on a winner. In addition, young centre-back Jake Cooper is also attracting attention. His form varied wildly between brilliant and erratic, often within a game, during his first full season, and you might suspect someone will take a punt on him - especially at a time when Everton’s John Stones, similar in stature, playing style, and similarly erratic, can be talked of as a £50million player.
ROYALS SIGN ENGLAND U-21 STAR FROM CHELSEA
THE new regime at Reading FC is moving rapidly to dispel the accusation by some fans that there’s a lack of ambition at the club following the controversial £5m sale of Aaron Tshibola to Aston Villa. The number of new signings has risen to five with Chelsea’s highly-rated England Under-21 man John Swift coming in to what now looks as though it will be a whole new midfield. His arrival - in face of strong opposition from some “bigger” clubs - and the way he is described by manager Jaap Stam, indicates that he is seen as a replacement for Tshibola, who was expected to play a key role in the coming season. Dutch midfield veteran Joey van den Berg is already earmarked as the combative “midfield controller”, which indicates that one of the offers which are in for Danny Williams and Ollie Norwood, will be accepted. Portsmouth-born Swift (left)is very highly-rated, having made 27 appearances on loan at Brentford last season, scoring seven goals - but he is not without a touch of controversy, having been disciplined by the Bees after a Twitter comment construed as having a pop at Brentford fans.
AJAX LINK BRINGS FINNISH KEEPER TO THE MAD STAD
FINNISH goalkeeper Anssi Jaakkola (right) became Reading’s fourth signing of the summer - and the third to have come via the new Dutch connection. He has been signed on a two-year deal from the Ajax partner club Ajax Cape Town, where he has been starring for the past three years in South African League matches. The 29-year-old has been around the block since starting out with the Finnish side TP-47 in 2004. He moved on to Siena, then in Italy’s Serie A, in 2006 on a three-year contract but made only one first team appearance before being loaned to Serie B side Colligiana. After a brief spell with Slavia Prague in the Czech League he moved on to Scotland in 2011 for a job at Kilmarnock when fellow-Finn Mixu Paatelainen was manager there. He left Kilmarnock in 2013 when his contract expired, and since then has made 78 appearances for Ajax CT. All of the Royals’ new coaching team would have been familiar with his performances there, and that has earned him the deal at the Mad Stad. Full report from the club website. The other two Dutch signings are Joey van den Berg and Danzell Gravenberch. Tough-tackling midfielder Van den Berg made an immediate impression on fans when he played the first half of Saturday’s match at Boreham Wood.
ROYALS WIN THE RACE TO SIGN FRENCH STRIKER
FRENCH striker Joseph Mendes (left) has joined Royals from Ligue 2 side Le Havre. Manager Jaap Stam sees him as someone who can fit the system he wants Reading to play, rather than an out-and-out goalscorer. His career record in senior football is a modest 20 goals in 130 games since starting out with Grenoble in 2010/11. the fact he is now 25 indicates he was a late developer, but he was sufficiently well-rated in a Le Havre team which finished fourth last season, to be pursued by several other clubs. Stam said: “He has good height, he is strong on the ball, he's quick and he's a goalscorer as well.” What sparked particular interest in him was s epurt of four goals in the last three games of the season as Le Havre chased promotion. As usual, there is no indication of the fee involved, but he has been given a two-year contract. More details, and more of the manager’s comments, from the club website. Argentine defender Gaston Campi is another on Reading’s radar. He is apparently still on contract with Argentine League side Racing Club for a further year, but Royals have been given permission to include him in their squad for this week’s training camp in Holland. He is likely to play In Friday’s friendly against Saudi Arabian top flight side Al-Taawoun in Arnhem.
The signing undoubtedly indicates that maybe one, two, or even all three of Reading’s highest-rated midfielders, Danny Williams, Ollie Norwood and young Aaron Tshibola, might be moving on in the next few weeks. Previous signing Danzell Gravenberch, a central defender, does not have quite the aura of van den Berg, but at 22, the former Ajax Academy product has youth on his side, and also comes here on the back of the best season of his career, having made 28 appearances for Dordrecht in the Dutch second tier. Of Surinamese descent, he played for Holland at every junior level up to U19, but did not make an immediate impact after turning pro with Ajax in 2012. For technical reasons both signings had to wait to be ratified until 1 July, but both previously penned a contract.
Meanwhile, a very thin squad of Royals first teamers reported back for duty this week and had their first meeting with the new management team. From the first team pool last season, all six of the loan players have now gone, along with Anton Ferdinand, Simon Cox and Hal Robson-Kanu. In addition to Williams, Norwood and Tshibola attracting attention, it’s rumoured that right-back Chris Gunter, an integral part of Wales’ Euro 2016 successes is a target for Middlesbrough, while Jake Cooper has Bournemouth, West Ham and maybe Southampton on his trail. As with the others, one bid could spark an auction, and with continuing rumours about the financial state of the club, the “everyone has their price” syndrome could come into play. Whatever the comings and goings, the new-look Royals will soon be on parade for their first friendly of the summer, away to Boreham Wood on Saturday 9 July.
THE NEW SEASON STARTS AT HOME TO PRESTON
THE Royals start their 2016/17 Championship season at home to Preston North End on Saturday 6 August. At first glance it seems not too taxing - except that Preston finished last season as the form team in the division, and were 2-1 winners in the last game at the Mad Stad. That was one of the far too many occasions where Reading conceded a crucial goal in added time, and a draw would probably have been a fairer result - but Simon Grayson’s team did more than enough to show that if they are even stronger this time then they will be a real handful for Jaap Stam’s first competitive game. The first away game will be the following Saturday at Wolves, where Royals suffered one of many farcical defeats last time around. They conceded a goal to ex-Reading man James Henry just before half-time and despite 80percent possession in the second half couldn’t find an equaliser. Talking of “farcical”, next up, on Wednesday 17th is the long trek to Newcastle. That’s a classic case of “computer says no” because someone at the Football League should have put in a bit of human input and decided that was a ridiculous punishment of Reading supporters who might have enjoyed that journey on a Saturday, but not midweek.
One of the two “westward” M4 derbies, at Cardiff comes up early on at 27 August, while the first date with Bristol City is at home on 26 November. The first “eastwards” M4 local dates are at Brentford on 27 September, and Fulham away on 3 December. The Boxing Day game is home to Norwich, and New Year’s Eve home to Fulham. The other New Year game, on 2 January, is at Bristol City. Newcastle come to town on Tuesday 7 March - perhaps karma for their fans after Reading’s midweek trip there. The eagerly-awaited games with Aston Villa are at home on Tuesday 18 October and away on 15 April. The season ends with what could be a tricky trip to promoted Burton on Sunday 7 May. This is the FULL SEASON LIST from the club website. In the first round of the Football League Cup, Royals have been drawn at home to Plymouth.
JAAP STAM and his Orange army came breezing into the Mad Stad and immediately instilled a sense of anticipation amongst Reading FC fans badly disillusioned after the past three seasons. Former Manchester United, Lazio and Holland hard-man Stam, 43, was officially installed as manager - three weeks after everyone knew he would be - and brought with him two of his fellow junior coaches at Ajax, Andries Ulderink and Said Bakkita, left and right respectively in the picture. Club statement.
The group has undoubtedly been brought in by Brian Tevreden, another junior coach at Ajax who joined the Royals as head of international football development/technical director in February. Since then he has emerged as a serious front-line mover and shaker at Reading, either in, or about to be in, the director of football role held for the previous 20 years by Nick Hammond.
Tevreden and Stam were together on the coaching staff of Dutch giants Ajax for the past two years, Stam as assistant coach with the reserve team, Tevreden within the reserve and junior structure, as were Andries Ulderink and Said Bakkati. At face value, the appointment of Stam, is a gamble, because he has no senior management experience, no first-hand knowledge of the Championship, and probably limited knowledge of current English League players. However, he is highly-respected within the game, and still revered by Manchester United fans as one of their finest-ever players. Now he has to prove himself as a boss. Fans have mixed feelings about the appointment, but most on social media are happy to give him a chance. He certainly spoke impressively, with quiet enthusiasm about his hopes for what he and his team can achieve at Reading.
There was a stir at the press conference where Stam’s appointment was officially announced, with former Royals owner, now joint chairman, Sir John Madejski, saying in so many words that he did not agree with the decision to sack Brian McDermott. He wished Stam the best of luck, but his comments are likely to have upset the club’s Thai owners, one of whom was sat two seats away. Later chief executive Nigel Howe, one of Madejski’s faithful group of lieutenants, broke ranks with his old pal, and expressed disappointment at Madejski’s comments. He also confirmed that SJM plays very little role in the running of the club these days - self-evident from the fact that he had no power to prevent McDermott being sacked after just six months.
Royals are now back home from their brief training camp at Arnhem, and have three remaining friendlies - away to Swindon on Tuesday 19 July, and on Saturday 23 July away to newly-promoted Wimbledon. The final warm-up game, the supposed “prestige” date, is against Bournemouth at the Mad Stad on Friday 29 July. Slightly embarrassing that, considering how far apart the clubs were in status in the opposite direction just a few years ago.
THE permanent memorial to Reading's only Victoria Cross holder, Trooper Fred Potts, unveiled in the Forbury last year, is proving a popular addition to the town’s architecture. Fred, who died in 1943 and until recent years, was virtually unknown in the town due - mainly to his own modesty. However, the people who did know of Fred’s heroics during the Great War believed the time was long overdue to recognise his bravery with a suitable memorial in a town centre location. The Trooper Potts Memorial Trust was set up to raise the necessary funds and, backed by BBC Radio Berkshire, former Reading Mayor Cllr Fred Pugh, former MP Martin Salter, Reading College, Haslams Estate Agents and Reading-born TV personality Chris Tarrant, they achieved their aim - the bronze statue, created by Liverpool sculptor Tom Murphy, was unveiled. As well as commemorating Fred Potts, it also recognises the sacrifices of the many men of the Berkshire Yeomanry who gave their lives, both in the battle for Scimitar Hill at Gallipoli, Turkey, and throughout World War One. Fred’s medal relates to an incident in August 1915, in which he saved the life of fellow-Reading soldier Arthur Andrews after both were injured by machine-gun fire as the Yeomanry charged on Scimitar Hill. For three days, during which they had virtually no food or drink, Fred ignored his own wounds to drag Arthur to safety, using a shovel as a makeshift stretcher. The amazing FULL STORY.