Site (C) 2010 John Rogers Media Services We make every effort to ensure information is up to date and accurate, but can not be held responsible for errors or for content of external sites that are linked to from this site. Contact: email@example.com 07766 350905
Title THE arithmetic now is kindergarten simple. Reading FC have two games left to get the one point they need to absolutely guarantee the play-off place they have been bumping around in since last October. The arithmetic is equally clear for opponents Wigan. They have to win both their final games to have any hope of staying up. So as with last Saturday’s slack performance against a Forest side also hovering over the trapdoor, Royals will find that Wigan will come out with all the determination of a drunk chasing one more whisky in the last chance saloon.
The really frustrating thing about a season that manager Jaap Stam says has "flown by", is that although they have, as Stam rightly says, over-achieved, if Reading had been able to hold things together better away from home, they could very easily have been promoted without the hassle of the play-offs. It was only this week that Newcastle - whose wage bill this season would rate eighth in the Premier League! - finally made certain of their promotion. That said, fantastic though it would be for Royals to be running round Wembley on May 29th with the - slightly absurd - play-off champion trophy, in brutal honesty that’s not likely to happen. (Quite why the team finishing third in the Championship gets a trophy and a Wembley payday while the second-placed team just “goes up” is a mystery).
Of the play-off teams - assuming Chris Wood United don’t sneak in - it has to be said that Fulham and Sheffield Wednesday are strongest of the four. Huddersfield have over-achieved as much as Reading have done, and neither team in its present shape would have a prayer in the Prem. By the way, what irony it would be if it were to be Reading v Wednesday in the semis - because Royals’ (current) majority shareholder Narin Niruttinanon and Sheffield Wednesday owner Dejphon Chansiri are friends since childhood, and their families are still in business together, dominating world canned tuna supplies, under brand names including John West.
The smart money is probably piling on Fulham to win the play-offs. They’ve hit a huge vein of form at just the right time - although probably their potential has been there all season. Royals beat them narrowly at the Mad Stad, but the outing to Craven Cottage was the first of several absolutely disastrous away days which followed. Fulham were either lucky or completely imaginative in taking a punt on Slaviša Jokanović as manager, bringing him back from exile at Maccabi Tel Aviv. He previously guided Watford to promotion from the Championship in 2015 before failing to agree a new deal there. In February this year he signed a new two-year deal at Craven Cottage and since then the team has not looked back. They’ve had some outstanding results, not least last Saturday when they rattled up a 4-1 win at Huddersfield.
Fulham have also been lucky to have some players in the form of their lives - although maybe the manager takes the credit for that. Journeyman midfielder Tom Cairney, formerly at Hull and Blackburn, is having his best-ever season, as is Norwegian midfielder Stefan Johansen, previously at Celtic. Up front Soné Aluko has never done better in previous times at Aberdeen and Hull - likewise Floyd Ayité, signed last summer from the relative obscurity of Bastia. And the cream of the crop for them has been the remarkable 16-year-old Ryan Sessegnon, a raiding full-back with a huge future.
Back to the Mad Stad and it’s still fingers crossed for a defence which just doesn’t look comfortable without skipper Paul McShane and midfield protector Joey van den Berg. Both have been out for a couple of months and neither will be risked in the next two games. Tyler Blackett is still short of consistency and makes too many crucial errors, but with Tiago Ilori still not fit and Reece Oxford still a raw rookie, there are few choices at the back. Oxford is one of three loan players from January, none of whom has really made an impact. He’s likely to return to West Ham anyway, but Jordon Mutch and Lewis Grabban could both be signed if wanted. Neither, however, has taken the chance with both hands, and it’s doubtful they will be kept. If they are not included this weekend then that will definitely be the case, although Stam will maybe give them one more chance to prove a worthy part of his squad for next season. Grabban hasn’t really been able to replicate his partnership with Yann Kermorgant which fired Bournemouth to promotion in 2014/15, and Mutch has not had, er, much, to write back to parent club Palace about.
Overall, this game has all the potential to be a nail-biter, because it might not be a happy scene going to in-form Burton next week still needing that point. And just an oddball footnote... Newcastle were this week embroiled in serious allegations of financial misdemeanours which could yet lead to them having points deducted, or promotion refused - in which case the team finishing third might, conceivably, get their spot...and if, conceivably, that were to be Reading, they have a great incentive not only to get their one point, but to get six from the remaining two games. FANS' GUIDE to the Wigan game - and don't forget on Sunday the Royals' Under 23s are home to Norwich in the semi-final of the Premier League Cup. Kick-off for the U23 game is 1pm and entry is free.
RAIN OR SHINE? COMPREHENSIVE WEATHER FORECAST FOR THE READING AREA (Met Office)
It was always going to be tough at the City Ground because Brighton, Newcastle, Leeds and Huddersfield had already perished there this season, but that was no excuse for such a poor first hour by Reading. Two goals by Britt Assombalonga (first one, right) and another by Mustapha Carayol left Royals a mountain to climb. They had started the first half feebly and never really got into their stride - perhaps typical of so many first 45s this season. Forest’s early pressure led to two pieces of important defending in quick succession by Kermorgant. When he got back to the “day job” up front, Kermo was distinctly unlucky to lose an offside decision by a flag-happy lino when he might have been clear.
It began to look as though Ali Al-Habsi was in for a busy afternoon and twice he saved from Carayol, who then crossed perfectly for Ben Brereton. Luckily for Royals he made a mess of an easy-looking empty-net header. Royals were finding Assombalonga hard to handle, and sure enough it was the big former Peterborough striker - once a Reading transfer target - who made the breakthrough. Chris Gunter's awful square pass in midfield gave Brereton the chance to thread a perfect ball through a horribly square defence and Assombalonga made the most of it to score with ease. Reading answered with their best move of the half, Lewis Grabban and Kermorgant combining to force a tip-over save from Smith. Then Kermo’s brilliant scissor kick was blocked in the danger area, and Grabban forced a corner as Royals ended the half in better fashion.
As ever when losing by a goal at half-time it was crucial not to concede again in the early stages of the second half, but that’s just what happened - twice. A cross from the right found Assombalonga emerging from a pack of defenders at the near post and his powerful header beat Al-Habsi. And soon it was 3-0, Carayol bursting into the box and swerving two half-hearted challenges before rattling his shot hard and low past Al-Habsi. Only then did Royals briefly pull themselves together and Kermorgant confirmed his best-ever scoring season with his 15th, a soaring header from Obita’s cross.
The way the game had been going, it was unlikely Royals would get further into it - and they almost went further away from it when Al-Habsi had to move smartly to keep out Osborn’s swerving free kick. Royals had brought on George Evans and Roy Beerens in place of Adi Popa and Danny Williams to try to steady the ship and maybe try to save it - which came a little more into sight on 72 minutes when Kermorgant was first to a Beerens cross. His header was blocked, but the ball broke back to him and he rattled it in.
Suddenly it was game on and Royals almost snatched an equaliser when a slick build-up between Evans and Kermorgant gave ohn Swift a shooting chance, which he fizzed inches wide with the keeper scrambling. Forest were panicking slightly and made some changes to bolster their defence. Royals swapped Swift for the bustling Joseph Mendes, and he hustled the Forest defence into an error but couldn’t capitalise. Forest were hanging on grimly, but in a rare breakaway they thought they had a vital fourth goal. Assombalonga headed in but was rightly flagged offside. Royals then piled everyone forward to try to nick a crucial equaliser but it just wouldn’t come. MANAGER'S COMMENTS.
READING FC is finally about to change hands - again. The current Thai owning consortium has reportedly been ready for the past six months to sell a controlling interest to Chinese billionaire sister and brother, Xiu Li Dai and Yongge Dai (right). The Thais intend to keep 25pc of the club shares and the entire "Royal Elm Park" development project around the stadium. The sale was not sanctioned immediately by the Football League, but a Royals club statement recently confirmed that “an application for a proposed change of control at the club has been conditionally approved. by the EFL”. It continued: “The club will now spend the coming weeks working diligently with the EFL, our current shareholders and both Mr Yongge Dai and Miss Xiu Li Dai to ensure the application meets those specific conditions and all the relevant EFL regulations.”
It was in November that the pair’s interest was first revealed, but it’s believed the Football League was originally cautious about sanctioning their takeover because questions had previously been raised about their aborted bid to buy Hull City in August last year. That was apparently vetoed by the Premier League, reportedly not for a problem with the brother and sister, but because of others involved in their bid.
Yongge Dai and Xiu Li Dai are among the wealthiest and most influential people in China. Their father is a former head of the China Central Bank, and the pair are billionaires on the back of a network of underground shopping malls in cities across China. In early 1992 the Chinese government began to look for alternative uses for a number of huge Cold War-era underground bomb shelters. Joining forces with her younger brother, Xiu Li Dai, then living in London and married to British teacher Tony Hawken, formed Renhe Commercial Holdings, an investment company which started to transform several former military bunkers into shopping malls. Profits were generated through shop rents and management lease deals and by 2008 Renhe had earned a listing on the Hong Kong stock exchange.
Having built the empire of shopping malls to over 30 Chinese cities, Renhe sold that side of the business last year for a billion US diollars, investing instead in major expansion of an agricultural wholesale markets business it had acquired in 2015. The company website lists its “business model” as : (a) the leasing or providing of space in the form of trading halls or open areas to traders for the trading of agriculture produce; (b) the leasing or providing of warehouses, icehouses and other designated space to the traders for the storage and packaging of agriculture produce; (c) the provision of transportation and third-party logistics information services to traders; (d) other value-added services including packaging of the agricultural produce.
Xiu Li has appeared in a recent version of the influential Forbes Rich List as having a net worth in excess of two billion dollars. She and Mr Hawken were divorced in 2014, rather bizarrely because he was quoted as saying he did not enjoy the lifestyle of a billionaire, or the time they spent apart while she was on business in China. They met on a blind date after she arrived in England in 1991, and it was whilst living in South Norwood, near Croydon, that Xiu Li developed her interest in football, attending various Premier League matches with the couple’s son, William. On the back of that, Xiu Li and her brother bought a Chinese League club, then based in Shaanxi, but now relocated to the capital, and known as Beijing Renhe. That, presumably, will become a sister club to the Royals, although in recent seasons it has not been a great success, suffering relegation two years ago to its present Division One status, finishing fourth there last season. The club plays at the 31,000 capacity Beijing Fengtai Stadium.
Reading Hotels - Cheap Accommodation Deals in ReadingREADING HOTELS - IF you need a hotel room in Reading, the UK - or anywhere in the world - our discount booking service is the answer. Click here for Reading Guide's own link to LateRooms.com®. Availability and prices are updated daily, the prices per room not per person, and there's no booking fee. IF YOU make future bookings, please do so from this link.
CLICK HERETO FOLLOW READING-GUIDE.CO.UK UPDATES ON
CLICK CHOSEN CLUB LOGO TO LINK TO THEIR LATEST INFO