Reading fan James Christmas provides visiting supporters an insight into Saturday’s trip to the Madejski Stadium – discussing his side’s search for a first win, the best place to get a pint, and Pavel Pogrebnyak.
First thing James, a Reading win in the Premier League has so far proved elusive. Are you one of the fans that feel it is only a matter of time though, having played some good football so far? We've actually played really well in most of our games this season, I just think that our lack of experience against top players at this level has hindered us so far. It definitely looks like a win is coming, and hopefully it will click sooner rather than later so we get the win that our performances have deserved.
Your team is seven games into the season, there’s a long way to go yet, but what’s your assessment of the campaign so far? I think we’ve played like you would expect a promoted team to. We’ve had some tough games and played teams in good form, and we certainly haven’t been outclassed in many of them. Our performances have warranted more points than we’ve got, but we started slowly last season and won the Championship title!
Coming up as Championship winners, what was the aim for the 2012/13 campaign? The aim is always survival, and I think it will remain that way all season. Beyond that, I think we just need to prove that we deserve to be playing at this level - I think having Liverpool under the cosh for 20 minutes at Anfield shows we’re here to play.
Indeed, and that has been highlighted with some impressive football to date, so what should Fulham fans expect on Saturday when they make the trip to the Madejski Stadium? We always play at a high tempo, we use the wings well and play on the break. I think you guys could be in for a bit of an onslaught as our players will be desperate to take control of the game. We mix it up between passing and playing the channels too, and this might cause some problems.
The eyes of the travelling Fulham fans will of course be on one Reading player in particular – Pavel Pogrebnyak (pictured top right) – how has he settled? He has looked very good, it’s clear to see the amount of quality he has, and although he’s had to play a bit differently this season, he’s shown how he can hold the ball up and bring other players into play. He also bullied John Terry and Gary Cahill and scored a great goal at Chelsea, as well as a decent goal against Swansea. He looks like a great signing.
Your skipper Jobi McAnuff is another who has started brightly, who else do you think stands out for Reading? McAnuff has done well since becoming club captain at the start of last season, and he and Jimmy Kebe are always troublesome on the wings. An unsung hero is Jem Karacan in midfield; he’s a hard worker and holds the team together. There’s also Adam Le Fondre, who is likely to come off the bench but he’s always a goal threat and he can find space in a sardine tin.
And likewise, which Fulham players do you think could provide the biggest threat to Reading’s chances of taking three points? I really rate Hugo Rodallega, and Steve Sidwell is still popular here after he played for us. But I think the main danger is Dimitar Berbatov; he just oozes class and he always looks like he can create something out of nothing.
Do you have any previous standout memories from games between Reading and Fulham of the past? We played at your place during the 2006/07 season and won 1-0; I remember that game well because it was the moment I realised that we were a proper Premier League team! It was also one of the only times I've ever seen Reading defeat Fulham.
For our travelling fans, what is the best and worst thing about a trip to the Madejski Stadium? Well you are always guaranteed to get a good view of the pitch which is important and there’s plenty of leg room - but you won’t get a good view of the scoreboard because it’s behind the away fans! But there’s a friendly atmosphere and it’s an ideal first away trip for children and families.
And where should travelling fans get a pint? The ground is out of town, but if you’re coming by train, The Three Guineas is right next to the station and is about a three-second walk to the shuttle buses that take fans up to the stadium. Other than that, the hotel adjoining the stadium welcomes away fans and the Atrium Bar inside is a classy place to enjoy a pre-match drink.
And what chant/song are we most likely to hear? We’ve come up with some good ones in the past couple of years. The Hal Robson-Kanu ‘Heartbeat’ chant is original and popular. We don’t really have an anthem but there is a very enthusiastic drummer in the corner. We also have a variation of the Duck Sauce song ‘The Big Bad Wolf’ so you might hear some howling from the home fans!
Score prediction? I think everything has been building up for three points, and we’ve been playing really well too. Our players will see this game as the start of the rest of our season, and we’ll be going all-out from the first whistle. I think (well, hope) we might just have too much for Fulham so I’ll go for a hard-fought 2-1 win for Reading.