Saturday sees a return to league action and having taken four points from our last two home games, Reading really need to make that at least five and ideally seven before five o'clock. Ahead of the game Baggies fan Liam Martin gave us his view on the team hoping to stop us doing just that, West Brom.
How have you viewed West Brom's season so far?
It has been an exceptional season by our standards where normally we're currently in the middle of a relegation dogfight but as it stands, we're able to look down the table with a smile on our faces knowing that for another season our status is more or less guaranteed. Up until December we were in the top four, passing any of our wildest dreams. We'd got there by playing some good football too, fast counter attacking football which proved to strong for sides, especially at The Hawthorns. Unfortunately, after December we have lost several important players due to injuries and Steve Clarke has favoured rotating the squad which has meant we've lost rhythm of late and in some games, particularly Swansea, Stoke, Arsenal and West Ham we looked very poor and quite short of ideas as to how to break teams down. Yacob, who has been brilliant for us has missed the last half a dozen matches at least with a hamstring injury and the influential Mulumbu next to him has headed off to the ACON meaning we're currently quite weak in the middle of the pitch. Jonas Olsson and Goran Popov have also missed the last few with injury, but that aside, it has been a very good season so far, and hopefully we can continue with the early season pace we set.
Do you expect the Baggies to be active in this transfer window?
Usually, January is a month where we don't normally do business as we prefer to get our core business done in the summer, however, if there are options available which we feel can improve the side then the club shall look into those, like we did last season with the signings of Keith Andrews and Liam Ridgewell which helped tide us over until the summer. With the news that Zoltan Gera is out for the season and the news that Graham Dorrans will be allowed to leave, I would assume that signing a midfielder is now at the top of the clubs priorities as we're currently quite short. What also doesn't help is that Mulumbu is at the ACON so there could be the off-chance we could look to strengthen with a loan in that area, however, with the emergence of George Thorne, I don't see us strengthening in that particular area.
Reading lost 1-0 at the Hawthorns earlier this season, what were your thoughts on that game and how have you viewed Reading since then?
It was a game which summed us up to be honest, and perhaps Reading too. You came with the intentions of getting a point and whilst you had possession of the ball we looked extremely comfortable and you very rarely threatened our goal. There were the diagonal balls over the top but we tend to defend quite deep so that more or less nullified any attempt you tried to make. Hal Robson-Kanu looked quite promising, however. We ended up catching you on the break to which Lukaku finished his chance well, but overall, although you had more of the ball, in terms of clear cut chances we more than made enough and perhaps should have got a second and put the game behind yourselves. Your season since has appeared 'workmanlike'. I'm not wishing to offend you, nor is this billy big boots because I've been down the bottom myself enough times and I know how it feels. From what I've seen from yourselves, you appear very average, workmanlike and lacking the real quality in a few important areas. I'd made a comment on our forum - www.westbrom.com that you look four or five quality behind the other sides. Brian McDermott has done wonders, but I do wonder whether a change of management and a fresh approach would be better in the long run, somebody who might allow a maverick to start and do something different because I see your side as an honest bunch of hard-workers which will ultimately full short due to the defensive errors and lack of killer instinct within your side. Having that somebody different might just take away your sides predictability.
Shane Long seems to be constantly in and out of the side, has he lived up to expectations in the Midlands?
He had a troubled season last year, primarily because the Aston Vile scumbag Alan Hutton crippled him and that affected his season with Shane constantly picking up niggling injuries. We were, however, going to give him the benefit of the doubt and thankfully any doubts we had about him have been proved wrong so far this season. His effort is never questioned, it is 100% every game and that is why he has adhered himself to the Albion faithful, because he works his backside off every week and looks a constant threat. We look to use his pace in behind the defenders, down the channels which has proved to be an effective tactic for us. And of course, he holds up the ball well which is paramount to the way we play. Steve Clarke favours the rotation policy and therefore both Shane and Romelu Lukaku shall share the loan man duty.
Who should Reading be wary of on Saturday?
The obvious lot are Shane Long, Peter Odemwingie and Romelu Lukaku. You all know the qualities that Shane Long has. Peter Odemwingie is different, he's featured on the wing for us and offers us the important pace and creativity which we've missed during the season. Add to that his ability to score and create goals means he's an important player for us. Lukaku is quite simply a beast, but a very raw one. He has the potential to be an extremely good striker in this division but there are facets to his game which need improving. I do see you being quite weak defensively and I would expect Shane Long to have the opening 60 minutes to tire down your defenders allowing Lukaku to come on and change the game with his frame. He's a big, pacy physical unit and that will make it hard for defenders to deal with him.
Anyone Baggies fans are worried about?
I can't speak for the others but myself, I don't see anybody which is going to do anything different which could hurt us. I would say POG but our two centre halves (McAuley and Olsson) relish the physical challenges and usually win their private duels. I would say Jimmy Kebe and Robson-Kanu if they start. Purely because their pace might leave our full backs incredibly exposed, especially when our 'wide men' tracking back has been a problem over the course of the season.
I'll go with a score draw. 1-1.
And where do you think both sides will finish?
I think we shall finish in the top half - 8th, and unfortunately, at the moment, I see you going down, that is unless you stregthen in several areas within this month. If you don't invest then I see you going down as I expect QPR to buy their safety, Wigan will do their usual last eight game miracle, Aston Villa will probably jam their way to survival and Southampton will also be within the bottom four. I can't name three sides but I would currently have you as favourites alongside Southampton with the battle being between Villa, Wigan and QPR for the remaining slot. The teams above shall probably do enough to survive.