Hands up if you remember me! - Harry Engels
After a miserable end to the 2012, things are looking up so far for Reading in 2013.This weekend we've got a chance to further boost morale around the club by getting into the fifth round of the FA Cup for the third time in four years, as we welcome Sheffield United to the Madejski Stadium. While the Blades have struggled in the past few seasons, they're still a threat and in winning their last three visits to the Mad Stad they'll come here believing they can cause an upset. Oh and there's a return for one Dave Kitson... Ahead of the game we spoke to Blades fan Dominic Field.
How have you viewed Sheffield United's season so far?
It's a bit of a mixed bag really. Last season, Evans, Lowton and WIlliamson were responsible for 48 league goals and countless assists, so to have lost those players and replaced them with freebies and academy players, you can't really complain about sitting in the play-offs and being in with a slim chance of automatic promotion.
But on the flip side, we went top of the league after beating Crawley at Christmas. We're now 8 points away from automatic promotion. There's a bit of a negative atmosphere at Bramall Lane and the players seem nervous. At the minute, we're on a real downward curve and most fans aren't confident of success. I think we'll make the Play-Offs (so obviously we will be in League One again next year) and even though the realist in me will be okay with that, I will be a little bit disappointed.
It seems only yesterday our two clubs were battling it out for promotion and then in the Premier League. It's fair to say that the Blades have had a rough time of it since then, where did it all go wrong and do you expect things to get better any time soon?
Oh my, where do we start? I reckon McCabe's terrible record at appointing managers is to blame. I don't knock the chairman like a lot of our fans, but it's clear that he can't pick a manager. First it was Robson, tying old and not very good players to expensive long term contracts, then it was Blackwell (who did okay, to be fair, but when he talked about quitting after the Play-Off final, McCabe extended his contract!), then it was Speed who wasn't really here long enough to judge and then it was Mickey Adams, who was plainly out of his depth from day one.
I don't think being robbed by West Ham helped either. If we'd stayed up, Jags might have stayed, the TV cash would have helped, Warnock would probably have stayed a bit longer. Could all have been so different.
I can't see things improving any time soon. We need to get out of this division first and I don't see that happening this season.
Any particularly fond memories of games against Reading?
Finally beating you in 2008/09! We had a horrible run against Reading, they were the ultimate bogey side for us. It was something like ten or eleven games without a win and almost all of them were defeats. I wasn't actually at the game, I was watching it in a pub, but I couldn't believe it for two reasons - first of all, we were playing well and looking like finally beating Reading - away from home at that - but not only that, Brian Howard actually influenced the outcome of a game!
Any not so fond ones?
Ah. See the above really. The Keith Gillespie sending off sticks in my mind too, that was a pretty embarrassing affair. I'd always thought that Hunt was a smarmy ... Hunt ... and that incident just compounded it. But Gillespie was an idiot.
Do you expect a full strength side on Saturday or will you be resting a few to focus on the league?
Wilson takes every game seriously, so he'll put out the strongest XI for sure. No doubt about that. But we'll not be "full strength" by any stretch of the imagination. We've no defence for a start - both senior defenders (Collins and Hill) are injured, Williams has been poorly and Lescinel Jean-Francois is a long term injury. Westlake had to play at left back against Notts County. Up front, Miller is done for the season with a ligament injury. These injuries are in part to blame for our recent slump.
Former Royals Marcus Williams and Dave Kitson are currently on your books, what do you make of them?
Kitson is popular with most of our support, though I don't rate him that highly myself. It's not the same Kitson that Reading had back in the day - I certainly rated him. He's not especially quick or mobile these days and I would rather see young Joe Ironside playing that role. He's everything Kitson is but a little quicker and more mobile. I know Kitson has experience, but how much longer is he going to be with us? He'll be off in the summer. Blood the kid.
To be fair to Kitson, he does "win" a lot of free kicks in dangerous positions and he has popped up with a few important goals.
I don't want to talk about Williams, it will make me want to break something. He is rubbish. Wilson was asked about his absence after the County match and he told the reporter in a pretty angry voice that he had been ill, but "that's not to say he would have definitely played had he been well".
Anyone else Reading should be wary of on Saturday?
Kevin McDonald is the guy who pulls the strings, so double up on him and we'll have little creativity. Blackman is a threat when cutting in from the wing, but the last few games has seen Wilson switching him and new signing Murphy around so I don't know which of these will be up front and which out wide. I personally think Blackman is most dangerous when he's out wide. McMahon has scored three beautiful free kicks in recent weeks, so watch him from set pieces, as well as big Harry Maguire coming up from the back. He scored a header from a corner on Saturday.
Anyone in particular you're worried about?
Ex-Rotherham lad Adam le Fondre, of course. I was always impressed with him when he plied his trade in South Yorkshire. Pleased to see him scoring goals recently, I always thought we should have tried to sign him. We probably did and just couldn't afford him. Legsofwood is bound to score too, assuming he gets a game. He was bobbins at the Lane but he's been a different player for you lot.
I guess it will depend on your side. I understand that there's a big game against Chelsea or someone coming up? If you put out a full strength side, I won't be surprised to see us crumble. 3-0.
If you put out a bunch of kids and reserves then I really don't know. But I still expect us to get beat because we're so short at the back. I don't really see us scoring other than from a set piece, so maybe 1-0.
Good luck with the game, but I hope you all have a really miserable Saturday evening!