Talking to the enemy of Reading ahead of this weekends important clash at the DW Stadium, this could already be on of those big six pointers.
A game we are expected to win, now when have I heard that from? We don't tend to do well when we are the side that is meant to win a game we never seem able to. Yet we are likely favorites going into this weekends home tie, against a Reading side which have surprisingly struggled this season.
Yet they shouldn't be down heartened, and neither should we in fact, as they have a few players who can cause anyone some harm on their day. So ahead of the big fixture we and and SB Nation's very own The Tilehurst End, about what they expect of this weekends fixture. Whilst just what do they think of form Latics Legend Jason Roberts?
Slow start for Reading, but we would be wrong to think you are a poor side. What has gone wrong for you at the start of this season?
It was a combination of factors really. We had a very stop start schedule, with 2 games early then none for nearly a month. We also had a tough opening with Chelsea, Spurs, West Brom and Newcastle all in the first five not to mention tough trips to Swansea and Liverpool shortly afterwards. There was also a little bit of bad luck and stupid individual errors costing us, whether that was the linesman missing the fact Torres was 5 yards offside at Chelsea or missing Demba Ba's handball, to Adam Federici's pair of clangers against Stoke and Chelsea. All of those things coupled with some players just having bad days sort of rolled in to one and we just couldn't quite get that opening win on the board but even so, we've lost just four games this year, against Chelsea, Liverpool, West Brom and Tottenham so it's not been as poor as maybe the points & position suggest.
Your burst into the Premier League was a big shock last season. Did you are the run coming before it happened? Or did you feel you could do it?
I don't think anyone saw us winning the league, and the fact you could have got 500/1 with the bookies for us to be champions in January sums up just how unexpected the run was! We certainly felt we could sneak a play-off place but the addition of Jason Roberts really helped us kick on and start grinding out results week in week out. It was only when we'd beaten West Ham at Upton Park in March that I thought we really had a chance to clinch automatic promotion and only after the 3-1 win at Southampton that I thought we'd sneak the title. It certainly wasn't as an emphatic run to the
You signed a few new players his summer, who has impressed you most? and who do you think has more to give?
Most Royals fans and neutrals picked Pavel Pogrebnyak as our big signing upon whom survival would hinge, but 'The Pog' hasn't really hit the heights that he reached during his loan spell with Fulham. He's got a few goals but hasn't impacted games as much as we'd have liked and he's been relegated to the bench in recent weeks. Danny Guthrie has also been a big disappointment and when you couple lacklustre performances on the pitch with back room bust ups and twitter rows, his signing has looked a disaster to date.
Adrian Mariappa and Garath McCleary have both had their good moments but the pick of the buys has probably been Nicky Shorey who has got better and better as the season has gone on.
Jason Roberts is a form Latics favourite. How do you Reading fans view the striker?
Without him we wouldn't have been promoted so he'll always have a special place in the hearts of Royals fans. Injury and suspension meant he's only just getting regular starts this season but already he's shown that touch of class and experience that maybe we were missing in the first couple of months. Despite his age he's still as strong as ever and he'll play a big part in the relegation battle over the coming months.
How do you rate this current squad of players to that which brought you to the Premier League last time?
The squad that won promotion last time was one of a kind, a team that broke all sorts of records on the way to racking up 106 points and then followed that up with an eighth placed finish in the Premier League. This squad isn't of that calibre but they've shown a lot of grit and determination to overcome obstacles that weren't put in front of that last side. Both have their merits but ask any Reading fan and they'd love to have that golden side back again.
What past encounters do you remember most fondly between the two sides?
WIthout a doubt the 2-1 play-off semi-final win at the Madejski Stadium that sent us into the Division 2 play-off final. Trailing 1-0 with minutes to go, we scored twice late on to send us into the final on one of the most electric nights we've witnessed at the stadium. Other than that and Nicky Forster always seemed to cause Wigan problems but our four previous top flight encounters weren't exactly memorable!
What is your score prediction for this weekend’s game?
I can't see either side running away with it and I think it'll end in a 1-1 draw, though either side sneaking it 2-1 wouldn't stun me either.
Now for the Pie Eaters special. What is your favourite flavour pie?
Ha! I've got to confess that I'm not really a pie man! I've always gone down the hotdog and chips route at football matches but if they've run out then I'll usually go for something chicken based in a pie.