The international football break is ended and Bolton Wanderers, despite the talk of a takeover that gets louder and weirder ever day, do actually have a football match to play. In fact, it comes against the rejuvenated Reading, who currently sit in 8th and are vying for a play off place.
We spoke to our good friends over at The Tilehurst End to find out why they're good all of a sudden.
1) How come you were suddenly able to bring in attackers like Matej Vydra and Ola John right at the end of a transfer window of signing Hull rejects? It's not fair!
Basically it all comes down to FFP & the new Thai ownership. Even though our takeover happened last summer, the fact that our previous Russian owner signed useless wastes of space like Royston Drenthe to long-term, high price deals meant we had no room to move unless we wanted to end up like Blackburn Rovers or Nottingham Forest. This summer saw a relaxation of the rules and some of those ridiculous contracts came off the books, so we've had a lot more money to play with this time around. Net wise I don't think we've actually spent a lot of money but depth wise we've got a lot deeper.
2) How come the usually awful Nick Blackman has suddenly become good? It's not fair!
Your guess is as good as mine! We had former Reading striker Jason Roberts on our podcast earlier this year and he said that Blackman had shown more potential than any other Rovers prospect he'd seen when he was at Blackburn so maybe the talent was there all along! Still we've had to sit through 2 1/2 seasons of dross to get to this stage (which just so happens to be the year his contract expires...) Some would argue that he just needed some confidence and a regular run in the team but honestly I've got no idea where this sudden surge has come from although now that his ridiculous run of goals has stopped, it'll be very interesting to see if he can pick it back up again.
3) With that in mind, how come you're still only in 8th place? Are you happy with your start to the season?
We had a round table up on the website this week and this very question was asked! So I'll give the same answer here as I did on TTE! So far we've seen the good, the bad and the downright meh from Reading so I'm not really sure how to feel. It's been far better than last season but then it should be given the extensive rebuilding done by Steve Clarke over the summer. I predicted an eighth place finish coming into the season so I can't really complain but there's a nagging feeling we should be doing a little better.
4) Steve Clarke has been linked to the Fulham job - bothered?
Would be stunned if this was anything other than agent talk to get him a nice new deal at the Mad Stad. If he goes it'll be a blow but it's not as if he's been a shining savour that's lit up the Madejski Stadium.
5) How's our old mate Ali Al-Habsi doing down at the Mad Stad?
He started the season on the bench and his few cup displays were awful with him letting in a howler every game, such as Everton's winner in the third round. However an injury to Jonathan Bond gave him a regular run and while he's not been the Al-Habsi that was in my opinion a top 10 Premier League keeper in his glory days at the Reebok (Macron, whatever) he's been a serviceable keeper in the short-term. I think Bond might come back in given the recent slump but I no longer fear seeing Al-Habsi's name on the team sheet.
6) We ask this every time but we don't care, how funny was that play-off final?
I was nine years old and I cried you heartless monsters! For many years we thought that would be as close as we would ever get to the Premier League but thankfully Steve Coppell came in and helped mastermind the best season in second tier history which eased the pain somewhat. That play-off final certainly made the 3-1 win at your place in 2006/07 that bit sweeter not to mention the fact that I went back to my then Uni of Lancaster with the Lancaster Whites Bolton Supporters Coach oh and then of course there was the 7-1.....
7) Will you be returning to the Premier League this summer?
A month ago I'd have said it was nailed on however injuries to Stephen Quinn, Hal Robson-Kanu and Aaron Tshibola have proved more hard hitting than we realised and right now it's hard to see us keeping pace with Derby County, Middlesbrough etc. I think we've got a damn good shout of the play-offs where you've always got a chance, except of course this is Reading who've failed five times to make it through.
8) What kind of football will you try and play on Saturday?
Clarke does like the team to try and keep the ball but not to a Brendan Rodgers kind of level. Reading are at their best when a team comes onto them and they can try and break with pace out wide but I can't imagine we're going to get a particularly attacking display from Wanderers at the weekend. Which means you'll see a lot of nice build up around the area and a few long range shots as we average the most in the country per game.
9) Aside from the obvious attacking talent, who else is good for you? I'm hearing good things about Arron Tshibola?
He's our best midfield prospect since Gylfi Sigurdsson and Jem Karacan came through the ranks and shows remarkable composure for a 20-year-old. He went on loan to a Hartlepool team dead and buried at the bottom of League Two in January and helped them survive and he's made the step up two divisions with ease. Sadly injury means he won't be involved again until Christmas at the earliest so he's a big blow. USA International Danny Williams blows hot and cold in the middle while Oliver Norwood has had a pretty good campaign so far alongside him or Tsh.
10) Any Bolton players you're worried about at all?
Obviously your Dad's Army of an attack would strike the fear into any Madejski Stadium crowd... In 2005 ;) There you go, that's one of them guaranteed to bag this weekend. I'm glad Zach Clough is unavailable as he seems a real talent, while Darren Pratley certainly used to be a decent midfielder at this level. However let's be honest you're 23rd for a reason and reading through your squad list it's very easy to see why I'm afraid.
11) Finally, how do you see the game going and what will the score be?
I've honestly got no idea because while on paper this should be a nailed on three points, Reading are one to avoid on your accumulator these days. If things do go the way you'd expect then I'd predict a comfortable 2-0 win for Reading but seeing Wanderers nick a 1-0 win really wouldn't shock me.
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