“We were in a bad way and a real rut at the end of last season, and we couldn’t shake ourselves out of it. I’m sure they’re aware that they’ll be facing a very different Reading team this time. Hopefully we can get the three points and kick start our season.”– Chris Gunter (Reading FC)
“There’s great competition for places which is always good, we can easily change formation with the personnel and that keeps teams guessing and it’s all eyes on Saturday now.”– Greg Cunningham (Preston North End)
After much anticipation, the 2016/17 season is now underway. Reading FC begin with a home fixture against Preston North End and will be hoping to get things off to a good start.
Much has changed at the club since the end of last season. The first obvious change is the appointment of Jaap Stam as manager. Being such a well known player in this country, many will no doubt be intrigued as to how he does managing in the Championship. One thing that can be said is that he has definitely started to make his mark on the Reading team.
Eight new players have arrived at the club already over the transfer window- Danzell Gravenberch, Anssi Jaakkola, Joey van den Berg, John Swift, Roy Beerens, Joseph Mendes, Yakou Meite and Callum Harriott. There have also been a fair few departures. Hal Robson-Kanu, Simon Cox and Anton Ferdinand were all released. Rowan Liburd joined Stevenage, Aaron Tshibola went to Aston Villa while Pierce Sweeney was transferred to Exeter City. The most recent departure- only a matter of days before the start of the season- was Oliver Norwood who left to join Brighton and Hove Albion.
While there have been many new arrivals this summer, Stam has also been casting his eyes over what the academy has to offer. A large number of them have featured for Reading during pre-season and have seemingly impressed the coaching staff. Over the duration of pre-season, the Royals have won three of their five games and drawn against Premier League side AFC Bournemouth. They did, however, also lose to AFC Wimbledon.
Reading will now be hoping to start their Championship season with a win against Preston North End- Coincidentally the same team the Royals faced at the end of last season. When the sides met back in April, however, it was Preston that came away with three points. Jermaine Beckford gave the away side the lead in the 56th minute, but Stephen Quinn levelled the score just before extra-time. A Daniel Johnson goal in the dying seconds was then enough to snatch a win, and Preston walked away with all three points.
Being at a low point in Reading’s season, it was in a way unsurprising for them to lose in such a manner. This time around, spirits are high going into the new season and as a result fans will be expecting a win. That being said, Newcastle have already shown to expect the unexpected as they lost their opening fixture 1-0 to Fulham.
In terms of the starting lineup, Reading will be without a few of their players. Both Dominic Samuel and Stephen Quinn remain out with knee injuries while Joseph Mendes is not up to fitness. Yakou Meite has only been at the club for a matter of days and as a result is not being rushed into action by Stam. The manager has told fans, however, that Yann Kermorgant, Garath McCleary and Danzell Gravenberch all returned to training ahead of Saturday’s game.
Preston, meanwhile, are without defender Calum Woods for the season after he underwent a knee operation on Wednesday and Stevie May is also out due to a knee injury. Like Stam, Preston boss Simon Grayson has also been busy in the transfer window- Chris Maxwell, Eoin Doyle, Tommy Spurr, Anders Lindegaard, Simon Makienok, Callum Robinson and Ben Pringle have all joined. All of their new signings will be available to them on Saturday.
The Royals have lost their last two league games against Preston, but have never lost three in a row. With the weekend’s fixture being dedicated to Eamonn Dolan, there is a fair amount riding on it. As a man who is renowned at the club for his contributions to the academy, it would be appropriate for some of the academy players to make an appearance but more importantly for the game to end in a Reading win.