Friday, 6 December 2013

Cherry Chimes talks to The Tilehurst End Blog - Reading v AFCB

Reading v AFCB
Match Preview
Blogger Interview

Cherry Chimes spoke to Reading blogger Dan Wimbush (Wimb) who writes on the Tilehurst End blog ahead of the Reading v AFCB match. Dan is not sure if the fans are yet warming to Nigel Adkins, but he is sure that Pavel Pogrebnyak is one of those making the right kind of impression at Reading FC this season. 

CC: What were you aiming to achieve when you started the Tilehurst End blog and have you been surprised by its growth, and what do you enjoy about writing on it?

TTE: I'm not sure I had many aims really!

To be honest it was just about setting up a website that I felt would be able to plug a gap in the online Reading FC landscape. When we started the Tilehurst End in early 2011 there really wasn't a place that Reading fans could go to read long-form analysis pieces, sure we had forums like Hob Nob Anyone and the Royals Rendezvous, but there wasn't a website or a blog that allowed people to write in depth.

So I did a bit of research and found a few fans that had tried to start blogs or websites before but had since dropped away and asked if they wanted to come on board. Together we started a website over on the Wordpress platform and after around 18 months we were fortunate to be picked up by an American based blog network called SB Nation that have really allowed us to grow and expand.

I never expected us to get to the stage where we had nearly 3,000 Twitter followers and up to 50,000 page views a month but that's a testament to the number and diverse range of writers we've been able to have on the website over the years.

Lately we're just launched a podcast and as somebody who used to love presenting on student radio, that's probably the area that I'm most fond of!

CC: How do you feel Nigel Atkins has done coming into the club and do you like what he says in his post match interviews?

TTE: Truthfully, I've not really warmed much to Adkins public persona. He's sadly typical of this generation of managers who have been through extensive media training and know what to say and not say. He doesn't have the history with the club that Brian McDermott had, nor has he had the successes that made fans warm to managers like McGhee, Pardew and Coppell.

What matters is how he gets the team playing and while I'm happy to write off last year's relegation, this season has been very much a mixed bag in terms of both style and substance.

You can certainly see that he's trying to change the playing style but sadly injuries and a lack of investment have meant that the transition period has been a bit more painful than many fans would like.

CC: No doubt you would like to be higher up the table but do you feel that your current league position is consistent with how your performances have been this season?

TTE: Yes and no....

If you looked at our performances across the campaign then it's not really a team you'd say deserves to be in the top six. We got thumped at Sheffield Wednesday, drew with Barnsley, Millwall and Bolton and only got out of jail against Yeovil thanks to a late penalty.

That being said we've thrown away plenty of leads late in games this season and with a bit of luck and help from referees (as I'm sure most fans say!) We could be a lot closer to the top two.

The most pleasing thing is that we're still in touch towards the top despite not getting out of second gear. If we're this high when we're playing badly, then hopefully the only way is up!

CC: Which players have you been pleased with this season?

 Goalkeeper Alex McCarthy continues to show why he won an England call-up last summer and from what I've seen is the best goalkeeper in this division.

Winger Garath McCleary and fellow midfielder Danny Guthrie have also been in good form but recently it's the efforts of Russian striker Pavel Pogrebnyak that has been the most pleasing.

CC: Reading have only lost three times but you've had a lot of draws so do you think the team could be more attacking in its play or are you missing chances?

We're not really a team that creates tons of chances but we've done pretty well with the limited chances we've had. I think there was a stat recently that showed we had the best chance to goal conversion in the division so if we could get a bit more creativity we'd be a real force.

CC: Is Adam Le Fondre getting 90 minutes more often this season and does Adkins get more out of him than Brian McDermott did?

 Alfie continues to divide opinion, because while his goalscoring record is impressive, his record as a starter is poor. In 37 starts for the club he's scored just 11 times but he's managed 19 in 43 from the bench, including setting a Premier League record for goals as a sub.

Sadly, Reading just don't create the volume of chances he needs to be a 90 minute player and with an increasing focus on ball retention and possession, he's not strong or dynamic enough to play up front on his own.

He really excels when the team is surging forward looking for goals in the final 20 minutes, when defences are tiring and his movement gets the better of a weary defence. I'm sure Le Fondre wants to start every week and he's not an awful forward, but sadly he's not proved himself in three years that he's worth an automatic start.

CC: Billy Sharp has only played in a couple of matches from what I can see - is he injured, he still hasn't scored for you yet has he? (the question was put prior to the mid-week game when Billy scored against Charlton - he just might get a warm reception from AFCB fans)

 Nope! Sharp has played about 20 minutes for the club in 2 months and while he had to deal with a niggling injury, he's been fit enough to be on the bench in recent weeks but has just been overlooked.

Pavel Pogrebnyak has been in inspired form so there's no justification to drop him, while as mentioned we tend to go more 4-5-1 than 4-4-2. That's meant limited chances for Sharp and with the Southampton man due to go back to his parent club in five games time, there's suggestions that with funds to sign him permanently in question, maybe Adkins doesn't want to change the style to accommodate a player that might not be with us come 2014.

CC: Who are likely to get the goals for you at the moment and what are the strengths of your attackers?

As I've said, Pavel Pogrebnyak is in good form and has five goals in his last ten games. The Russian is big and strong and has added fitness and commitment to his list of attributes since the close of the transfer window.

Le Fondre and Sharp have both got goals at this level and if we do go 4-4-2, both will be hoping to partner the big man up front. Danny Guthrie has found the net a fair few times as well this season, while both former Bournemouth man Alex Pearce, plus Kaspars Gorkss are both threats from set pieces.

CC: Was the Nottingham Forest result the other night the best Reading have played away from home?

: It's certainly up there. I think the second half at Derby was probably the best performance as a whole but when you factor in quality of opposition, injuries and recent form, the Forest game probably nicks it.

CC: You have been defending well but who has been the star defender for the team?

There hasn't really been a star defender but as mentioned Alex McCarthy has been sensational in goal and has kept us in plenty of games this season.

The men in front of him have been rotating all season due to injuries and suspensions so we're still yet to find a really settled back four.

CC: It's still close in the top half of the table, can you see Reading catching Leicester, Burnley and QPR by the New Year?

If our injury list clears up then certainly but right now we're missing a key cog or two that'll let us really compete with that top three. I don't expect Burnley to stay up there but QPR and Leicester look very strong and so it'll be tough for anyone to keep up with them.

I think we'll give automatic promotion a good crack but really I'd settle for a play-off place and hope we can make it sixth time lucky in the end of season lottery.

CC: What will AFCB fans enjoy about visiting the Madejski stadium - are the views good and is it a good atmosphere?

 Despite being 15 years old now, the Madejski Stadium still holds up very well when compared to other new stadiums that have been built since the Taylor Report.

The facilities in the stadium are good and you'll get a great view from wherever you happen to be sat. If you're bringing young fans along then there's also a family area towards the front of the stand which stewards monitor, while away fans recently voted us the fourth best away day in the Championship. The only drawback is a lack of pubs in the direct vicinity of the ground but if you're travelling by train then the Three Guineas beside the train station is a designated away pub.

Atmosphere wise and sadly like most new stadia it does suffer from being quiet at times, especially if there's a few thousand empty seats. However, I do remember our battles with Bournemouth in Division 2 a decade ago attracting decent crowds and good atmospheres and fingers crossed we see that again!

CC: Thanks for answering all those questions Dan. I have heard that AFCB have an increased allocation for the game so it looks like we will bring a big crowd. We had 1400 at QPR and for this match we'll have 2000 supporters, so the noise should be good. With Nigel Adkins, Chris Baird and Billy Sharp at the Madejski it will be like taking on part of Southampton, so it could be quite lively on Saturday.

Please take a look at The Tilehurst End and why not have a listen to their latest podcast for some inside information. I have also given some answers to Dan's questions about AFC Bournemouth, so if you visit the The Tilehurst End you should see a story on Cherry Chimes at some point today.

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