Behind Enemy Lines: Reading

MILLWALL are back on the road and looking to extend their unbeaten league run to six games.

The Lions head to Berkshire to face Reading, a ground they have only won once at in their last 12 attempts.

Leandro Bacuna’s own goal and a Lee Gregory strike gave Mllwall all three points in February 2018, but that remains the Lions’ only success at the Madejski Stadium since 2001.

Alex Grace spoke to Royals fan Dan Manning ahead of the clash.

Twitter: @manning_93

Why do you support Reading?

I went through a hiatus of not following football when I was in secondary school and when I left for further education. I persuaded myself to get a season ticket at Reading to get back into it, and I haven’t looked back since.

It did also help that I had friends who also went.

What season did you first start following the Royals?

I was properly invested into Reading FC during the Brendan Rodgers era (2009).

Honestly, the quality of football played when he was in charge was, politely put, not very good. I think we won one game at home while he was in charge. I started to wonder whether the season ticket was worth it.

It thankfully did get a lot better after he went. But he’s managing in the Premier League now so maybe it was us.

What is the most memorable Reading game you’ve seen?

So many to choose from.

I was lucky enough to get a ticket to the replay of the FA Cup third-round game away against Liverpool in 2010.

It was bitterly cold and I’m 99 per cent sure it started to snow after the game, making the return journey a nightmare.

But it was one of those magical FA Cup nights under the lights.

We played out of our skins all night and went in 1- 0 down at half-time to an unfortunate own goal. I saw Jobi McAnuff almost score the greatest goal I would have ever seen live but he put it agonisingly wide and from there we just thought it wasn’t our night.

However, we kept going and won a penalty in stoppage-time and Gylfi Sigurdsson (now at Everton) slotted in the coolest penalty you’ll ever see (does help if you’re from Iceland, of course…it’s in the veins).

Into extra-time and Bryniesta/Brynaldo (Brynjar Gunnarsson) magics up a nutmeg on the right side of the box and whips in a peach for Shane Long to head in.

I don’t think limbs in the crowd quite does it justice. We ended up singing the final countdown for the whole of the second half of extra-time. Best game I’ve seen live.

What has been your favourite season as a Royals fan?

In terms of emotional investment, the 2010-11 season is up there.

Losing in the play-off final 4-2 to Swansea was cruel and I was three rows behind the goal that saw five of the six goals that afternoon.

Favourite has to be 2011-12, our second promotion year. We were simply unbelievable after Christmas.

I don’t know what Brian McDermott put in the pudding but blimey did it work. Adam Le Fondre, Jimmy Kebe, McAnuff, Jason Roberts. Misfits transformed into prime Barcelona.

Not much was known about manager Veljko Paunović at the start of the season – how impressed have you been with him?

Honestly wasn’t sure about him to begin with but rather him than Mark Bowen.

I do like having unknown managers come in. I find managers who are well-known like to have their old favourites, etc., and it’s nice to start completely fresh with a manager.

He’s come with a plan, brightened up the team, made some shrewd acquisitions that complement the team and made it purr.

Millwall have a poor recent record at Reading

Reading have surprised many so far this season – what has been behind the bright first half of the season?

Unity – something that Reading have lacked since 2011, for me. A desire to win and put in 110 per cent which is what every fan wants. Players who play for the badge on the front and not the name on the back.

If you’d offered top six at the start of the year I’d have had your hand off quicker than Usain Bolt ran the 100m.

What are your aspirations for the season?

I think now we have to aspire for the automatic promotion spots, but honestly, I just want the team to stay harmonious and play for each other.

I can take another year in the Championship with these players having had a year to gel and go for it next year if that’d be how this season ends.

What are your thoughts on Lions boss Gary Rowett and the job he’s done so far in SE16?

I think Gary Rowett has been bang out of luck since he was unceremoniously removed from Birmingham in 2016 – the guy was a miracle-worker!

He’s made a nice little turnaround at Millwall, turning them back into a stable Championship team – capable of beating anyone but also losing to anyone (God I love this League!).

He’s had a solid set of results the last five games and our match will be tough.

Were you happy with Reading’s January business?

Considering the EFL restrictions that seem to appear over our heads every time we look at a player, I’m not too disappointed to not have picked anyone up in January. We do need depth but it always has to be right for the team and if the boss can’t find anyone at the moment we take in on the chin and hope the academy guys can step up.

If you could add two Millwall players to the Reading side, who would they be and why?

Jed Wallace – creative depth is a problem for us and Jed would be a sound addition.

I would also take Jake Cooper if I had to pick a second, ex-Royal who I quite liked. Never afraid to put himself about.

Who are Reading’s danger men?

Joao, Joao and Joao. One hundred per cent not the same player who played for Sheffield Wednesday.

He oozes goals and he is the complete forward we have been missing since Shane Long left us way back when.

Watch out for Ovie Ejaria and Michael Olise as well. I would say John Swift also but it is likely he will be injured so you have dodged a bullet there.

What’s your predicted Reading starting XI and formation?

4-2-3-1

Rafael; Yiadom, Morrison, McIntyre, Richards; Laurent, Rinomhota; Olise, Semedo, Ejaria; Joao.

And finally, a score prediction?

The optimist in me says a large Reading score but the realist knows Millwall won’t make it easy. 3-1 to Reading for me, coming off the back of the Brentford game we will want to score some goals.

Graphic: @ShedCreative

Staff

(@NewsAtDen)