Club Focus – Reading – Cup distractions less welcome without Liverpool present

Having grown more accustomed to kick offs being moved from 3pm on a Saturday whilst in the Premier League, Reading experience a new extension of this phenomena on Saturday. For the first time, the team have had their game moved for live coverage solely on the internet.

The FA’s website is screening the Burnley game live to UK viewers, presumably as an excuse to move the game to gain revenue from overseas television coverage. With the match kicking off at the earlier time of 12.45pm, the opportunity is there for the quiet souls of the West Stand to enjoy their prawn sandwiches for lunch while watching the game. It is hard to envisage the atmosphere living up to the last FA Cup tie at the Madejski when a packed house rocked as the Royals picked up their ticket to an Anfield replay against Liverpool. On that night, there was no need for the gimmick of providing cardboard clappers to create some noise as was seen against Birmingham on the last day, last season. With a hangover-unfriendly starting time against Burnley, the clappers might just come in handy to manufacture some atmosphere against the Clarets. Not that the clappers would do much to help the hangovers, mind.

Burnley may be a Premier League team now but there is not the same draw to a match against them as there was when the Reds came to town. Revenge for the play-off defeat last season will not be too high on the agenda either, as the Lancashire outfit were worthy winners and much water has passed under bridges on the River Kennet since that game. Reading have much more pressing issues to worry about right now, having dropped in to the relegation zone since the highs of winning at Anfield last week. It is hard to be motivated by a potential giant killing when the giant was a division below you just two years ago. Somewhat surprisingly, Brian Laws is now in charge at Turf Moor, and his old club Sheffield Wednesday have now moved above the Royals with two wins from two games under new boss Alan Irvine. Brian McDermott will happily take a win against Laws’ new team but he will be more interested in overhauling his old side in the league table.

The Madejski Stadium has been receiving unwanted column inches in the national newspapers this week following the murder of teenager Asha Muneer in close proximity to the ground. As the main local landmark to the crime scene, the Mad Stad has been used regularly as a point of reference and Reading will be keen to restore the name onto the back pages again. The ground is yet to host league football in 2010 but hopefully the annus horribilis that was 2009 will be banished to history and the victories can come again. Progress in the FA Cup would be the prize if a home victory comes this weekend but more important is three points from the visit of Barnsley a week later. The Madejski was a fortress at Championship level for the first half of last season and it needs to be again for the last half of the current campaign.

Rumours have persisted since the Liverpool victory that Brian McDermott will be made manager officially but still a public announcement has not materialised. McDermott has still not tasted a league victory since taking over and the club are no doubt waiting to see signs of an improvement in league form before committing themselves to a decision. He will have to wait another week before he has the chance to lay down a marker in the league, by which time the transfer window will be almost over. Finances at the club make significant arrivals unlikely, but then few would have expected the amount of activity that took place on deadline day on September 1st. How much it matters depends on how much faith McDermott has in his current squad. So far, he will have received mixed signals, with the outstanding performances against the Reds counterbalanced by inconsistency when it matters in the league.

Reading have never quite recovered from the last time they played Burnley, having seen their chances of a swift return to the Premier League destroyed by the play-off defeat to the Clarets. In truth, the club was already slipping in to freefall by then and it is far more pressing for them to address this slide next weekend than it is to seek revenge in an FA Cup tie. All credit to those that turn up for the game, but for those put off either by the occasion or the hour, there is always the internet.

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