Fans' Forum - 6 August 2002

Reading Football Club STAR Fans Forum
Present: John Madejski, Alan Pardew, Kevin Dillon, Nigel Howe, Boyd Butler
Chairing: Paula Martin
Notetaker: Justin Beasley - to whom many thanks

JM thanks everyone for their support throughout the ITV Digital debacle and the promotion season.

AP thanks "fantastic support" during the run in - all those draws were very nervy, and the support "helped see us home." Also thanks for the £10k of donations to the Academy. "You should have a party in there!"

What game are you most looking forward to in the new season?
AP - Crystal Palace, because of old ties, but really just getting started at Derby - it seems like an eternity since the last competitive game. Anywhere in the first division is better than going to Blackpool anyway.
KD - Portsmouth.
JM - The game when we get promoted to the Premiership!

Alex Smith - how does he need to improve to get his Reading career back on track?
AP - He was brought in to play left midfield, but thought his best position would be full back. He takes a few too many risks there, but he is a fantastic talent and will get a chance this season.

Jamie Cureton's contract is up next season - will he be offered an extension or will he be allowed to leave for nothing?
AP - Didn't realise his contract was up, better sign him up quick! Re. Curo's place in the side - he is working on his weaknesses, and improving even now. Stresses that the side picked is not down to favouritism, just to the fact there are a lot of good players all of whom deserve a place in the side.
KD - We've got four good forward, and that's what a top club needs.

But are we going to make sure he doesn't leave for nothing?
AP - Trouble is, transfer fees don't mean a lot at the moment, and might mean nothing in seven or eight months. It's a delicate situation. But the club will do everything it can not to lose its assets.

Now that Bradford have been allowed to stay in the Football League, is JM staying at the club? (refers to an interview in which the Chairman threatened to resign if Bradford were allowed to get away with sacking their first team squad)
JM - Geoffrey Richmond (the Bradford chairman) has gone, and he was the main culprit. I'm not going to resign, of course, but hopefully the events of this summer will lead to more realistic and legitimate deals in the future.

How close is Darius Henderson to starting at Derby on Saturday?
AP - Darius has been brought through slowly, but he is just about ready now. He really upset West Ham's defenders last night - which is nice! - but Martin Butler is also a top player, even if the difference is getting smaller all the time. But not going to name the team tonight!

Williams and Viveash haven't looked dominant in the air during the recent friendlies
AP - No but you have to be careful with defenders during pre-season; you don't want them to be over-competitive. They'll be ready when the time comes.

A few seasons ago, Neil Clement was here on loan. We missed the chance to keep him and now he's a Premiership player. Would AP have signed him if he had been manager then?
AP - We've generally done ok with player's we've passed on - very few have "torn up any trees" at other clubs since, apart from Clement. But when he was at Reading he was shy and not quite ready for the big time, although he had talent. But we've done ok on that score.

Can Jamie Ashdown cope if called upon?
AP - Goalkeeping position is a worry, especially if the transfer windows imposed. The club needs competition in goal, and so Jamie needs to kick on this season. Ideally, we would loan him out but that would leave no cover at all.
With the academy games moving to Bisham Abbey, can supporters still get in to watch?
AP - Yes, no problem. Fans should go and watch, it is exciting to see players like Darren Campbell, who has just completed a victorious England U17 tournament.

In what way does negative local press affect the club's bargaining power in dealing with negotiations such as with Sammy Igoe over the summer?
AP - The Igoe situation was unfortunate as it coincided with the ITV Digital collapse. Always wanted him to stay but there was a lot of negotiation as other clubs were involved and it became very drawn out.
Reading FC can't dictate what the press should write - as much as it would like to! But overall the club would like the local press to be a little more positive. Also there is the issue of the internet, which spreads rumours to the local papers.
JM - The press can seriously compromise the club's dealings, it is true, but they're only interested in selling more papers or getting people to watch more TV.

Where should the line be drawn with internet-based discussion of the club and the team?
KD - Loves the internet! But the official site is the only one to look at (£34.99 for the season..)
JM - Not too worried, as long as you take the web with a pinch of salt.

But where is the line really drawn with unofficial sites; in Germany one unofficial 'webmaster' was banned from training sessions.
[Reference to not Hob Nob Anyone?]
AP - Criticising players is ok if that's really your bag. But the website owner in question was banned because his site contained personal information about a particular player who became very upset. This has happened several times over the last year with things posted on internet forums.

Nobody in the press is really predicting relegation for RFC, but what is the club's aim for the season?
AP - Of course you always try to set targets, but at the moment Div 1 is really an unknown. We won't be overawed, that's for sure. Millwall would be the inspiration for us, with the success of their youngsters. Prediction? 10th!

The FA Cup has been unkind to us over the years - are we going to have more luck this year?
AP - Our cup runs have been bad - at York last year we were awful but we couldn't work out why; we certainly take the cups seriously. Cup runs are important - Palace's reputation and crowd is built on them - and we'll be working hard for them this year, starting at Cambridge.

James Harper - he looks like he's trying too hard to impress
AP - In training he's the best technical player at the club, alongside Salako. His technical ability and athleticism are top class, but there's something maybe not quite right - his inconsistencies are probably mental, he doesn't relax enough as he's too determined to succeed on the pitch. It's all about confidence and we're working on it.

Do the new segregation bars mean that home fans will be able to fill half of the South Stand?
NH - We only have to give 10% (i.e. approx 2000) of tickets to away fans under League rules, so if we're looking at a sellout, that's exactly what we'll do.

Are we strong enough at centre half? Did we try and sign Arjan De Zeeuw from Wigan?
KD - Yes we did, but the money situation meant the club missed out on him. However if the situation arises where the team needs strengthening in this area then it will be addressed.
AP - Adie Whitbread needs more exploratory surgery on his knee, so centre half may well be a problem area.

Too many fans are saying they'd be happy with 4th from bottom next season. Please reassure us that this is not the club's aim.
AP - We're very positive about next season; if the team is struggling, there will be no hesitation in making changes. But there is a lot of belief among the management and the players.

Season previews and other clubs' fans don't really consider Reading to be among the contenders. Could we be this year's dark horses?
AP - RFC may not be recognised by the fans of other clubs, but it is seen as a decent side in the football world. Fans might ignore us but that's fine - maybe they'll keep quiet when we play them!

At Brentford, why did Steve Coppell look so miserable when they scored?
AP - Maybe he's been in the game so long he can ignore it, but he's certainly "churned up" inside. After that game, he left a fairly heated message on the Pardew answerphone!

Coppell was a friend of AP's in Div 2 - has AP got any allies in Div 1?
AP - Not many! Mark McGhee is a good mate now as is Steve Cotterill at Stoke. Funnily enough, everyone's more friendly when you're not in the same division as them.

We passed the ball well against West Ham on a slick surface - should we water the pitch more often?
AP - The plastic part of the Desso pitch causes the ball to hold up a little when dry, so it always needs watering anyway. It does help those players who like to pass the ball.

Our away record was good last season, but will our away tactics need modifying in the higher division?
AP - A little. We'll need to be more tactical and try to counter attack more. Last year the team was good enough to ignore the opposition's tactics and play our own 4-4-2 game, but that probably won't work on every occasion this year - we'd get found out somewhere.

Is there a natural successor to Parky for the captain's armband if he's not in the team?
AP - Adie Williams, or perhaps Kevin Watson or John Mackie for a younger leader. But Parky, when he plays, is still the skipper.

Rouge took a nasty knock last night against West Ham - is he fit?
AP - Yes

There is an England U21 game coming in October (against Macedonia) - any chance of getting a full international?
BB - You need a 30k capacity stadium to be considered for full internationals. When we get to the Premiership and the stadium is expanded then we'll get one.

Any chance of reserve games being played in the evening?
BB - Not at the moment - they're all at 2pm. Free to Season Ticket holders though.

An update on Season Ticket sales?
BB - 7,000 so far. 10,000 tickets overall sold for next Tuesday's match v Sheffield Wednesday.

Any progress on the parking situation?
PM - None yet but the council are trying; double yellow lines on Bennet Rd and Acre Rd may be lifted on match days. Whitley is going to be more strongly policed to stop residents being blocked in.
BB - WorldCom won't have parking there this season as they're not having a very good year financially and their building is likely to be sold and leased back to them, removing their authority to allow parking. Alternative might be the Foster Wheeler building at Shinfield, which would be a park and ride service to Basingstoke Rd.

England U21 ticket prices?
BB - Advance: £10 adults, £5 conc. £1 kids. Prices not yet ratified by the FA.

Any comment on the prices of the Charlton and West Ham friendlies (£20 on the gate)?
BB - These were too expensive on the day but were decent value on the internet (£13 adult). We do need to publicise this aspect more. The club does need to make money and get the maximum number of people into the stadium, but do sometimes get it wrong.

When will the stadium be expanded?
JM - We are not averaging close to capacity yet. When we reach capacity, the stadium will be expanded.

Thanks to RFSC/STAR for the above information supplied to Hob Nob Anyone?

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