STAR Fans' Forum - 19 August 2004

Fans Forum at the Princess Suite on 19 August 2004 chaired by Phil Cullimore
Guests: Nigel Howe, Jackie Evans, Andy West, Neil Baldwin and Steve Coppell for RFC and over 200 STAR members

Surcharge, why has it been increased by 50%?
It is the first increase in administration charge for 4 years and the increase is to account for previous seasons losses as the £1.50 does not cover the transaction cost. Under the new ticket system it is now per transaction not per ticket.

Will you be offering refunds for Scott Murray kits? Fully aware that kits change and old kit does not become invalid, but last kit was advertised as 2003-5, why was it changed after one year? Why change the design and not just the logo.?
Sometime the decisions made by the club which we feel are in the club's best interest and this may be seen as against the supporters interest. This is not intentional. As far as the kit is concerned the discussions with Puma started in February but it took to April to even get really serious so the time frame was very difficult. Puma does not own Genesis (kit @). We accept we have to learn, it is true kit was advertised for 2 Seasons but at that stage it was not known that there was even a chance of a change to Puma.

Ticketing online is not brilliant and is it true there are no seats left in the North Stand for the Sunderland game? Why are only row A seats available?
When we first went live on internet there were troubles mainly because of the short time frame. It is improving daily and supporters will be able to get same tickets online as by phone by middle of September. The search for seats should now start row w and go one row forward and one row back as last season. There is a worry that crowd size has plateaued, this new access system is not just for the sake of change but about trying to understand the profile of supporters. It will take over two or three years to implement fully, as the infrastructure is not yet in the club but the aim is to be a progressive club and seen to be such in the football world.

What is the chance of loyalty points for away game and STAR membership?
We are currently looking at how points should be allocated; such as more points for midweek long journeys? We want to find a way to reward those who support the club. There will be a STAR reward but don't know how many points yet.

TV monitor West Upper has been removed, why?
We understand it was a health & safety issue where large numbers congregate and the decision is taken in conjunction with Reading Borough Council. It was taken out to satisfy the licensing people of RBC but we are still looking to relocate somewhere else on the concourse, even if it has to be a flat screen.

What can you do with the new video screen?
Still finding out what it can do, pre-match interviews and replays during the game. It cannot show the game live as it happens, as it may inflame fans, but can show goals and chances. Adam is keen to know what you would like to see on the screen so pass your messages to him through the club.

Why are away fans allowed to stand?
The Safety Officer has to keep stewards safe, and the way he does it is to wait until fans come onto the concourse and so it is not seen when action is taken. For instance 20 away fans were ejected from the Brighton game. West Ham Leeds and Cardiff (whose fans persistently stand) will find there away allocation is reduced at many grounds, we are hoping to sell the tickets to them this year but if they still stand they will be reduced next year. Once we can sell all our seats we can then afford to reduce their allocation.

After the first half hour the guests from RFC were thanked and the questions were addressed to Steve Coppell:

Whart happened in the tunnel at Sheffield United? No Arsene Wenger "I didn't see it" please!
I was there, Adie made a comment that could be taken one of two ways, Neil Warnock took it the wrong way. We should be pleased with an away win but not gloat as it is a long season.

Now you have been here a year what was the…..
Highlight - towards the end of last season, the run of games when the spirit of team and atmosphere in crowd were so good. It gave me the belief and hope that we really have got a good chance this year.
Lowlight - the 3 3-0s
Worst aspect of the job - answering same questions for press 20 times over
Best aspect of the job - being a manager is everyone's dream, the zen of being a manager is to plan training when expectations are high at this time at year it but once the season is going and we can get beaten despite being the best team it gets less good.
How does it compare with other clubs? - the last 2 were fire fighting, here there are no excuses as club is on the up. The Chairman is supportive of new training ground as it is so important. A club can be a cash club or a community club - we want to be a community club which is so important in the development of the team. This is my best chance of working in Premiership and I intend to give it my best shot.

Sean Gregan is unsettled at WBA, are you an admirer?
I am admirer of him but we made decisions in summer on who we wanted. Scouting is for potential players but not identifying any specific position.

What is the news on the training ground?
Half the area is devoted to new pitches and has been seeded and should be ready in 6-8 weeks, one quarter is established (we plan to train on it next week), the other quarter is new area and not as good quality but will be useful in summer months. The buildings will be brought in in about 8 weeks so we will be moving in lock stock & barrel in October.

Are any of our young players remotely close to the first team?
As far as the youth squad is concerned I am not really involved, by not bringing in own men it means that it is self-contained . In my experience the conversion from Academy to pro takes a season to get to grips with it. From pre-season Simieon Howell and Louie Soares are part of the squad and I would use them without much hesitation.

Convey v Gray?
You have got to take a gamble these days, I would have snapped up Julain Gray but he was obviously Premiership bound. I had to fill the left side, Brooker was a good bet to fill both sides and it did seem that the Convey deal was dead. It was resurrected at last minute, so we had to take the gamble. He needs time to learn the English game, we have to let him make mistakes but he will be there for the long run. He could cost a lot of money but it is performance related.

Do players have season targets set, are they rewarded?
AP had 6 game targets set by players but I prefer to win every game rather than think this is the game we can afford to lose. Players are the best people to push each other on, some have targets in their contracts but that is down to agents. Would prefer not to have individual targets as it is a team game.

Defence needs strengthening?
They are innocent until proved guilty? The perception is that a lot of teams in our division are good going forward but not so good defending. It is a blank sheet this season for the players to prove that they can defend. The resources are there if needed but here the wage structure is well defined, so any addition has to fit the structure. Some of the best games last season and best defensive displays were when the established back 4 was disrupted so it is not always the expected defensive display. Wally Downs working with them now with an emphasis to work as a unit.

Andy Hughes!
You love or hate him, there are no shades of grey. He is great to have around. Fully committed and any mistakes are genuine mistakes. But can play on either wing and full back. He is easy to criticise but great for me.

Do you agree there is a lack of experience in the midfield?
Harper & Sidwell are among the best in the division, the 2 together at 22 and 23 need to play together more and more. I am comfortable with them as main components of the midfield whilst they are still under threat of other players.

Isn't it nice to see to James Harper getting support after the stick he got last season?
I was not aware that he was on the receiving end but he has the ability, strength and potential to be a top player. He is certainly a dedicated player.

Can fans come to the new training?
Yes the players need a crowd.- but don't listen to the language!

Is Nicky Forster getting a new contract?
He is the best striker at club, and now is the best I have seen him at this club. He is showing real enthusiasm and determination to earn new contract. We have now got 5 forwards but will not risk losing him.

Do we need another goalkeeper?
Last season was really competitive, it was noticeable how the tempo of training changed when there were 3 keepers wanting to play. As we are sensible with our finances we can only afford 2 keepers and realistically only the Premiership can afford 3..

Why did Ashdown go?
The opportunity of the Premiership plus increased money; we cannot compete with the Premiership - money, facilities etc are all there to transform the club. The fee is still to be resolved..

Players did the club proud at the Open Day
This set of players are the most responsible players I been involved with.

Why last season could we beat teams at top and lose to those at the bottom?
If I knew that I would have done something about it. The ambition of everyone now is to make the play-offs. We were good when odds were stacked against us, but when we were expected to win other qualities are required. The 3 teams relegated won 11 points off us, and that is an area we have to improve.

Rotherham play 4-4-2 and are a hard working side have you thought of 4-3-3 against them?
I have an open mind but to make them a special case before the game would put the ball in their court. We are at home and have to make the running.

When you came you said the club was fur coat no knickers is it sill?
Until the training ground is established then maybe, now the impression is that something is stirring but there are a dozen teams aspiring to promotion. A lot of clubs have been shrinking wage bills whereas ours is improving so we are making progress.

Tell us about Dave Kitson who is looking like he could be a big reading player?
I saw him a few seasons ago at Cambridge, when he seemed good but he went dormant for a while, when we were looking for a forward finances meant he fitted. First game he came dressed as a student but he has tunnel vision and has such a drive and a desire to score goals. He is very hard to mark and is good in the air so no centre half likes to play against him.

Are there any other bargains out there?
I seem to have been lucky in discovering forwards as I gave Ian Wright, Mark Bright, Steve Clarridge and Stan Colymore their first professional games.

Season started and pundits do not recognise Reading, is that an advantage?
I am pleased as expectation is a burden, we have a lot of young inexperienced players who do not need that added burden. It is good for us to he out of the bookies top 3, but I hope by Christmas we have changed that. Walsall went down with 51 points and we lost 16 and were nearly successful, it's a very fine line between success and failure..

Marcus tends to overkick the ball
One of MH strengths is his kicking, I am confident when ball goes back to him, and he will help create quite a few goals this season - like at Sheffield last Saturday.

Fun to win 13-0 in Sweden but what help is it?
Pre seasons are arranged in February, standard of opposition in Sweden over the years has deteriorated. We trained well there though and were told we trained better than premiership clubs in earlier years.

Where will we finish?
I just try to win the next game, where we finish will not be an accident.

The forum then finished with thanks all round.

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

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