STAR Fans' Forum - 6 March 2003

In attendance: Alan Pardew, Marcus Hahnemann, Nathan Tyson, Paula Martin and 150 STAR members, notes by Justin Beasley

Has Nicky Forster ever hear the four letter word "PASS"?
MH - There's a reason why Reading play 4-5-1; 4-4-2 doesn't work with Fozzy!
AP - When the team played 4-4-2 it was similar to a 4-5-1 with Butler playing deeper anyway. Now players have been specifically brought in to fit the 4-5-1 system and it helps the team keep the ball better, and it works really well. But it's not really about systems, it's about how good your players are.

In AP's opinion, who have been our key players this season?
Nicky Forster has been fantastic away fro home with his pace and work rate. His awareness does need to improve but he is always looking to improve his game.
Hughes and Hahnemann too have been very important players. Tys isn't bad either..!

[To Nathan Tyson] Did you ever doubt you were going to make it at Reading?
NT - Yes - on returning from Swansea felt he might not get in the first team, but a new contract was soon offered and everything has gone right since. Now very happy with things - never thought he'd get this far.

[To Marcus Hahnemann] Any chance of an international recall?
MH - Yes!! There are two good goalkeepers in the way (Friedel and Keller) but he's waiting for a chance, due to injury or whatever else.

Did AP's spell in the stands have a plus side?
AP - had heard that the VIPs in the directors' area moan a lot but they were strangely quiet and polite when he was up there! If you're up high, it's hard to see if players are focused on their game. KD is superstitious about not changing things when the team is winning and Parky was doing a good job on the touchline so AP stayed in the stands a little longer than he needed to. Congratulations to Parky by the way for his great start at Colchester.

Everyone at the club will obviously miss Parky - does his departure leave a gap in the coaching staff that needs to be filled?
AP - He didn't do much so no there's no gap! Seriously, Parky is a great motivator and dressing room character but in all places of work, when one character leaves another takes his place. Steve Brown is a similar character and will naturally step into Parky's shoes.

[To MH] What's your secret to saving penalties?
MH - Dumb luck. Has a secret system but it is going to stay that way. At University in the US, MH would dive the wrong way every time, so sought help from some strikers on what went through their minds taking penalties and now he's developed a system.

[To NT] How fast is your 100m, and is it quicker than Gilkesy?
NT - Just under 11 seconds at school - not sure about beating Gilkesy, he's a legend at the club so he can have that one..

How are Steve Brown and Adie Williams doing injury-wise?
AP - Brown will be fit for Wolves, Adie is struggling to be fit for the Palace game (15/3). But there is good cover with Mackie and Viveash. Adie Whitbread has had a recurrence of his knee injury and is quite down about that.

What about scoring penalties? We don't have a reliable penalty taker.
AP - Fozzy always wants them but to be honest, AP doesn't fancy him to score them! AP thought Sidwell would be a better bet, but he was obviously wrong!

What about Brown - he's supposed to have a powerful shot?
AP - True, but he's not confident at taking them, he just says no!

How likely is MH to get on the scoresheet this season?
AP - Well he obviously wants to since he came up for a corner against Coventry with about 8 minutes to go. He won't be doing that again.
MH - Remembers seeing the manager waving him forward! Besides, his was Reading's only shot on target in that game..

When players lose their place in the side, how does the manager communicate with them and keep them motivated?
AP - That's a clever question. Sometimes the team improves beyond the skill of some of the players who have been instrumental in its success, which is difficult for them to take. In that situation almost anything you say gets taken in a negative way - often it's better not to say anything at all. AP will always tell a player why he has been left out.
But you can't have too much sympathy, you have to drive your players on and be ruthless.

[To MH] How did you develop your kicking style?
AP - Being 22 stone helps.
MH - Playing in the US League, the team visited Mexico where all the keepers use a side-on kicking style and it developed from there. MH had plenty of spare time to practice at Fulham!

Does it satisfy AP to see where Brighton are since they beat us to the Div 2 championship last season?
AP - There was a lot more pressure on Reading to get out of the 2nd division last season, as a bigger club with more money invested in the facilities and players; AP still believes Reading were a better football team than Brighton last season. Admits a bit of satisfaction after 10 games to see Brighton bottom of the league but not since Steve Coppell arrived - he is a good friend.

What is behind the amazing turnaround in James Harper's form?
AP- Bringing in Harper was a gamble; at the time he came in Crewe's Dave Brammer was a target, and he is an experienced 29-year-old midfielder. James had confidence problems and found it hard to accept advice and praise, but now he has become more positive and is in fantastic form. He's technically brilliant and can run like a rabbit. Last night at Norwich he was magnificent.

[To MH] Compare Reading with Fulham.
MH - Loved it at Fulham, just didn't play! Coming here on loan and getting first team games was brilliant , and in the summer was waiting for the phone to ring and then the ITV disaster happened it things looked bad, but fortunately it turned out ok. The stadium at Reading is better - albeit without the history - but Fulham's training and backroom facilities are excellent.

AP has an excellent record in the transfer market, but is the club now looking for talent abroad?
AP -Yes. It's hard to get UK based players to improve your team for reasonable money and wages. Agents get a bad press but are very useful for finding out about foreign players. There's a player at Brondby who is being looked at currently. RFC have agent contacts covering most of Western Europe.

Will there be any transfer movement before the deadline?
AP looks at NT!
AP - Some of those who haven't featured this season may well leave. As for players coming in, the Premiership is within touching distance and it's important that the chairman goes the extra mile and invests in the squad. There has not been any money to spend so far - only a loan budget is available - but would very much like to keep Luke Chadwick here.

Any regrets about losing Matty Upson?
AP - An offer was made but the club couldn't match Upson's wages or his valuation which increased with every game he played for Reading. He did love it here though and may well have been persuaded to stay if not for the money situation.

What did AP do to try and keep Parky at the club?
AP - Nothing, nobody stood in his way. His salary for coaching at Reading would have been far less than his playing wage, and Colchester gave him a fast track to eventually coming back as Reading manager, whilst giving Reading good contacts with another club. Incidentally, it doesn't seem like Parky has left as he's been on the phone constantly for advice!

Would AP have liked to keep Caskey?
AP - No, couldn't see him fitting in to the current style of play. But to set the record straight, AP is a big admirer of Caskey who is a fantastic talent and a great player for Reading.

[To NT] Have you ever scored a better goal than those on your England U20 debut against Germany last month?
NT - Yes, there was one for Swansea against Darlington! Anyway there will be plenty more to come, and it was a fantastic experience playing for England.
AP - Adds that he thought Tyson was "bloody brilliant" that night.

[To NT] So any chance of getting into the U21 squad?
AP - The England U20 camp commented on NT's excellent, helpful attitude. He needs to get a regular start for Reading - which he looks like being able to do - and then go from there.
NT - Learned a lot from the other England players - even the younger ones - and from training at Bisham Abbey. And playing at the Madejski was great too - even heard that Tord Grip was talking about him after the game. But there's a lot of hard work to be done yet.

Who will be the next youngster to break into the first team?
AP - Ahmed Rifat or Andre Boucaud, who the club "stole" from QPR. Boucaud has some amazing tricks but is effective at the same time - he may well get a first team game this season. Simeon Howell, Jamie Young and Peter Castle, who is just 16 but already has Premier League clubs asking about him, are all coming through as well.

Does Joe Gamble have a future at the club after his injury?
AP - Yes of course - and his injury is bad but not as bad as Bas Savage's. Joe has a lot of midfield players in front of him when he gets fit, but he's a great player and a really nice guy and he's got every chance.

Are we going to nick the second promotion spot form Leicester?
AP - (looking shocked) An optimistic Reading fan! The club's sights were always set on promotion this season - and who knows, the team are putting in really good performances this year so it may happen. AP believes this is his third Reading team in three years, and unlike the others this team raises its game for the big matches, which gives us a better chance than ever before.

Does it annoy AP that MH throws his water bottles into the crowd?
NT - That should be a fining offence!
MH - Reveals that he threw his jersey into the crowd once after a cup defeat and received a message from Nigel Howe afterwards saying "We don't do that here"! The water bottles belong to MH; he pinched them from Fulham.

Does it bother AP that Reading get little respect from the national media?
AP - Yes. The club's profile has always been low, and there hasn't been much major success in its history in all honesty. The importance attached to the Simod Cup win is testament to that. If Reading have success it's always assumed to be temporary and that we'll "go away". What AP really wants is respect for the Reading players - there are players at the club who should be playing at international level, and that kind of recognition is what AP is working towards. Getting the media on your side is a big part of that and will help RFC to raise its profile and hopefully become like Charlton, with its 20,000 season ticket holders. The bottom line is that RFC itself needs to think like a massive club, not a small one.

If Luke Chadwick signs on loan until the end of the season, he will miss the play-offs. Could we not let him go back to Man United for a few weeks and then loan him back again?
AP - He'd have to miss some very important games so that probably won't happen. AP would rather just buy him.

Would he sign permanently?
AP - Yes, he loves it here. The trouble is dealing with Man United, who he doesn't want to upset as he would love to get in their first team. Things are currently being discussed.

A newspaper article recently said AP might get into the Premier League before Reading do - any comments?
AP - Not really sure what that means. RFC is at a critical stage at the moment, on the verge of the Premiership, and the board need to go that extra mile and put their hands in their pockets. Reading will break even this year, and while that might sound good, it indicates a lack of willingness to invest and speculate, and AP is very keen that the club does that. Having said that, if the club did get promoted, he believes the existing players, with perhaps a couple of additions, could do really well.

Maybe we could swap Chadwick for Rougier or Cureton?
AP - No we can't!

Tony Rougier has had a lot of stick - does he have a future at Reading?
AP - Rouge brings something different in the way he occupies the opposition defenders, and people don't appreciate that quality. He does lack the final ball and finish though. AP will decide his future at the end of the season - either way, he's a great person and AP believes he's a better person for knowing Rouge.

What's happening with Cureton?
AP - He's been sick with gastro-enteritis for ten days. Playing-wise, he doesn't fit in with our current style but he has been a very important player for us. He has been offered a contract, and AP wants him to stay, but it remains to be seen whether he can be happy as a squad player.

Does Adi Viveash's return to the side at Carrow Road inspire those players not in the team?
AP - Players on the fringes of the squad are never excluded, and always train with the first team. Viveash, Cureton, Butler and Igoe have been out of the side but all have trained hard like good professionals, even though they are in a horrible situation being left out - especially since they have been so instrumental in getting RFC where it is today. They will get their chances - it only takes an injury to Fozzy or Hughes and everything can change.

Does the possibility of bigger name signings mean the wage structure will have to be broken?
AP - No, the wage budget will not change. It is the same as last season and will be the same next season. AP will definitely need to bring in players, which may mean getting several off the wage bill just to bring in one or two. The board does need to invest some money, no doubt about that.

John Mackie looked unwell on the TV last night - is he ok?
MH - It's his haircut, he needs to shave it off.
AP - During the visit to the FA for John's hearing, he and AP sat in front of three men between the ages of 70 and 90 - and he was very nervous. AP believes the racism charge was blown out of all proportion, and the suspended ban is an awful thing to have hanging over a player who then becomes a target for other players to wind him up and try and make him lose his temper.

What's happening with Kevin Watson?
AP - has major sympathy with him not being in the side, but Harper has his place at the moment. Kevin will have to wait for an injury or loss of form to get back in. But to show how much AP values Kevin, he has already offered him an extended contract even though he is out of the team and has another season on his current deal.

Are the contracts for the backroom staff sorted out?
AP - Almost. AP wanted to get all the contracts sorted out a while ago, and he is unhappy that it has dragged on so long. All the backroom staff are brilliant and they all need to be signed up right away.

How much influence have physio Jon Fearn and sports scientist Niall Clark had on the fitness of the squad?
AP - RFC is unusual as the manager takes no fitness training at all. Fearn and Clark handle all of that, AP just does football coaching. Niall Clark is excellent at helping players recover between games - everything is highly organised and precise, which is why the team has been so injury-free this season. The pair are crucial to the club.

[To NT] Was it a penalty when you were pulled down in the box against Norwich last night?
NT - Yes, but admits he was "looking for it", and that Kevin Dillon taught him to dive like that!

How does AP feel about Nigel Howe criticising players in the local press? [refers to a Reading Chronicle article which suggested NH was unhappy with the attitudes of Jamie Cureton and Martin Butler]
AP - It would be a cause for concern but AP was unaware of the article. Everyone has a right to say their piece, especially the board, but that doesn't mean it's always helpful. AP has a good working relationship with the board, although it mainly involves asking them for money!

Is Steve Brown really good enough to keep John Mackie out of the team?
AP - Brown and Williams do lack pace but compensate with experience and a knowledge of how to get in the way of the ball. Steve Brown's record of games won at Charlton is terrific. John Mackie needs to read the game a little better - he sometimes needs his pace to make up for being out of position. But he is still only 25 and five years from his peak.

AP, what are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
AP - Admits to being too hard and not sympathetic enough - but notices when people do their job well, and appreciates diligence, hard work and self-improvement.

If Reading go up, would the transfer window cause a problem?
AP - The transfer window causes a problem to newly promoted clubs as it always takes a few games to find out how good you are in a new league. If you can't buy players until January, you have to speculate in the summer or wait.

[To MH] Do you like the "USA" chant?
MH - Murts really hates it - so KEEP DOING IT!
AP asks why Murty doesn't have a song, and is regaled with "M-U-R-T-Y" by all.

[To NT] You said recently you wanted to play for Real Madrid. What can you achieve there that you can't achieve here??
NT - That was a joke! NT says this is his home town and where he wants to play - but you never know what will happen in the future.

How does Nicky Forster feel about not having his own song?
AP - Doesn't feel that Fozzy gets the credit he deserves from the fans. He gets a lot of "sighs" when he pulls the ball across the box if nobody is on the end of it, but he scores a lot of goals and should be appreciated!

The meeting concluded with thanks to Alan, Marcus and Nathan for coming along and being willing to answer the questions thrown at them.

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

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