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Adding another blog to the collection

28 May

As an opinionated fan of Reading F.C that doesn’t wish to clutter up my more regular blog with the constant goings on of my football club, I have set up a new blog where I can witter on about that all day. If you’re interested, caress this lovely link with your mouse and click.

It’s called The Reading Fan and currently has just the one post, a look at the potential successors to Steve Coppell’s throne.

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Wolves Promotion to the Premier League is Well Deserved

18 Apr

The Championship has been nothing if not a strange division this season. For long periods of the year, it seemed as though every club was doing their utmost not to achieve promotion to the Premier League, but only one club has sustained any kind of form and they are the ones who this afternoon celebrate their promotion to the promised land. That team are Mick McCarthy’s Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Ebanks-Blake’s solitary strike against Queens Park Rangers this afternoon means that Wolves have been officially promoted back to the top division, having dropped down to the Championship in 2004. It is testament to Mick McCarthy’s good work at the club that they find themselves back their, after a large restructuring to their club following relegation.

Thier position at the summit of the league this season disguises the fact that Wolves, like a number of their rivals, suffered a mid-season wobble. In January they won only once in the league. In February, they failed to win a single game, gaining only two points from a possible 15 and it looked increasingly as though the chasing pack of Birmingham and Reading could and probably should have caught them. McCarthy though was fortunate that his competition were finding the second half of the season just as difficult as themselves.

It is to the former Republic of Ireland managers credit then that he managed to turn his team’s fortunes around as successfully as he did. Since the beginning of March, Wolves have gained 21 out of a total of 27 possible points, which represents title-winning form in any division, especially one as inconsistent as the Championship.

Wolves fans have seen a lot of action this season too. Their team are the leagues top scorers, both home and away, and their strikers are a major factor behind the position that they find themselves in. Championship player of the year, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake has found the back of the net 25 times this season, more than anybody else in the league. His strike partner, Chris Iwelumo, may have provided the miss of the season for Scotland, where he missed the target from less than two yards out, but has hit the target 14 times in the league.

Their form on the road too has been impressive. Although they have beaten seven times on their travels, they have come out on top thirteen times, more than any other team. Their unwillingness to draw suggests that McCarthy would rather go for the win away from home than settle for a point and it is a dangerous strategy that has served them well. Their recent away form has seen them win 4 games out of 6. The remaining pair of games, unsurprisingly, resulted in Wolves being beaten.

This is why Wolves deserve their place in the top division. They have simply been the best team in the division and I say this as a Reading fan, the only team to have done the double over them this season. Wolves have not been unbeatable by any means this season, but their overall consistency means that their promotion is well-deserved.

Alan Pardew sparks MOTD2 rape controversy.

15 Mar

Match of the Day 2 saw some controversial punditing from former West Ham and Charlton manager Alan Pardew today, as he likened a piece of play to a rape scene. Analysing the Chelsea tie against Manchester City, Pardew said: “Ched Evans is a strong boy, he knocks him off.” Alan Hansen, sitting alongside him, interjects saying “he mauls him” to which Pardew replys “he absolutely rapes him.”

No attempt was made during the show to apologise for the comparison and neither co-presenter acknowledged it, although they appeared less than comfortable when the camera panned back onto them. I expect that this won’t be the last you’ll hear of this, although it could be the last time you’ll see Alan Pardew on the MOTD couch for a while.

[Quote has been changed after it was brought to my attention that I’d scrawled it down incorrectly.]

Tigers earning their stripes in Premier League

26 Oct

Hull City’s 3-0 demolition of West Brom gives them an almost incomprehensible 20 Premier League points from just nine games, a return that sees them consolidate their position amongst the big four and, briefly, sit level on points with the top two, Chelsea and Liverpool. Four points above Arsenal and five ahead of last season’s champions Manchester United mean that, even allowing for their game in hand, Hull will be sitting pretty in third.

In contrast, two years ago play-off winners Watford had picked up only five points after nine games, the same as Derby last season. Even Reading, the last promoted team to take the top flight by storm would still trail the tigers by seven points at this stage of the season. Hull’s feat is nothing short of remarkable. Where Derby and Watford made staying up after a play-off promotion seem an impossible task, Hull are making it look easy.

Certainly, the tigers have torn up the rulebook and are making a mockery of the pundits who wrote them off as relegation certainties the moment that their 39-year-old talisman, Dean Windass, fired them into the top-flight. The high-profile signings of Giovanni and Daniel Cousin have overshadowed Phil Brown’s intention to add Premier League experience to his hungry squad of players. Between George Boateng, Stelios Giannakopoulos and Anthony Gardner, almost 600 Premier League appearances worth of experience has been added to the squad.

Rather than following the strategy of the last team to trespass in the top half, Reading who finished eighth in their first season, Hull have beaten their own path this year. Where Reading put their faith in the team that won them the Championship, Hull have invested in their squad, signing ten new players and bringing in a further six on loan. Of the starting eleven that saw off the Baggies, only five players featured against Bristol City on that fateful Wembley day. In contrast, in Reading’s Premier League debut, ten of the starting eleven also started their final Championship game against QPR.

Crucially though, they have kept the spine of the team constant from last season. Captain Ian Ashbee remains the heartbeat of the side, while goal-scoring centre back Michael Turner, Hull’s player of the season last year, continues to marshal their defence. Hull have four players that have played for them in all four divisions, not least goalkeeper Myhill, who signed in 2003 and has been instrumental in their meteoric rise.

They also dealt well with the loss of star striker Fraizer Campbell, who returned to parent club Manchester United and then, ironically, moved to bottom club Spurs where he has made just one start. Marlon King was brought in on loan and has forged a prolific partnership with Geovanni, with seven strikes between them this season.

Amazingly, six of these seven have come away from the KC Stadium. It is said that for a team to survive in this league, they must make their home ground a fortress, a place where opposition teams won’t want to come. Make it uncomfortable for them, get it up em’ and intimidate them. Yet Hull have picked up 13 of their points on the road this season, an unbeaten streak that has surprised every one. In fact, their only loss this season, an uncharacteristic surrender at the hands of Wigan, came at the KC.

After that game, many expected the Tigers to stop purring, but they were in no mood to lie down and have their belly tickled. An away win at manager-less Newcastle has sparked a six match unbeaten run, with four wins on the bounce as they prepare their home ground for the visit of the Russian billionaires, Chelsea. While still a game they shouldn’t expect anything from, Hull showed they have the ability to surprise with a 2-1 away win at Arsenal.

They will surely fade away, nobody expects Hull to feature in the top four come the end of the season, but their start sees them half-way to the fabled 40 points marker after less than a quarter of the season. With Premier League powerhouses Chelsea and Manchester United their next opponents, it seems likely that Hull will finally be humbled, but these are games that Brown will not expect a result from these. Any points picked up will be points gained and the way that they have started this campaign, who would bet against another shock result against a top 4 side?