Working together is a good thing - even if it’s with the enemy. On Tuesday night we head to with the big hope being that Villa actually kick off their season with a win. I sat down with Jonny from The Tilehurst End to discuss Reading FC.
How is the season going so far for Reading?
In terms of the off-season, it's been fine - just about. Ali Al-Habsi (our two-time reigning player of the season) left, to be replaced with ex-Sunderland goalkeeeper Vito Mannone. This seems like a level-par replacement on the face of things, neither being great with the ball at their feet but both fine shot-stoppers. Yet to see how Mannone fully adapts to Jaap Stam's style but he seems fine - no major downgrade, no major upgrade.
The bigger miss will almost certainly be Danny Williams. He might be a player that many fans perceived to be earning too much (signed on a long-term contract by our now-in-hiding, faux-billionaire ex-owner Anton Zingarevich when we reached the Premier League in 2012) but he offered a tenacity in midfield nobody else in the current squad seems to have.
Recruitment so far seems to have been on a budget. Big names linked, as the transfer talk swells in the summer, seem to have morphed into smaller targets that seem more affordable. Jon Dadi Bodvarsson is a hard-working striker who might lack that elusive "20-a-season" tag. Modou Barrow seems a tricky winger who can add much-needed unpredictability to our attack. The rest seem squad players, so it's all about proving that this team deserved to finish 3rd last season...
You've got a point, like us. Like us, you won't be happy with that, right?
This season - like most seasons - seems to be about proving the critics that they were wrong about Reading. After all, it's not often that the team who finished third and were a penalty kick away from the Premier League are predicted to finish mid-table, right?
That said, I think most fans would be disappointed with one point from two games. We named an understrength side against QPR and went down to ten men before the hour mark, so a defeat was understandable there.
But playing against ten-man Fulham for 90 minutes (Tomas Kalas sent off after 30 seconds), a win had to be the minimum. We got the lead eventually, but one sloppy mistake later, and suddenly the Cottagers had a point they barely deserved (and shouldn't have had the opportunity to get).
So if you'd given me one point from our first two games before a ball had been kicked, I'd have been disappointed but fine with it. But having seen the manner we've got that solitary point, it's got to rankle. There's little excuse for beating a ten-man team in 90 minutes, even if it's a promotion chasing side.
What's going right for Reading right now? And how's the Jaap Stam experience going?
The good thing is that Jaap Stam fended off interest from elsewhere to stay in Berkshire. Sure, he might not play the most glamorous or interesting football, but you can't argue on the basis of last season that he gets results. As mentioned above, he's got the team playing a brand of football which might rankle opposing fans (and our own at times!) but manages to gets wins purely by frustrating the opposition into submission.
And on the back of that, what's going wrong?
As mentioned above really... the "boring boring Reading" chants started up on Saturday as we tried to pass the game to a finish, but unfortunately one misplaced pass meant we ended with one point rather than three. Reading's clinical edge is the issue - as last season, too often we look to create the perfect chance for a tap-in rather than testing the goalkeeper. With Yann Kermorgant out injured, this team is lacking a goalscorer, a true focal point who can ensure the opposition is tested in the box.
Who should Villa fans lookout for on Tuesday?
Modou Barrow has flashed ability in his time on the field since arriving from Swansea. In a team which looks sorely predictable in the final third, he has that "it" factor around the box which can cause the opposition problems.
And whilst we might lack a consistent goal threat inside the penalty area, the likes of Liam Kelly (three goals already this season) and John Swift have the technical ability to curl in a beauty from the top of the box.
And who should Villa look to exploit?
Defensively we still look shaky, even having moved to a three-at-the-back system for these perceived tougher battles. Tyler Blackett seems to lack the athleticism to fully thrive in the wing-back system, with mental lapses often creeping into his game. Jordan Obita's injury status is still up in the air, but you'd imagine he's still firmly first choice if he's fit.
And it's the same with Tiago Ilori at right centre-back - with right-back Chris Gunter often cheating forward into a midfield position, our record signing has lacked composure to cover at times - a straight red card and a yellow in two league games would seem to indicate he's not quite comfortable with this system just yet.
In the midfield we're yet to find an able deputy for the departed Danny Williams - our first-choice trio of Swift, Kelly and George Evans are certainly technically able? but perhaps lack the mobility, energy and sheer persistence of Williams.
Is there anyone that has caught your eye for good or bad reasons on this Villa team?
I imagine Gabby Agbonlahor is the type of player who could give our defence frets; especially with our defence tending to push up quite high, his pace could cause us major problems. Basically anyone will speed on the counter - we seem to be especially poor at defending *our own* corners, so fill your boots...
And it'll be ‘good’ to see John Terry again, although I doubt Captain-Leader-Legend will be donning the goalkeeper gloves like he did in 2006 when we somehow managed to injure Petr Cech and Carlo Cudicini in the same game.
Any predictions you can leave us with?
Villa haven't had the best start to the season but I think they'll bounce back from Saturday's showing. Equally we'll never be a team to win by a margin but I think we'll have enough to get the win. 2-1 Royals, with the "boring boring Reading" chants ringing proudly out around the Mad Stad!
Thanks Jonny, we wish Reading a good season, as long as it is not at the expense of Villa!