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It’s a big, big match at the weekend for the boys in red and white. Billy Grant catches up with Dan Wimbush editor of Reading Blog The Tilehurst End  (@thetilehurstend)) to chat bout Wembley semi-finals,  playoff jitters and next season (already).

So with your season over now, would you rather have finished 8th and just missed out on the playoffs or got to the FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal and narrowly missed out on a FA Cup final trip?

Is it greedy to say both? The league season has been dire, probably the least exciting and generally woeful since our first couple of years at The Madejski Stadium under the late Tommy Burns. Sure we’ve been relegated since then but at least there was drama and a bit of excitement, two things that have been in short supply this year in the league. The cup has been brilliant and the memories will stick with the 30,000 that were at Wembley forever, it’s been 88 years since we reached that stage so it was a day out to savour full of pride and passion.

You have been jekyll and hyde this season. Why such a big difference between your league and cup form?

Let’s not sugar coat this. We were very lucky with our FA Cup draws this season. Huddersfield & Cardiff away are games you’d expect to have a good chance to win. Derby went down to 10 men early while playing a weakened side and then we had a dogged yet ultimately weaker side in Bradford to get past. You still have to get the job done but there’s more than enough quality in this squad to beat those teams and, as Bradford themselves showed, anyone can have a great one off game as we did against Arsenal.

It’s easy to motivate yourself for a big cup game. But for whatever reason we just haven’t got going in the league. Players have under-performed, stupid individual errors have been made and the balance of the squad has just never been right to get results over a 46 game season. Quite simply the squad is stale and needs a massive, massive rebuild if we’re to be at the right end next year.

You were in decline when Brentford played you at Griffin Park earlier this season – the Bees winning 3-1. You weren’t happy with manager Nigel Adkins at the time and he was subsequently sacked. Has Steve Clarke turned things around for you?

Jose Mourinho would struggle to get much more out of this group but the sad fact is that Clarke’s Points Per Game is worse than Adkins this season. Thankfully he got some good points on the board early but perhaps with the cup acting as a distraction we’ve been the worst team in the league since March. Adkins’ messages were clearly falling on deaf ears but he had little money to reshape a squad that was already in decline when he took over.

Perhaps in a different climate he would have done a better job but his media persona was rubbing frustrated Reading fans up the wrong way and most understood if not supported his axing. Clarke got us back to basics but sadly that only gets you so far when you’re lacking quality.

Reading fans talk about a disconnect between the supporters and the players which was repaired to a certain extent by your cup run and in particular your performance at Wembley. Does this bode well for next season?

It’s shown that there is some pride left in the club but as I’ve just said I think the squad is so, so stale that there’s no way this particular group can turn it around. We’ve gone from Champions to Premier League also rans to missing out on the play-offs to narrowly avoiding relegation so it’s clear the team is only going one way.

We do have some bright prospects and some talented experienced players but the whole dynamic of the team needs freshening up so hopefully Clarke can get some good business done this summer because the fans are voting with their feet and attendances are noticeably down.


There was no sympathy on the week’s Beesotted podcast for either myself and yourself from our ‘mates’. I missed out on getting my first ever 100% attendance record having had to fly to Jamaica for a few days last week, missing the Sheffield Wednesday away match. However, you eclipsed me somewhat by missing out on Reading’s 1st FA Cup semi final for 88 years (is that the correct fact????) because you booked your wedding on the same day. You wrote a brilliant article on it here but really how did you feel when you knew everything that you have been writing about and hoping for on your blogs for the past 10 or 15 years, you will not even be able to experience first hand (without making your wife feel terrible of course). 

listen to ‘#BrentfordFC v #ReadingFC Pre-Match Podcast’ on audioBoom

It was gutting I’m not going to lie! A feeling that only increased when we were given an opportunity to take part in a media experience with VIP seating and hospitality.
As I said in my article, you go through classic stages of grief before you finally just accept your fate and truth be told I had the best possible wedding I could have asked for and I wouldn’t have changed it for an FA Cup Final, World Cup Final or anything else!
With all that being said, if we do ever have kids one day I’ll be making sure they’re due to arrive well before or after April & May!

Bees and Reading are unglamorously similar. You went off and left us to rot in Division Three 13 years ago as you played around with the big boys at Old Trafford and Highbury but we’ve been reunited. Do you see a similarity to Reading’s upward plight with the Bees?

I do but then Reading had the new stadium to help transition us from small local side to a provincial team that could attract more fans and better players. Fingers crossed with your own new stadium that you could do the same but right now you remind me of the Reading team from 93-95 who while still at Elm Park built a fantastic side under Mark McGhee and had the momentum to get to from the third tier to a Division One Play-Off final in back-to-back seasons before we sadly lost to Bolton.

Without that new ground I could see your side broken up as ours was after that final and we quickly slipped back down to the third tier. You need some serious financial clout to compete at the top end of the Championship on a regular basis and without Premier League money it’s hard to see you sticking around while you’re playing in front of 12,000ish.

I’d love to be proved wrong as I love how Warburton has built you into a strong side that play good football and excite the fans but I do worry if you fail to make it this year.

So Saturday approaches. This half of the season, we haven’t dealt well with teams who on paper are seen as ‘average’ – losing to Cardiff and pulling one out the bag against Bolton and Nottingham Forest recently. Saying that, we are playing better away from home. We are going to be going for it on Saturday. How do you think the game will pan out?

I’m glad we’re playing a team with something to go for because our recent games against teams ‘on the beach’ have been awful! Some Reading players are fighting for their futures so I hope they’ll give it a good go but we just can’t score goals at the moment and if you go a goal or two up early doors then it’s game over. Nine times in our last 13 games we’ve failed to score so I’m just hoping that changes even if we lose!

It’ll be interesting to see who Clarke picks because he’s now got just three games to judge certain players but at the same time he’s promised to respect the league so I don’t think we’ll see a team of kids out there. The likes of Pavel Pogrebnyak and Danny Williams could return after missing Birmingham and they’ll give us a bit of extra quality that maybe was missing against Birmingham. I think you’ll give us a very good game but for some reason I see Reading just nicking something.

Give us a score prediction.

I said on our podcast Tuesday that we’d draw 2-2 and I’m sticking with it.


All the best for the game and the rest of the season

Reading pubs

Three Guineas in the old station building is the designated away pub. 

If you go incognito and are a bit savvy (ie no away colours), head down the hill from the station entrance and you have the Greyfriar Inn or nearby a decent Irish bar called The Gateway

The Nag’s Head is a good choice (http://nagsheadreading.com/home.php#home) – Russell St. Friendly pub just off the Oxford Road with a dedicated bus to and from the ground for a couple of quid.

Opens at 11am. No food (it seems). 

The above pubs are his MAIN RECOMMENDATIONS ……

He also has given these recommendations ……

There is also The Turks (31 London Road) – meant to be friendly and opens at midday ….

Friar Street has all it’s dubious offerings. 

Two ‘spoons (Monk’s Retreat and Hope Tap)


Those are 100% going to have doorstaff who will ask for ID to ascertain where you reside. If you have a London postcode you’re unlikely to gain entry, because Reading licensing regs still look at every football fan travelling to town as a potential hooligan. Nice eh?

Nearer the ground you have:

The World Turned Upside Down on the Basingstoke Road, a 15 minute no.6 bus ride away from town (£1.90 and every 10 or so mins) or £7-£8 taxi
or Callaghans which is attached to a Holiday Inn 2 mins further down the road. Both of these are 10-15 mins walk to the ground and are your closest options away from the stadium. 

At the ground, the Hotel bar and Jazz Cafe are home fans only. 

However, the club have recently introduced a real ale stand outside the East Stand. Appears to be open to all, serves West Berkshire Brewery “Good Old Boy”, a popular local brew.