A momentary blip in November has kept them from being the runaway Championship leaders but it’s been a brilliant start to the season for Reading nonetheless. What have you made of what you’ve seen so far?
It’s been very good overall and has certainly far exceeded expectations. With the new manager coming just days before the start of the season, quite a few fans were fearing the worst and anticipating another season of struggle, but they really hit the ground running. Veljko Paunovic established a close togetherness and unity among the squad and got the players performing to their potential. That was the key reason behind the really great start. Even though they’ve had a blip, when they lost four on the trot, they managed to bounce back and are still very much in the mix. It’s been a much better start than expected and people are just keeping their fingers crossed that they can stay as high as possible in the league table.
The appointment of Veljko Paunovic in August was seen as quite left-field by some, but there’s no doubt he’s quietened any doubters there might have been. Did it take Reading fans long to take to him after he replaced Mark Bowen?
They absolutely love him. The 2,000 fans that seen him in the flesh over the past couple of games have been chanting his name and he waved back at them, much to their delight. He’s got a good relationship with them but he had to build it from afar for the first few months. They’ve really taken to him and are pleasantly surprised by the way he’s managed to turn around the side.
A crowd of 2,000 fans returned to the Madejski Stadium ahead of the win over Nottingham Forest. Would you say there was a noticeable uplift in the players’ performances as a result?
They were on the right track going into the game, having beaten Bristol City and drawn against Sheffield Wednesday, though they were helped by the early red card for Ryan Yates. It certainly improved the atmosphere inside the ground and I’m sure the players would’ve been lifted by the fact fans were present. It resulted in a good, clinical performance, maybe not the best of the season, but they managed to get the job done comfortably in the end and deservedly got the three points.
Which player should Brentford fans be keeping an eye on?
That’s a tough one but I’d say Michael Olise (pictured above). He recently turned 19 and is, quite possibly, going to be the next big thing. He burst onto the scene 18 months ago and is a real flair player. He’s an attacking midfielder who is very creative and, at the time of speaking, he is top of the Championship assists chart, as well as being among the top teenagers in Europe for creating chances. He’s added assists and goals to his game this season and, when he’s on form, he’s absolutely unstoppable. He glides past players, always looks to get on the ball, has got a good set-piece delivery and a good shot on him as well.
How is Paunovic likely to set up at the Brentford Community Stadium?
I’d usually say 4-2-3-1, however, Lucas Joao went off injured against Birmingham, as did Yakou Meite, so it really will depend on injuries. It’s possible that Sam Baldock will start up front because George Puscas is injured as well, so they could well be short of striking options. It’s hard to say beyond that, at the moment.
Brentford have won two of the last three meetings and have kept clean sheets in the last two. What’s your score prediction for this one?
I imagine Reading would take a point, so a 1-1 draw would be a good result.
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