As we look forward to Saturday’s game against Blackburn, Vital Reading caught up with Blackburn fan and season ticket holder, Gareth Williams
As we look forward to Saturday’s game against Blackburn, Vital Reading caught up with Blackburn fan and season ticket holder, Gareth Williams (@CiroW). We ask about their expectations for the season, the surprising form of Jordan Rhodes, their manager Gary Bowyer, among other topics.
1. You currently sit just below the play-offs, how would you sum up your season so far?
Largely frustrating and confusing, with a few highlights. After such a strong end to last season (12 games unbeaten), hopes were high going into the season, but we`ve been consistently inconsistent (again).
The last three results have put us in a strong position but there`s still frustration at how many goals we leak, the slow tempo and not getting three points in games we should win (Rotherham away, Huddersfield at home). Now we`re in this position, we need to kick on and use the last three results as the catalyst for our season.
2. I understand that Gary Bowyer has received some minor criticism this season (pre-Forest), was it justified? Do you believe he is doing a good job?
Rovers fans are really split on Bowyer. He`s done a brilliant job in stabilizing the club since he was made manager. We`ve come a long way from the shambles we were in when he took over. That said, this is his team now and results need to be delivered. The criticism is understandable because the style of play has become more direct and at a slower tempo, some of his substitutions are baffling, we lack a plan B, we`re still shipping too many goals and we still have the ability to lose to lesser teams without putting up much of a fight. Personally, I think he`s the right man for the job but he must deliver this season. Promotion or bust.
3. What are your realistic expectations for the season now and do you expect to achieve them?
Play-offs as a minimum. Until the last three games, I would have said we`ll struggle to get there but a few good results in this league and you`re right back in the hunt. The inconsistency is worrying though. Before the Ipswich game, we could have really lost touch with the top two. You are never really out of the play-off race in this league at Christmas, but you can be out of the automatic race. We need to stay in touch as long as possible. I think we`ll make the play-offs but we need to improve if we`re to go up.
4. Jordan Rhodes is having a quiet season by his standards in terms of goal scoring, do you think it`s only a matter of time before he gets going again?
Rhodes will always score goals and I have no concerns about his recent barren spell. He`s struggling a bit with our change of style. We play more to Rudy Gestede`s strengths than Jordan`s now but as the team learn to mix styles and Rhodes develops more of a partnership with Gestede, the goals will flow. The Gestede-Rhodes partnership is an interesting one and there`s still a feeling we might be a better team with one upfront than two, but who do you leave out?
5. Which Blackburn player(s) are really excelling so far this season?
Ben Marshall. He was just showing us signs of his best when he broke his ankle last season. He`s now in top form and our biggest threat from midfield. Tom Cairney continues to impress and is a proper footballer but it`s questionable if we`ll get the best out of him while Bowyer insists on playing him on the right, rather than in central midfield. New signing Shane Duffy is proving a good signing and Rudy Gestede continues to score for fun.
6. If you could take any Reading player, who would it be and why?
I`ve always rated Garath McCleary from his days at Forest. We could use his experience in our midfield. I think Jordan Obita`s going to have a good career too.
7. What starting XI and shape do you expect to see from Bowyer on Saturday?
As we`re at home, I imagine it will be 4-4-2 with Rhodes and Gestede being reunited up front. Williamson or Tunnicliffe will make way but it will be a difficult decision for Bowyer after Saturday`s win at Forest.
4-4-2: Steele; Baptiste, Hanley, Duffy, Olsson; Marshall, Evans, Williamson, Cairney; Rhodes, Gestede.
8. What is your prediction for the game?
I`d like to think we`ll have enough at home to get the three points but Rovers don`t often win three on the trot, so it will probably finish 1-1.