The Friday Preview
It's the big one this weekend, the game we've all been waiting for, and if anyone says otherwise, they're either lying or an incognito Hatter. This is as close as it gets to a derby for both side as Hertfordshire take on Berkshire, that's pronounced Berk-shire nowadays due to one certain inhabitant not Bark-shire, contrary to popular belief! Throw in all the animosity between the two sides over the Summer and you have what should be a cracking game on your hands. Watford are expected to take 3500 fans the Madjeski Stadium for the mostly hotly-anticipated encounter of the season thus far.
Brendan [Who?/Judas/Mr Integrity] Rodgers, made the move from Herts to Berks over the Summer to join a bigger club leaving Braveheart, Malky Mackay to pick up the peices back at the Vic'. However in what is a large shock to many, it's the apprentice who is outdoing the master at present as Malky's Hornet's side sit handsomely in 8th place whilst the 'master's' side - pssssh, sit in 21st with many Reading fans understandably disgruntled about their side's fall from grace. The speed of transition is key to success, and to say that Rodgers has ripped apart a comfortable setup in a short space of time would not be doing the re-construction justice.
The New Boys
It's been a busy Summer for Brendan who? after failing to land Tommy Smith, who eventually joined Portsmouth after a protracted move North to Sheffield United didn't materialize, Brendan was left with egg on his face. However, he did eventually rob the Hornets of Jobi McAnuff. But to say nobody in WD18 blinked at the move would be an understatement. This hit and miss winger didn't enjoy the best two season's at Vicarage Road and circa half a million for an average winger with a year left on his contract is a good move for the selling club. Indeed, Jim and Vince Russo were heard laughing all the way to their offshore account! McAnuff has yet to make a first-team apparance for the Royals but did feature in midweek for the second-string against Southampton and could be in line to make his debut on Saturday. Brendan spread his recruitment net slightly further for the signing of Grzegorz Rasiak, but presumably because every other striker had rejected him. A former Watford loanee, Rasiak was pinched for a paltry 350k, despite Southampton demanding at least twice that when the Hornets were sniffing around the Pole. Rasiak wasn't fancied by Rodger's at Watford so why the striker will figure any more at Reading, who knows? He did however manage to earn the support of the Watford fans on his way to nabbing ten goals last season.
Rodger's also pinched Watford target Darren O'Dea from under the nose of Big Malky Mackay, [not a wise idea if you ask us!] on-loan from Celtic. Which is fine, because Craig Cathcart arrived last week to help patch up Watford's hole-ridden backline. Further defensive backup came in the shape of Shaun Cummings and Ryan Bertrand who also arrived on loan from guess who? Chelsea.
After deciding to let both James Harper and Liam Rosenior leave on loan, Rodgers took Blunts reject Brian Howard on loan with a view to a permanent deal from Sheffield United. If you're looking for the Rodgers-Howard link here, Howard was at Chelski briefly, before Red Rom took over and decided the calibre of players would have to be increased dramatically.
Reading's only significant purchase of the Summer came in the shape of centre back Matt Mills who cost something ridiculous along the lines of £2m. Where a club in their final year of parachute payments find that sort of money I'm not sure, but it would be horrible to hope they started to struggle financially right?! A powerful centre half, Mills was at Doncaster and Moneybags Manchester City before joining the Royals.
The Class of '05/'06
After seeing Nicky Shorey, Steve Sidwell, Glenn Little, John Oster, Bobby Convey, Ibrahima Sonko and Dave Kitson leave previously, the final ruins of the class of the 05/06 promotion season left. Marcus Hahnemann joined Wolves on a freebie. Kevin Doyle cost the Molinuex men a whopping £6.5m, Stephen Hunt joined another Orange team, and manager, in Hull City whilst Leroy Lita joined relegated 'Boro on a free transfer too. James Harper as previously mentioned left to join Sheffield United on-loan, bolstering further their midfield options. Finally, skipper and club legend Graeme Murty was allowed to join Southampton on a free after a number of years at right back at the Mad Stad. Last season he spent time on loan at Charlton to recover from injury but never quite returned home.
It will be a young looking side that face Watford this weekend as the financial climate, relegation and new league rules have hit the Royals as hard as they hit the Hornets. Four home-grown players means the likes of Gylfi Sigurdsson, Scott Davies, Jem Karacan, Simon Church and Hal Robson Kanu will all be featuring more regularly for the Royals this term.
Centre half Alex Pearce is a promising prospect and will be partnered at the back by either big-buy Mills or recovering skipper Ivar Ingimarsson who has been sidelined for eternity. Adam Federici is another young man finally thrust into the first team after years at Marcus Hahnemann's deputy, he nabbed a late goal last season for the Royals in front of his watching family.
It also looks like it could be Shane Long's season to shine, no longer is he fourth choice striker as he's only got Noel Hunt, Grzegorz Rasiak and young gun Simon Church to contend with. Expect him to be lively.
Likely Watford XI
Hodson Mariappa (c) Cathcart Doyley
Cowie Eustace Jenkins Cleverley
Likely Reading XI
Cummings Pearce (c) O'Dea Bertrand
Sigurdsson Matejovsky Gunarsson Howard
Former 'Orns: Grzegorz Rasiak [12 league Apps + 9 Sub, 8 Goals], Brynjar Gunnarsson [34 + 2, 3], Jobi McAnuff [68 + 14, 5], Nigel Gibbs [384 + 23, 5]. Karl Halibi, Brendan Rodgers, Frank Lampard Snr, Dean Austin.
Prediction Reading 0 - 2 Watford
Come on you 'Ornss!
Footnote: Give yourself a laugh and spend five minutes well by having a read of this!