by Olly Allen
Cardiff City travel to Reading in the Sky Bet Championship on Sunday looking to build on last weekend’s dramatic late win over Luton Town. Bluebirds fans will make the journey to the Madejski Stadium and pack out the away end, hoping to see a first win for their side in Berkshire for the first time since 2011. Sitting in the home end though will be Simeon Pickup, editor of Reading fansite The Tilehurst End, and Gair Rhydd got in touch with him to get his thoughts ahead of the game…
How are you expecting Cardiff to get on in their first season back in the Championship?
It’s always tricky to work out how well a newly relegated side will do when they’re back in the Championship, and that’s how I feel about Cardiff City. The impact of dropping out of the Premier League affects different teams differently, and in reality you can’t judge that by visible factors like squad strength, managerial experience and so on. It’ll be at least a few months before we work out how well the Bluebirds have adjusted.
That said, going by those other factors that I mentioned, Cardiff should have enough to at least be in the race for the top six. Most notably, Neil Warnock’s experience will be vital in getting the absolute maximum out of his team, and there’s probably no-one out there better qualified to organize a team in the second tier, get them playing at their best and winning games.
In addition, Cardiff’s quality at the back catches the eye. Neil Etheridge is a fine goalkeeper, but his job will be that bit easier given the centre-back pairing in front of him of Sean Morrison and Aden Flint.
At this early stage, I don’t think Cardiff will quite have enough to get automatic promotion, but should be good value for a 4th-place finish.
What have you made of Cardiff’s summer transfer business?
The big move for me is naturally the exit of Bobby Reid, which I fear could be a big blow for Cardiff over the course of the season. I’d been interested to see how well he would have got on in the Championship for City, but that won’t happen in South Wales now. That said, Warnock’s reasoning that it was wise to allow an unsettled player to move on makes sense – and is entirely in keeping with the manager’s emphasis on a disciplined, focused squad.
On the other hand, the recruitment looks sensible, with Cardiff not repeating the gung-ho approach that has scuttled other relegated clubs in recent years. Aden Flint is a smart capture to tighten up the defence, while Will Vaulks and Marlon Pack are canny additions to the midfield.
Are there any Cardiff players you think could exploit any weaknesses in Reading’s team?
Reading have looked slack defensively this season, and I’m particularly worried about Cardiff’s threat from set-pieces at the weekend. We know all about how dangerous Morrison can be from corners and free-kicks, but Flint offers something similar. We’ll need to be particularly on our game at dead-ball situations to avoid conceding in that fashion.
Neil Warnock has a bit of history with Reading, and made a comment on the club’s spending last week. What is your opinion on him?
I’ve got a lot of respect for Warnock. Although he is of course not the most popular manager in the English Football League, his reputation speaks for itself, given that he’s been so successful in both keeping teams in the Championship and getting them promoted.
To consistently do that over a long period is undeniably impressive, and it also demonstrates his adaptability in the face of a changing game. EFL football won’t quite be the same when he retires.
How do you see the game going and what’s your score prediction?
It’ll be a tight game, with Reading getting frustrated by a well-organised Cardiff City defence. Although we’ll find the net once, the Bluebirds will manage two of their own – one from a set piece, another on the counter.
Prediction: Reading 1-2 Cardiff.