After feeling like they dropped two points this weekend at Swansea City, Everton have a chance to continue their decent form playing Reading in the Capital One Third Round fixture tomorrow. The Royals just missed out on the playoffs to come back to the Premier League the season after they were relegated, and then endured a tough campaign last season ending 19th in The Championship.
It was our great pleasure to speak again with fellow SBN Soccer blog The Tilehurst End about Reading, how the two years in between have elapsed and what to expect for the game tomorrow. Thanks go out to site manager Dan for speaking with us, and kudos to him and his team for the stellar job they are doing covering the Royals. Go check out the site and tune in to their podcast as well.
RBM - The Reading side Everton last played against in early March 2013 was very different from the current team. Tell us about the changes in ownership and management.
TTE- That side was one already destined for the Championship and undergoing a change in management as Nigel Adkins tried to rebuild for life in the second tier. Sadly our Russian owner Anton Zingarevich showed why Everton were wary to accept his family's investment years prior, as his promise of funds and a bold new era proved empty, with Zingarevich leaving a pile of debt and some awful bloated contracts behind.
After narrowly missing out on the playoffs in 13/14 a new Thai led group took over the club but Financial Fairplay Rules prevented fullscale changes and Adkins couldn't work his magic on a stale squad and he was given the boot just before last Christmas.
Steve Clarke steadied the ship and took us on our best FA Cup run in nearly a century but the league form was utterly miserable. Thankfully that's been turned around after a smart summer of investment and after three miserable years, things finally look up again.
RBM - After a 19th place finish last season in The Championship, the Royals are currently sitting sixth. How has the start of the season been so far?
TTE - A really refreshing breath of fresh air! Suddenly we're playing some good football, scoring goals and there seems some real fire and passion in the team. The form pre-deadline day was still slightly suspect but the additions of players like Matej Vydra has given us that extra little bit of skill we needed to mix it with the best.
RBM - What is Steve Clarke's philosophy on the pitch? What formations does he prefer to use, and how have the players and fans responded to him this season?
TTE - Clarke has shown a real willingess to adapt to what he's got and mix and match to suit the opposition. We've seen 4-2-3-1, 4-4-2, 4-3-3 and all varieties inbetween so I won't guess what we'll see on Tuesday. His philosophy is certainly one of discipline and hard work. He's very straight forward and his teams don't try and over elaborate which is a nice change from the sometimes confusing reign of Nigel Adkins. Fans have slowly warmed up to the team and manager and as mentioned there's a real feel good factor about the place again.
RBM - A great Cup run last season unfortunately ended a step short of the FA Cup final. How are you feeling about this year's squad, can another Wembley appearance happen?
TTE - I hope so because I happened to miss that day as I was getting married... when the fixtures were released I didn't think missing a trip to Rotherham was a big deal, then we went on a cup run unseen since the US had 48 states.... Could we do it again? Who knows! We've got a good record in cup competitions over the last few years with three appearances in the last eight of the FA Cup and some decent progression in the League Cup as well.
However as with any Championship team the priority remains promotion and Clarke will rotate and rest some tired legs in order to give some of the fringe players a chance to remain sharp. It's probably our deepest squad ever in terms of quality so I'm excited to see what they can do.
RBM - The Royals spent quite freely during the summer transfer market. How have the new additions fit into the squad? What are the weaknesses in the team?
TTE - Vydra is certainly a player we've been crying out for. He's a forward that knows how to score goals but can also link the midfield to the attack. Lucas Piazon is also something a little bit different so I'm excited to see what he can offer, while Ola John and Paolo Hurtado are both unproven yet potentially gifted wingers. Throw in some solid Championship performers in Paul McShane and Stephen Quinn and it really is a great mix of experience, youth, potential and stability. The one disappointment ahead of Tuesday's game is that we'll be without Orlando Sa who followed up four goals in two games with a straight red card against Derby, so he'll miss the game through suspension.
We also signed two keepers but both Jonathan Bond and Ali Al-Habsi have yet to convince so that's an area of worry, while Jordan Obita has sometimes seen his concentration go wandering at left-back.
RBM - We're expecting the Madejski Stadium to be rocking on Tuesday. How do you see the game going? Score prediction? Who do you foresee having a good game?
TTE - I'm going so hopefully it'll be an exciting affair! I can see Reading giving it a good go but I don't expect to see a gung-ho attitude, at least not while the scores are level. Like I said I'm looking forward to seeing what the likes of Hurtado, Piazon and John bring to the party as all will be keen to try and force their way into a successful side.
I think it'll be a fairly high scoring affair, so I'll ambitiously say 3-2 to Reading... anything but a 7-5 home reverse will do me.
RBM - Good talking to you Dan, hope to see your lot back in the Premier League soon!