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Fan Focus: Reading fan gives thoughts on Mannone’s distribution, Grabban & why it’ll be a draw

Giving us the Royals run-down is Marc Mayo from the fantastic Reading FC fansite The Tilehurst End. Marc spoke to Rory about Reading’s stuttering start to the season, how Vito Mannone is getting on since his arrival at the Mad Stad and his thoughts on tomorrow’s game.

Derby County v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

RF: Reading have struggled to get going this season and are only nine points better off than ourselves. Can you pinpoint any particular reason as to why you're not performing to the same standard you did in your last campaign?

MM: I would have to say we've suffered from Yann Kermorgant being ruled out for pre-season and the first two months of this season quite a bit.

With the Frenchman our best forward by some distance last year, our scoring potential has dropped off significantly and Jaap Stam has been hit-and-miss (mainly miss) in formulating an alternative plan.

Our injuries have conspired with a lack of transfer nous to deprive much of the goal threat that, in last season, meant we edged so many games. Otherwise, the defence has perhaps improved if anything and our passing play is as lethargic as ever!

Huddersfield Town v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Play Off Final
Yann Kermorgant has been a big miss for The Royals this season
Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images

RF: Is the poor start to the season leading any fans to call for Jaap Stam's dismissal yet? Or are the majority of supporters still behind the manager?

MM: Stam had a really tough period a few weeks ago, winning just once between August 28 and October 31. The latter, a 3-1 win versus Nottingham Forest, was genuinely a top performance and was followed up by a cracking 4-2 win away to Derby.

Since then, the pressure valve has been released and he's been safe.

RF: You signed Vito Mannone from us in the summer, of course! He was always fairly popular here and will get a warm reception on Saturday, especially given his off the field situation. How's he getting on at Reading so far?

MM: He's popular, which is nice!

We've always had top goalkeepers at Reading and he's been pretty error-free thus far. But overall he's seen as a very competent Championship goalkeeper who can pass without panicking and make the odd top save.

Sunderland v Liverpool - Premier League
Vito Mannone will return to the SoL on Saturday, after his summer transfer to Reading
Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

RF: Who should Sunderland fans be worried about in the Royals side going into the game? Who have been the stand out players this season?

MM: Liam Moore has been our player of the season thus far and is becoming a big goal threat from centre-back, too.

John Swift has been our most impressive attacking player but he's injured so Sone Aluko and Mo Barrow are the ones to watch from either flank. They'll run with pace and cause problems, but a big question mark hangs over their end product.

RF: Lewis Grabban has been our main source of goals this season and could enact the ex-player curse against you on Saturday. Is he the main worry for you in our team or is there anyone else you'll be keeping your eye on?

MM: I'd say so, he was played all over the place by Stam last year and we said on this week's podcast that being an out-and-out forward is certainly suiting him at Sunderland.

Tempting fate, I consider Aidan McGeady a spent force although Callum McManaman looked like he'd become a Premier League regular a few years ago. Both of those have potential, and it'd be sods law that they decide to meet it on Saturday.

RF: How do you expect Stam to approach this game and what do you think the starting line up will be?

MM: We've had an unchanged XI for the past two games and that's been a big surprise.

I expect Stam may drop Liam Kelly to provide more grit in the middle, which would mean Tiago Ilori or Tyler Blackett coming in to the defence and Leandro Bacuna shifting from right-back to central midfield.

Aluko and Barrow will back up a striker, be that Kermorgant or Jon Dadi Bodvarsson - who did well off the bench on Tuesday night versus Barnsley.

Reading v Barnsley - Sky Bet Championship
Jaap Stam had Reading flying last season but they’ve struggled to get going this campaign
Photo by Harry Murphy/Getty Images

RF: Finally, a score prediction please?

MM: We love being the team that other sides break their hoodoos against but I reckon our defence can withstand the inevitable late barrage. I’ll go for 1-1.

You can check out The Tilehurst End on their website and follow Marc on Twitter.