RF: After a poor campaign, Jaap Stam was shown the door after failing to push on from last season. Was it the right decision to sack him? How do most fans feel about it?
MM: The only way to say for sure whether the call was right or not is if we stay up.
Some fans, myself included, felt as if a double home defeat to Birmingham and Burton over Christmas was enough to give him the boot but the club persisted and it felt nice to not be one of those “hire-em-fire-em clubs” for about eighteen seconds.
By the time Stam did go many had simply lost interest and, thankfully, Clement’s early results and performances suggest it was the right move, as the vast majority suspected.
RF: How’s it going under the new manager, many signs of improvement? I saw a stat earlier saying you’ve only had two shots on target in your last five games, so it doesn’t sound like the forward play has been too dynamic!
MM: We heard from Swansea and Derby fans that he is something of a defence-first manager. It turns out those lot do know something about football as such analysis proved entirely correct for how he’d manage Reading!
We’ve been delightfully committed in defence and have held out for a couple of vital 1-0 home wins. On that theme, at Fulham on Tuesday we more than matched a Premier League bound side in every area of the field away from the opposition goal. Our attack has lacked decisiveness all season and will take longer to fix.
RF: You said Vito Mannone was pretty popular when we spoke back in December. I’m interested to get an update on his form given how awful our goalkeepers have been! Has he been doing well and keeping error free?
MM: Mannone’s popularity had dropped in line with the rest of the team over the turn of the year but he has rescued his reputation under Clement. Stam dropped him for the final few games before getting the sack and showed our reserve, signed from footballing megapower Ajax Cape Town, to be frankly inadequate.
In Clement’s first game, Mannone saved a last second QPR penalty to secure a 1-0 win and he’s been on top form ever since.
RF: On to the game - is there anyone in good form for you at the minute who could make the difference on Saturday?
MM: Mo Barrow is arguably having the best season of his career, his pace on the left flank is our best attacking weapon and that should be a main tactic on Saturday.
RF: Flipping that last question around, who will you be keeping an eye on in our side?
MM: You still have John O’Shea, right?
The stats suggest Aidan McGeady isn’t quite the spent force I consider him to be but if there is any player to worry us with some scampering runs at goal then I suspect it’ll be George Honeyman.
RF: How do you expect Clement to approach this game and what do you think his starting line up will be?
MM: We’ll stick with the 4-3-3 he’s settled into, with Leandro Bacuna’s suspension bringing Joey van den Berg in as the anchor man. He’ll provide a 3/10 or 8/10 performance, no inbetweens.
We’ll attack well from the off, nick a goal, sit back and hopefully add a second on the counter.
RF: Finally, can we have a prediction please?
MM: I think you’ll score but maybe only a late consolation. 2-1 to Reading.