Reading skipper Jobi McAnuff sat down to chat with BBC Radio Berkshire this week, reflecting on the disappointment of relegation and a season in the Barclays Premier League.
Jobi, first things first, a disappointing afternoon on Sunday. Has it sunk in?
Obviously it’s been a bit of a tricky predicament for a number of weeks now and Sunday was the final nail in the coffin, so to speak. The lads are gutted, there was huge disappointment and the dressing room was as flat as any I’ve been in after the game. But we need to drive on, try and finish well and come back stronger next season. We have to use that disappointment as much as we can.
Is there anything you can look back on in the season and think could have improved?
It’s hard to pick out. It’s been a combination of a lot of factors, I don’t think the start particularly helped us. We never quite settled in terms of being able to go away from home and get a point. In this league any point is a good point, there are some tough, tough games. You’ve got to give yourselves the platform. There are teams about that have not been great but have been happy to just nick a point and take it home - we never quite got ourselves in that situation. We seemed to always be trying to win games but in this league you can sometimes get punished for that and be a bit too open. Then before you know it you’re playing catch up, going all out to win games and invariably you’re going to get punished in this league.
It’s never a nice feeling getting relegated, but was it a relief in a way as you’d been carrying it on your shoulders for some time?
I wouldn’t say it was a relief, we wanted to keep going as long as we could to try and stay up and the fact that it was three games before the end of the season is disappointing for us. We wanted to be in the mix as late as possible. But the fact that it is now done and dusted means we can start to look forward to next year; the new manager is going to have his plans, his way of doing things and from our point of view now we have a bit of time to get those things ironed out. Come the start of next season hopefully everyone’s nailed down and we really hit the ground running.
There are positives – a couple of clean sheets at home, are you happy you’ve hit a little bit of form towards the end of the season?
As happy as you can be when you’re not winning games. That’s the biggest thing, everyone at this club wants the club to do well and whether you’re playing or not there’s a will at the place to succeed. I’ve been fortunate enough to have played every game so far and I’ve enjoyed working under the new manager, hopefully that shows in my performances. I try to put performances in week in, week out, that’s all I can do. Whether they’re good, bad or indifferent it’s just about picking yourself up, dusting yourself down and going again
Everyone can see a different style of football coming in, Is it much of a change for someone like yourself?
I think it’s a change for everybody. It’s a different way of playing, it’s as simple as that. He’s very clued up, he’s not asking us to turn into Barcelona overnight and there are times where yes of course we can roll the ball up and play from the back. But there are also times where we’ll get pressed and need to go a bit longer. But even when doing that it’s about creating a bit of space so it’s easier for Pav to deal with if we’re going into him, or one of the wide men. These are the things that we’re working on and from that point of view it’s good that we’re getting a head start into how he does things. That will stand us in good stead for next season, the boys are enjoying their work on the training ground and it is gradually transferring onto the pitch. Obviously results haven’t been what we wanted but performance wise the levels have been good and we just have to keep believing in what we’re doing.
You mentioned Pavel, surely he will notice the difference more than anybody with the new style?
You ask any striker, it’s about good service into him but also getting that support up to him. The balls into him can’t always be from 50 or 60 yards away, as in anyone’s business that’s a tough thing to deal with, particularly when you have defenders coming up the back of you! It’s tough, he’s a big lad so I don’t think he gets the decisions that he should do a lot of the time, but from my point of view he’s kept digging in, getting on with it and there’s been no grumbles from him whatsoever. He’s a great lad around the place and has really tried to put performances in, which hasn’t always been easy for him given the circumstances. It’ll be nice if we can get him some better service.
Three games remain – Fulham this weekend, is it all about pride now and playing for futures?
That’s a big factor from our point of view. There’s a lot of disappointment and real hurt in the dressing room as to how the season has panned out, nobody’s in there thinking ‘we’ve been relegated, it’s no big deal’. We’re really disappointed because we feel with this group of players we should have done better. Now we want to finish the season as well as we can, it would be great to get a win for everybody, of course the gaffer and everyone here. We believe that will come if we keep doing the right things, we just want to finish as well as we can. We’ve got a relatively new manager, he’s going to have his thoughts and everyone here has to really play for their futures. It’s as simple as that, because all managers have got their ideas of the way they want to do things so you have to make sure you’re doing well enough to be included in those plans.