A look ahead to a visit to St Andrew'sIt all starts again this Saturday when the Royals visit Birmingham City at St Andrew’s – bringing the dawn of a brand new season. Here are 9 things you need to know ahead of the game…
1. What’s the story?
With the new season comes a fresh wave of optimism, and like every club in the country the Royals will be aiming for a positive start and three points to kick off the new campaign. However with everyone beginning again on an even keel and 45 more games to come after Saturday, it is hardly a make-or-break weekend for anyone in the division.
Manager Steve Clarke has been busy in the summer transfer window with some of last season’s squad departing, making way for some fresh faces in the dressing room. Paul McShane and Stephen Quinn have joined from Hull, Andrew Taylor and Ali Al-Habsi have joined from Wigan, and the latter will compete with fellow new arrival Jonathan Bond for a starting berth. Striker Orlando Sa, last season’s top-scorer in the Polish Ekstraklasa, has bolstered the forward line.
Clarke's opposite number Gary Rowett has been busy as well, and has added Jacques Maghoma, Adam Legzdins, Tomasz Kuszczak and Maikel Kieftenbeld to his dressing room, as well as striking a loan deal for Arsenal's Spanish midfielder Jon Toral.
2. Who said what?
Reading manager Steve Clarke: “Birmingham are a good team and towards the end of last season their form really picked up. They are a threat on the counter attack and from set-pieces and they are always a formidable opposition when playing at St Andrew’s.”
Royals defender Chris Gunter: “I think the challenge in the Championship is to take it week by week. The games come Saturday or Sunday and then midweek, so it’s all about managing those games and making sure we’re competitive in every one of them.”
Birmingham City manager Gary Rowett: "It's the first game of the season, we're at home, we've got to focus on what we do well. And that's what it's about really for me, so yes it's Reading, we will of course respect Reading, but I think the main aim for us is to see if we can do our little bit at home and lift our crowd."
3. Where are we going?
The Reading squad and supporters will be visiting St Andrew’s – the stadium has been Birmingham’s home since its opening in 1906, and has undergone plenty of renovation throughout the years and now has a capacity of 30,016.
Supporters travelling to the second city by train can expect to disembark at New Street Station, next to the iconic Bullring shopping centre, which is within walking distance of the ground.
4. What’s in their trophy cabinet?
Birmingham have twice won the League Cup – firstly against their old rivals Aston Villa in the 1963 final, and then famously in 2011 against Arsenal with a 2-1 victory over Arsene Wenger’s men as Obafemi Martins lapped up a defensive hash. Blues have also been runners-up in the FA Cup on two occasions, losing to neighbours West Brom in 1931 and then being beaten by Man City in 1956, despite Citizens goalkeeper Bert Trautmann playing though a broken neck. They have won the second tier title four times.
5. What is the news from the camps?
Reading: Winger Garath McCleary’s calf injury sustained at the Gold Cup will keep him out, with striker Pavel Pogrebnyak also missing after picking up a knock against Espanyol. Neither Jake Cooper nor Niall Keown will play a part as a result of injuries neither will Jack Stacey who recently returned to non-contact training. However all of the new signings will be available for selection.
Birmingham: Former Manchester United goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak is expected to start in goal, and midfielders Maikel Kieftenbeld and Jacques Maghoma will be pushing for a starting berth after joining in the transfer window. Arsenal loanee Jon Toral will also be aiming to be involved, after a successful loan stint with Brentford last season and after netting a hat-trick in a Development Squad friendly against Tottenham in midweek.
6. What are the odds?
For those fans that fancy a flutter, Football League title partner Sky Bet have a Reading win priced at 2/1. A draw at is available at 11/5, while they are giving odds of 7/5 for a home win.
Sky Bet are offering odds of 5/2 for a debut goal by Orlando Sa, while a Reading shut-out – which was achieved in pre-season against Bristol Rovers and Espanyol – is 9/4.
7. Who is the man in the middle?
Saturday’s match official will be Peter Bankes, and the Championship opener will be the first time that he has refereed a game featuring either Reading or Birmingham City. In the 2014-15 season, Bankes refereed 27 matches and produced 98 yellow cards, and reached for the red card on seven occasions. Philip Dermott and James Mainwaring will be running the line at St Andrew’s, with Christopher Sarginson on duty as fourth official.
8. How can I get tickets?
Supporters that don’t yet have tickets arranged for this game will be able to buy on the turnstiles at St Andrew’s. Click here for full ticket information for this game.
9. How else can I follow the match?
Follow @ReadingFC on Twitter for updates throughout the match, and Like our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/readingfc for more information.
And wherever you are in the world, you can listen to live audio commentary by joining Reading FC PlayerHD – as well as live, digital-quality commentary, you’ll also get exclusive access to interviews and other behind-the-scenes videos from as little as £4.49 per month. Click here to find out more.