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Clarke previews curtain-raiser at Birmingham

7 August 2015

Manager looks ahead to opening weekend

Royals boss Steve Clarke will pick his first starting XI of the 2015/16 season at St Andrew’s on Saturday, but iterated that every member of the squad will have a critical role to play in the upcoming campaign.

The Reading manager has had opportunities to see his new arrivals in action during the pre-season games programme, as well as taking a look at some of the players who saw limited first-team action last season.  Andrew Taylor, who was added to the team on Wednesday, brings with him the experience of winning the Championship title three seasons ago with Cardiff City.

“The likes of Andrew Taylor, Paul McShane and Steven Quinn have added experience to the squad and this is a really good thing for us,” Clarke said.  “Coming into the first game you always have to make tough decisions.  The business starts at the weekend, and it’s my job to pick the team and it’s the players’ jobs to make sure they perform on the pitch and we get the right result for the club.

“Over the Championship season the squad is very important.  I’ve told the players that the people who are not on the teamsheet for the first game can still be pivotal over the course of the season.  You need a big squad in the Championship and that’s what we’re trying to build here.

“Everyone has worked well and we’ve met most of the objectives we’ve wanted to meet over the course of pre-season.  We had quite a spectacular trip to Thailand and the way we were looked after was fantastic.  The trip was valuable and was a good way of getting the new boys integrated into the group.”

Gary Rowett will occupy the home dugout at St Andrew’s on Saturday, and Clarke is mindful of the threats that the Blues are likely to offer on their own patch.  But equally he is confident that his Reading team will give Birmingham plenty to worry about.

“Birmingham are a good team, and towards the end of last season their form really picked up,” continued the Royals boss.  “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.  We know it will be a tough game but I think they know that we will make it very difficult for them on Saturday.”

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