Goalkeeper wants hard work to continueSummer arrival Ali Al-Habsi has been very pleased with the start that the Royals have made to the 2015/16 season – and he knows that he and the team will have to keep up their endeavours if they want to sustain their position amongst the Championship front-runners.
Ali, who has kept two clean sheets in three fixtures since coming into the team for the home tie against Middlesbrough, is hopeful of retaining the starting jersey at Fulham on Saturday despite Jonathan Bond’s return to training. And he praised the team in front of him that have made it easier for him to settle at the club, both on and off the pitch.
“I’ve really enjoyed it from the first day that I came to this football club,” he said. “Everyone has been brilliant with me and I’m settled in now and looking forward to everything. It is like home, like I said from the first day. When you see this fantastic club, with a great manager, great players, great staff and great fans, it is easy for any player to settle.
“Everyone can see the confidence this year. We have been working really hard since pre-season. In the league now you can see the improvement of the team. The competition that the gaffer put into the team has helped the team a lot.
“We know that the Championship is a very long season, but you need to have a good start. Now we have a great start and we just need to continue and we have to work every single day.
“When you have a good game and a clean sheet, that’s because the whole team is working really hard. It has been a good start for everybody – I am sure everyone is enjoying it including the fans, ourselves and the manager. Now we have to work even harder than before to keep ourselves in the top six for as long as possible.
“You can see how tight the table is. There are some good teams and big teams in the Championship, who can push you all the way. Any point is big, like in the last game against Rotherham – we wanted to have three points but at the end of day, it is a point away from home and we’ll be looking forward to Saturday’s game.”
Ali and fellow new signing Jonathan Bond have been vying for the starting jersey since the opening weekend – though an injury for the England youth international paved the way for the Omani stopper to get the nod in recent weeks.
He believes that the competition for places across the squad will lay the foundations of success for the Royals this year.
“Bondy has been fantastic since we came here and we have a really, really good relationship,” he continued. “Not just me and Bondy, but all of the goalkeepers and the goalkeeper coach Dave [Beasant] has been brilliant for us.
“For a team that want to go to the Premier League, you have to have great competition. Believe me, everyone in the starting XI has do his job. When we reach what we want, it won’t be because me or another player has started – we are all working as a team.
“That’s what we want now. We have to work really, really hard. Any player wants to start, but at the end of the day the manager decides who is starting, and when you start you have to make sure you are ready for that moment and that game.
“That is what I did – I am very happy that I have played three games; we won two and drew one and I have two clean sheets, and I am very happy to have this chance to play.
“I have to work hard, like in the start of the season. I didn’t play, but I came here every morning, pushing the players, giving Bondy confidence and pushing him. I know he is a young goalkeeper and he needs to have good words from me, from Dave and everybody to push him – he has been fantastic.
“He played nine games and did a really good job. Players sometimes get injured but now he is fit – the decision is with the manager, but we are all ready to help the team. We are all ready to push all the way to reach what we want.”
The Royals are taking the biggest away contingent of the season to date to Craven Cottage on Saturday, and Al-Habsi is hopeful of taking their undefeated streak to six.
“The fans have been fantastic until now this season,” said the Omani stopper. “It is great to see that they support the team every game, home and away. As a team we all appreciate that and it helps us a lot. To have 4,000 behind our goal is going to be great, and we are all looking forward to the game.
“It is going to be a huge game because we need to get something from the game. After that we are playing against Brighton – we need to make sure we have a great weekend this time and then we have a full week to have a bit of a break and more recovery.”