Midfielder keen to get back to the day-job
Royals midfielder Oliver Norwood booked a place at Euro 2016 with the Northern Ireland over the course of the past week, making history in the process. But now that the international break is over, his sole focus has already switched back to domestic affairs with Reading – starting with Charlton’s visit on Saturday.
Like Welsh duo Hal Robson-Kanu and Chris Gunter, who had the same achievement with Wales, Ollie returned to Hogwood this week knowing that an unprecedented international finals tournament awaits next summer. But, until then, it’s all about helping Reading fulfil their ambitions.
“It has been an amazing achievement from everybody involved in Northern Ireland to qualify for the first major tournament in 30 years, and the first European Championships tournament ever,” he explained. “It’s special to be a part of and it was an amazing week – and fully deserved.
“I don’t think we’ve quite realised what we’ve achieved yet because everyone is back to their clubs and back to the day-job. But it’s nice to know that come next summer we’ll be going to a major tournament and all the hard work has been done, so we can start to prepare for that with the international friendlies in November and March.
“Gunts has just come in this morning – obviously he’s the same; he’s buzzing and it’s an amazing achievement for them as well. I’m sure it’ll help us and the club here as well, because we’re striving for promotion this season as well. That’s where we want to be in the league this year.
“Next summer will be special and it will be a very proud moment for me and my family. But that kind of takes a backseat for now and it’s time to kick on with Reading. There are some important games coming up and a chance to cement our place at the right end of the table.
“It was back to business on Wednesday – I was back in and did the full session and it was great to be back amongst the lads. The place is buzzing as well because of the results we’ve had of late, and long may that continue.”
Last time out against Middlesbrough, a 2-0 home win helped Reading to cement the third spot in the table and begin to reel in the Teesside club. Naturally that recent success has caused the spotlight to shift towards Madejski Stadium, and Ollie feels the Royals are equipped to deal with that.
“We’ve had a good start to the season and we’ve kind of gone under the radar a bit, but people are starting to take a note a little bit now,” he continued. “Expectations are rising and that’s something we’ve got to handle and keep performing and picking up three points on Saturday and Tuesday.
“Hopefully we can continue the form that we’ve shown early in the season. After going a bit under the radar, people are starting to take note and realise that we’re a force to be reckoned with. We have played some really good stuff and got some really good results, but now it’s time to pick up as many points as possible as quick as we can.
“There are no easy games in this division, no matter who you play. Week in, week out, it is going to be a tough game and you’ve got to win the battle first before we can start to play our football. It is a difficult division where anybody can beat anybody, and I’m sure Charlton will be coming thinking that they can upset us on Saturday. Hopefully we won’t allow that to happen.”
For all the early acclaim, Norwood is under no illusion that the campaign is still in its early stages and that there will be twists and turns along the way.
But he praised those supporters that have been getting behind the club throughout and playing their part towards this impressive run.
He said: “The fans have been fantastic – they have travelled away from home as well, and at the game against Middlesbrough the place was bouncing. It probably helped that we scored from kick-off after about 10 seconds; that got them off their seats!
“We want them to come on the journey with us. We want the stadium full and if we keep picking up three points and winning games, then I’m sure more and more fans will keep coming out.
“We’d like to be at the right end of the table this year and to do that you’ve got to win football matches. The pressure will start to ramp up a bit but I’m sure we’ll be able to handle that with some good players in our dressing room.”
Have you got your ticket for our game on Saturday yet? Kick off against Charlton at Madejski Stadium is 3pm – save £3 on tickets by buying before midday on matchday. For more info, click here.