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Roberts relishes Reading's rise

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Paul Fletcher | 12:11 UK time, Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Jason Roberts made the best start of any player in the history of Reading football club when he signed from Blackburn Rovers in January, winning eight straight games.

He scored three goals in his first four matches and his arrival added new impetus to a team that had already cast aside their mediocre early-season form and started to charge up the Championship table.

He slotted straight in and formed an instant rapport with fellow forward Noel Hunt, whose form improved playing alongside Roberts. Striker Simon Church had waited patiently for his chance most of last season and must have thought his time had come once Shane Long was sold to West Brom in the summer. Church found himself back on the bench after the arrival of Roberts but has been fulsome in his praise of the veteran forward and his impact at the club.

"He has been a catalyst to really kick us on," said Church. "He is the nicest guy ever."

Jason Roberts celebrates scoring for Reading.

Roberts has been in good form since his January move to Reading. Photo - Getty images

Going into Tuesday's match at Peterborough, the Royals had lost twice in 17 games, winning 14 of them, but they came unstuck at London Road, losing 3-1 while Roberts picked up a hamstring injury.

It was a particularly poor result given that the Royals face a season-defining set of fixtures. Starting with Blackpool on Saturday, they play the teams in fifth, third, 10th, fourth and first. But if Roberts is harbouring any secret fears about the coming month he is keeping them very much to himself.

"It is exciting. This is where you want to be - trying to make things happen," said the 34-year-old. "These are the moments when you really find out about yourself."

If Reading needed any further motivation beyond the carrot of promotion after a four-year absence from the top flight, then there is the disappointment of last season. While Roberts ended the 2010-11 campaign celebrating a final-day win at Wolves that guaranteed Rovers' Premier League survival, the Royals lost the Championship play-off final, an exhilarating late-season surge brought to an abrupt end with a 4-2 defeat against Swansea at Wembley.

"There is no doubt that last season is a motivating factor for the squad," added Roberts. "I was part of a West Brom team that lost a semi-final against Bolton in 2000-01 and we went on to get promotion the following season.

"I can sense the same thing here - a determination to go one better."

Reading might have to negotiate the next few weeks without Roberts but the Grenada striker has seen enough to realise that manager Brian McDermott has assembled a squad equipped to cope with the loss of any individual.

"The manager is very particular about the personalities he brings in. Forget about their obvious quality as players, they are all good people and really motivated, and that is not always the case in a big squad," added Roberts. "His man-management is outstanding."

And according to the veteran striker, McDermott has clearly take on board the observation made years ago by legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly that football is a simple game made complicated by people who should know better.

"Reading play 4-4-2 every week and try to win every single game," explained Roberts.

"Some clubs changes formation to counteract the opposition, packing the midfield, whereas we play with two wingers every week who look to supply the front two.

"It might be old school but it is very exciting. When I look around the leagues I do not see many other teams doing that but it is exactly how I understand football to be played."

Roberts does not say so explicitly but it is clear he feels some managers over-complicate their planning, tweaking the formation so often that they confuse their own players. That is not a problem at Reading, where every players knows what is expected of them every single week. During the final weeks of the season, under extreme pressure, this clarity of thought can only be an asset.

They have plenty of experience in the likes of Adam Federici, Ian Harte, Kaspars Gorkss, Mikele Leigertwood, Hayden Mullins and Jobi McAnuff. And even though they lost at Posh they created numerous chances and do not seem to have hit a creative wall like West Ham, who have drawn their last four matches 1-1.

However, if anyone at the Madejski Stadium did need any further encouragement to succeed over the next eight weeks, they could do a lot worse than ask Roberts about his time at Wigan.

The striker was in the Latics side that defeated Reading 3-1 on the final day of the 2004-05 season to win promotion to the top flight for the first time in the club's 73-year history.
A few weeks ago he was back at the DW Stadium and was struck by the number of photographs still hanging there of that promotion-winning team.

"They were some of the happiest days of my life," said Roberts.

"Fans never forget a team that achieves something like that, something really special. In years to come when I go back to Reading I would like to be remembered for leaving a mark on the club. "


  • Comment number 1.

    Can't see past Southampton for top spot, especially now we've finally sorted out our away form. Reading should sneak second place; Big Sam's Hammers are choking at just the wrong time.

  • Comment number 2.

    Really enjoyable article, however if I'm to nitpick Roberts was part of the West Brom team that lost in the play off semis to Bolton in 2000/01, not 2006/07.

  • Comment number 3.

    #1, I agree, Saints should win the Championship now, considering we're in the best form and we have the easiest run in.

  • Comment number 4.

    Now then - thanks for your thoughts so far.

    jrjasper - I'm inclined to agree - I don't see Saints blowing it now.

    Do most people think Reading will take second? Will the Hammers refind form? Or another club hit their straps at the right time?

    Will - noted. Brain meltdown.

  • Comment number 5.

    Isn't Jason Roberts a rent-a-quote BBC pundit, "in between jobs"? Funny that you lot seem to fawn over him so much as soon as he joins Reading.

  • Comment number 6.

    I like Jason Roberts, however I am becoming increasingly disappointed by the quality and interest of many of the football blogs on the BBC website. I find that, with the exception of Tim Vickery, the blogs on here are non starters for incite, originality or interest. Come on the beeb, surely there are some decent journalists/writers in the UK? Find them and please employ them.

  • Comment number 7.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 8.

    I am sorry for posting my complaint on your blog Paul, i did want to leave it on Phil McNulty's blog, but it was closed for comments.

  • Comment number 9.

    5.At 14:42 22nd Mar 2012, lapin wrote:
    Isn't Jason Roberts a rent-a-quote BBC pundit, "in between jobs"?

    No - he's a Championship striker currently playing (and scoring regularly) for Reading FC. Please do try to keep up.

  • Comment number 10.

    @roskoe, your inciting my anger with your spelling of insight!

  • Comment number 11.

    "@roskoe, your inciting my anger with your spelling of insight!"

    @tom roberts:
    you're inciting my anger with your spelling of "you're"

    See, anyone can join in.

  • Comment number 12.

    tom roberts - leave roscoe alone with your picky school teacher vibe!!!

  • Comment number 13.

    Glad to see you're back paul! Nice to be able to discuss the football league on here again, there is more than one division in England!

    Reading were always a strong outfit, they had a bit of a hangover following their play-of defeat, but we're always going to pick up eventually. Turning point in their season was when they came to my team Bristol city and came back from 2-0 down to beat us 3-2. They haven't really looked back since.

    Agree with @1 can't really see past Southampton now for top spot. Reading have a great chance for second spot though, as no one else seems to want to go up! West ham have really tailed off of late, Birmingham were looking good but got thrashed at Pompey out of nowhere, Blackpool are starting to ship a few goals, Cardiff won 1 in 7, hull 1 in 8. All this has allowed Brighton to get right into the mix but just don't think their strong enough at the moment to go up. Typical championship though: congested, impossible to call!

  • Comment number 14.

    Never been convinced by Roberts in the top flight, but he has a proven record in the second tier of English football - a notoriously tough league. The comments he made about Reading and the club's management are true, though.
    I was on the same flight that Reading took for their pre-season preparations in Slovenia and I have to say that the players and staff were an absolute credit to the club. Not only were they courteous and laid back, one player helped an elderly passenger up the stairs and another helped me collect my bag from the caroussel.
    I actually sat next to one of the coaches and he did stress that personal qualities are just as important to the management as technical skills when a player is signed.
    Great to see them challenging for promotion after last season's disappointments - I for one hope they replace Roberts' former club in the Premier League.

  • Comment number 15.

    Good for Reading. I quite enjoyed having them in the Premiership and I would be happy to see them back again, especially if it comes at the expense of West Ham, though I'm really not sure why I don't like them.

    Also, nice to see a mention of Ian Harte. Now there's a real blast from the past! I remember him smashing in free kicks and long shots for Leeds back in their Premiership days. How the mighty are fallen, eh?

  • Comment number 16.

    anybody who can play championship football deserves credit, no time on the ball, no breathing space, quick tempo, surpasses the sought after 'premier league'.
    Saints and reading for automatic and in that order too, west ham, cardiff, blackpool and a slot to be filled by any of the rest, big sams men to choke and blackpool to come up! not malkys time yet maybe next season, holloway will want it more!!
    also roberts has shown true grit and now has a chance to kick start his career and get a go in top flight with a team that will accomodate him.
    Great blog matey :)

  • Comment number 17.

    I would like to acknowledge the fantastic job Brian McDermott is doing at Reading when he took over in 2009 Reading looked certain for a relegation scrap but pulled away with form similiar to the form at current his team has always produced at this time of this season
    I hope to see them in premier league next season with Southampton and hopefully a return for Holloway's Blackpool

  • Comment number 18.

    when you have the grammer and spelling of dickens himself then, and only then , shall you adjudge on others!!

  • Comment number 19.

    tom roberts wrote:
    @roskoe, your inciting my anger with your spelling of insight!

    fair play, a poor day for spelling.

    zboy1989 I'm well within my rights to pass judgement on any of the blogs here, negatively or positively, as it is a public forum for opinions. it isn't the grammar or or spelling that I have an issue with either. As I am being pedantic, I think you missed a comma after himself.

  • Comment number 20.

    You should have come back to Wigan Jason, we still love you here, you'd automatically be our best striker by a mile and your experience would have given our squad a boost, as it is, good luck for the future.

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 22.

    Jason has always been on the same wavelength as fans. He has legendary status at West Brom because of his fine record but also because he paid a fitting tribute to Jeff Astle when Albion beat Walsall on the day after Astles death. He is held in high esteem by Wigan and Blackburn fans too so I am not surprised that Reading fans have readily taken to him. He's a good player,a good pro and a level headed bloke. Good luck to him.

  • Comment number 23.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 24.

    I am glad that the BBC sports reporter and most commentators here are forgetting the dark horse this year,namely Brighton.
    Not a "fashionable"team,so most just forget about them but under Gus they are winning and playing exciting football.I agree that if they were to get promoted they would need to seriously strengthen but there again,so would the other teams.
    So just keep on about your Southampton's,Reading's West Hams',that will be to Brighton's advantage.

  • Comment number 25.

    I hope that Southampton and Reading go up automatically, and then Blackpool win the playoffs. I can see the first bit of that happening, but not the second. I think that whoever finishes third out of the top three will win the play-offs.

  • Comment number 26.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 27.

    Reading seem to have a knack to have an amazing win steak just at the right time!

  • Comment number 28.

    27 comments just shows the intrest there is regarding Reading. If it were a blog about Leeds there would be 200 comments, small club who should never be in the premier league

  • Comment number 29.


    @roskoe yes you can on the blog but on somebodys spelling no, pal, you cant. especially when your grasp of the english language is that of a pre- Darwinian molusk.

    Mollusc is spelt with two ls and with a c at the end unless you are American. Also i have never criticised the blogger's spelling or grammar. Pot and kettle comes to my mind.

  • Comment number 30.

    No. 28 I assume you're referring to Leeds as the small club that shouldn't be in the Premier League !!
    Unfortunately I think Southampton will go up as champions and I think it will go down to the wire between us and Reading. who knows maybe Brighton will win the play offs.


  • Comment number 31.

    @24 it does indeed seem like Brighton have slipped under the radar and, like you, happy for this to continue. In fact so much under the radar that during Tuesdays matches on the live website updates their was not a single update regarding the game with Derby.
    With regard to the blog itself, lovely to see stuff for the Championship! I have to agree that Southampton look to be heading for the title, but not so sure of 2nd spot, of Readings 8 remaining games 6 are against top 10 teams, including away trips to St Marys, Upton Park and the Amex, which could be their undoing. Blackpool (once they get the next 2 games out of the way - Reading and Southampton) have a fairly good run in and cant be written off. Brighton have some difficult games against current top 6 sides but all but one are at the Amex enabling them to carry on playing the style they enjoy, so they are a (outside) possibility. Also I think Hull will make the play-offs. But whichever way it swings its another nailbiting finale to an entertaining season.

  • Comment number 32.

    Games in the Championship are always very close, but anyone can beat anyone. Just look at Doncaster and Scunthorpe taking points off the leaders.
    I like the team ethic Reading have and they do things the right way. I'd like them to go up but think they are really too "nice" to survive for long in the Premiership.

    and #28, the volume of blog responses doesn't get you promoted or make your team better, it just highlights your delusions of grandeur.

  • Comment number 33.

    When we play at home we win almost every game, when you play at home you let seven in. We are second, you are tenth.
    I love it when people think having lots of fans means you should be given a free pass into the premiership, even if you are tenth, and are incapable of dealing with your own finances. Pathetic


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