Excited about their first home game of the season new Reading head coach Liam Gilbert is more focused on the style of football they are playing and creating their own identity than results right now, especially after the huge overhaul of players and staff over the summer.
“The important thing for me is that the fans want to come and see what I hope is an entertaining brand of football. One that will get people behind us and hopefully bring everything closer together as a club. The atmosphere across training with the entire group this week has been positive, and we are in really good spirits going into what is going to be a very tough game.”
Charlton Athletic will be looking to build on their fourth-place finish in the league last season after a promising pre-season scoring 16 goals and only conceding once heading into the new championship campaign. New summer signing Kayleigh Green opened her account for the Addicks and looked to have secured all three points in their opening game only for Sheffield United’s Rebecca Rayner to pop up with a 91st minute equaliser meaning the points were shared.
Reading in a similar fashion were denied all three points late on. In their first game back in the championship since 2015 Deanna Cooper looked to have won the game for the Royals in the 88th minute after her corner somehow floated in at the back post without a touch only for Crystal Palace to grab a dramatic equaliser in the 101st minute courtesy of Elise Hughes who rose highest to head into the far corner ensuring the game finished all square.
Despite suffering relegation earlier on this year and the disappointment right at the end of the game against Palace last weekend players and coaching staff remain optimistic for the season ahead deserving some level of credit for the performance they produced. “We have drawn a complete line under everything that happened last season because that is before me. It is not being disrespectful but coming in with a fresh start. In the game last week, the manner of conceding so late on was frustrating but given everything that has gone on and the timeframe that we have been on as a coaching staff to get them as collective after 10 days to come away with a point against the team could be very good. I think we will be up there. In my opinion, they are positives to take.”
This fixture never fails to entertain usually providing goals of quality and drama that keeps fans on the edge of their seats. The away side hold the advantage beating their opposition twice in the last five meetings regardless of their last triumph being 12 years ago which shows how little these two teams have actually come across each other. Reading will take some level of positivity into this weekend as they were the victors when the two sides last met in 2020 in a commanding 4-0 win in the FA WSL Cup.
Lily Woodham was appointed captain earlier this week a player who the club knows well. She has been a terrific loyal servant and has put in lots of terrific performances since she joined in 2018 aged just 17 years old.
Gilbert spoke about how her character fits the philosophy of what he is trying to build at Reading although it wasn’t an easy decision to make “She embodies a lot of what we want in this group, and she is a leader. I’ve heard nothing but positive things from the staff that we have joined. We have also got some very experienced players within the group as well so it was a decision that we took a long time to think about and we thought with Lily, this will be the direction that we want the club to move forward in. I think she will embody a lot of what we will be about this year.
“Fingers crossed we have a group of staff that are pulling in the same direction, and we grow well together because we are quite a young group as well so that is quite exciting for us that we were in this position, and we have this opportunity to drive what we see as an identity forward”
One of the big stories over the summer was not just Kelly Chambers’ departure, but the announcement that the club is not going to be full-time for the upcoming campaign however Gilbert says the professionalism of the girls and the way they conduct themselves he doesn’t see a significant difference. “The girls are in from nine until one every day. In terms of what I would consider a professional environment, we would still get the exact same contact hours with the girls that we have had previously. As far as I’m concerned, we have had so much contact time with the girls. They are always in before my nine o’clock meeting and will finish on the training pitch at one o’clock. They always want to stay afterwards, or they are in the gym later so from my side of it and how I’m viewing it, I see it as a professional model.”
Gilbert is hoping for a similar performance to last week where they got into attacking areas creating multiple chances with only a lack of quality in the final area preventing them from scoring more. Preparation will be key, and they will have no doubt done their homework on the opposition going into what could be a huge match in terms of momentum for the season ahead. “We know they have got very good individuals and I know how they set them out. We have seen the game from last week so we know how they set up to try and play and that is something that we will be aware of.
“With every first few games of the season, there will be a lot of nerves and a lot of different types of energy that you will experience and see on a regular basis. There will be stuff that they will work on and look to tidy up. They would have seen our game, and they will analyse where they think they can exploit us so it is important that we put a game plan together which we think will be effective. There are some areas that we think that our super strengths will be a benefit for us but come tomorrow anything can happen at any given minute. We know we have put ourselves in a very good position and hopefully the performance and result will show that.”
The Barclays Championship match between Reading and Charlton Athletic will take place on Saturday evening at the Select Car Leasing Stadium with kick off scheduled for 17.15 BST. The ticket office will be open until 15.30 for anyone wanting to obtain tickets for this match.