Eustace not Useless
Sarcastic texts from pals as my Reading favourites tumbled 3-0 to Watford last Spring did little to improve my mood as even the BBC implied that the Royals had laid down to preserve the Hornets’ Championship status (not that Mr. Claridge was at the game of course), but my annoyance at the time was exacerbated by the Hertfordshire club’s all out superiority on the day and the fact that Reading had actually tried. Now that result doesn’t look so bad.
The close season looked grim for the Golden Boys and The Seventy Two were even inspired to ask a portentous question. Shorn of their elegant loan performers of last term and a stalwart American in Jay DeMerit, uncertainty reigned as BHaPPY’s Matt Rowson helped with our pre-season outlook, although he defiantly pointed to the quality of Watford’s Yoof.
A 3-2 win over Norwich on Sky, before anyone else had laid thrown the dice, looked anomalous, particularly given the influence of the inconsistent Danny Graham on that game (I myself had been surprised by his effectiveness in that aforementioned Berks v Herts clash), but since then, Watford have been defeated just the once, and but scrappily at home to Leeds. Draws peppered early September but recent weeks have been Phoenix like. A 6-1 at a Millwall side with their tails up again looked freakish, but a dominant 3-1 win over a Boro coming off back to back wins was probably more significant.
Since Matt’s appraisal, the loan system has been exploited again and Jordon Mutch (from Birmingham) and Andrew Taylor (from Middlesbrough, somewhat inanely on their part) have proved useful recruits.
But, it’s Malky Mackay’s existing talent pond that has really shown its mettle. January buy Will Buckley has sparkled after a good pre-season, and he and Don Cowie have benefitted from the departures of Tom Cleverley and Henri Lansbury to forge more pivotal roles. 19 year old Marvin Sordell, back from exile at Tranmere, has been a livewire foil to the effective Graham, scoring 5 into the bargain, and Scott Loach is now an England man, you’ll remember.
But it’s two longer established names that have provided the real bedrock for an immensely satisfying few weeks. Aidy Mariappa, assisted by a Martin Taylor whose top flight absence has more to do with Wenger whingeing than a lack of talent, has had a barmstorming start, reminiscent of his manager’s playing days and John Eustace, one of the most injured players in recent English football history, has brought muscle and poise to the middle of the park. As Matt said of Eustace’s role in that annihilation of the Lions: “Eustace bossed this game like Mr. Bronson with a Loud Hailer”. The returning Brendan Rodgers must be quaking.