Latics travel to the Madjeski Stadium this weekend, on that back of a performance against Fulham that was hardly inspiring, but at least provided an improvement on similar games last season.  It leaves Chris Hutchings with plenty of room for improvement but still with something to build on.  Not that he’s got many bricks.  The continuing absences of Valencia and Landzaat, tied to our very own member of the three lions metatarsal club have exposed the squad’s lack of real depth and will give the team a fairly patched up look on Saturday.

But we all know that already and whilst Mark Lawrenson may be happy to focus on the absence of a player that he’s regularly derided in the past and it’s consequences for the England team, the fans will have a little bit more to talk about.  Here’s the not a patch on bluffers guide to the topics that will be bubbling under as the clock starts ticking around to three.

1. Doing a Wigan

Hopefully the fact that none of this year’s graduates have got off to a flyer means that we will see the back of this phrase, at least until we become the model for building long term survival in the top flight, but for Reading this still means something.  Their form of last season may have been more sustained than the big bang approach that Jewell’s team took, but Reading’s dalliance with the European slots means that the comparison holds true.

Reading did a better job of holding on to their squad though and they will have hoped that the consistency would see them building on their first season success.  Early indications are that they’re going to struggle and whether it’s down to the loss of lynchpin Steve Sidwell, or plain old second season syndrome I’ve got them down to “do a Wigan” this year as well.

2. If your name’s not down, you’re not coming in

The recent history of the clubs has been remarkably similar and whilst Latics may have won the race to the Premier League they were well in front of us in escaping the lower divisions, but no matter what either club achieve they will always carry an air of the poor relations. 

You can do the sums as much as you want, but it won’t stop the fans of other teams shouting the odds about we’ve bought our success and our lack of real history.  Reading may have the edge on us in some regards (they’re southern for a start) but be under no illusions that they any more likely to be welcome in “the club” than Latics.

3. The Long and Winding Road

I’ve never been to Reading and the chances of that changing any time soon are pretty slim.  I’m just not a Colchester on a Tuesday night type of guy (Rochdale yes, but not Colchester) and it seems that I’m not the only one.  The ticket allocations (for allocations read ‘how many Brenda thinks we can sell’) for Goodison and Old Trafford may attract some criticism, but no one is moaning about only getting 700 seats at the Madjeski.

The fact is that it’s a bugger to get to and (from what I’ve heard) up there with Stoke for getting away.  I’ve never yet heard anyone talk about going to Reading on the train and if you’re not thrilled by the prospects of a few hours each way on a coach (official or otherwise) you’re probably going to give it a miss.  So for some it will mean a trip to Ikea but for others it will mean…

4. What channel is it on?

Last season might have been the year of pints and fags whilst watching ART sport but this year the Bar-room fans are struggling a bit.  The new TV contracts mean that unless you are wired into Joderill Bank you’ll be missing out on at least one game on a Saturday afternoon.  You don’t have to be a genius to work out that it is going to be the one that least people want to watch.  A quick look at the Match of the Day schedules this years will tell you that Latics are the prime candidates to be playing in that game.

Last year the saving grace would have come from Korea, but Seoul’s transfer to Fulham means that interest from the Far East is probably not focusing on Reading anymore.  So whilst there may be more chance of an internet stream than a pub viewing, I’ll not be banking on it.

So the radio then?  Well actually no, WISH have dropped their coverage and even if a local radio station has it on in Berkshire, their web stream is likely to have been cut off due to ownership rights.  Aint the Premiership great?

So you’re left with the coverage fed through the subscription service of the official site and who’s paid for that?  It’s looking increasing like being a season where you’ll need to go to the game to actually get any part of it live, which can’t be a bad thing, but in this age of the omnipresent Premier League, it seems a little strange.

5. Our best left back

It’s obviously unavoidable at Latics, after the years of the Baines/Studs debate we finally get things boxed off and then he ups and goes to Goodison, leaving us with apparently nowt.  A month later and we’re spoiled for choice; well we’ve got a left back who isn’t fit enough for the first team, a left winger and a right back who’s been rushed back from injury.

Basically it looks as is Kevin Kilbane is going to be our best option at left back for at least another couple of weeks.  If you try to tell me that you’d always thought he’d slot in back there then I’ll call you a liar, tell me that you  think we can manage with him there all season and I’ll just walk away.

We all know that the left back position should have been sorted back in May and we all hope that Olembe is the answer but the question is when.  We’ve got holes developing all over the squad and it would be nice to get at least one of them plugged soon-ish like.

So there you have it, the topics that are doing the rounds at Not a Patch on Towers.  Ok, so they’re not exactly burning topics, but it’s fairly quiet game.  With Liverpool coming next week, and the good start to the season in the balance, it could go be the lull before the storm.

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