'They might surprise a few': How Blackpool's opening day opponents Reading are shaping up under Paul Ince

Blackpool have what looks on the face of it a fairly kind opening day fixture.

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Blackpool complete fourth summer signing ahead of season opener against Reading

Reading struggled last season, finishing one positive and just four points above the dropzone.

Beset by off-the-field problems, it’s expected to be another season of struggle for Paul Ince’s side, who were beaten home and away by the Seasiders last term.

But it’s not necessarily all bad at the Madejski Stadium, as explained by Reading FC commentator Tim Dellor, of BBC Radio Berkshire.

What’s the mood among the Reading fans?

If you had asked me that question on the final day of last season, it would have been a very doom and gloom scenario where Reading fans would have bitten your hand off for 21st place because of the transfer embargo in place and some of the big names bound to leave the club. But actually now, the fans are a little bit more upbeat and positive because the club has had a fairly decent run at signing players. Bringing in Mark Bowen as head of football operations has been a really good move because he’s brought in some players the club desperately needed. I would say now people are a bit more enthused and positive about Reading than they were a couple of months ago.

What are the restrictions Reading are under? How have they been able to bring in players like Jeff Hendrick and Shane Long?

Paul Ince's Reading side are first up for Blackpool at Bloomfield Road tomorrow

I could sit here until 3pm on Saturday answering that question! But in short, they can’t buy any players from another club, but they can get players who are out of contract and they can get loan deals in. They’re quite restricted on salaries they can offer and all of their business has to be ratified by the EFL, so that’s the major obstacle for Mark Bowen and his recruitment team. If they want to bring in a player or do any contract signing, they have to run it by the EFL before they do it and they can then go back to the club and say ‘no, you can’t spend that much money’, so it’s pretty complex.

What other players have arrived this summer?

We’re hoping Naby Sarr could still arrive on a free after leaving Huddersfield, he could be an eye-catching one. From what I’ve seen in pre-season, Jeff Hendrick in midfield was what the club really needed because he brings a bit of backbone and bite to the team, which they’ve been crying out for. Tyrese Fornah has come in on loan from Nottingham Forest and he’s looked quite decent in the friendlies. Joe Lumley from Middlesbrough, he’s in on loan for the year and he didn’t get a particularly hot reception on social media but I think he’s proven his worth in pre-season games, so the fans are looking forward to seeing him in goal. The more emotional signing is Shane Long because of what he did for the club previously, but realistically at 35 I’m not sure if he’ll have the pace and power for the Championship. But it’s understandable fans are delighted he’s back.

Blackpool fans obviously have their own view of Paul Ince, but what’s the Reading view?

I think the jury is still out because he only had a brief spell from mid-February until the end of the season. He was working in incredibly difficult circumstances. There’s no arguing he was a left-field appointment, but he kept them up which ultimately was the objective. When he first came in I think most people were expecting Reading to be relegated but ultimately he kept them safe. I don’t think Reading fans are still completely convinced. It’s a totally different challenge now, it’s not just an emergency measure for the short-term, so I think we’ll see the true Paul Ince as a manager over the next few months. But it’s perhaps a bit unfair to judge what he’s done so far.

How have Reading done in pre-season?

They drew with West Ham, which was decent. They lost to Brighton 2-1 and did okay. They went up to St George’s Park and lost to Benfica, which was an interesting game. It seems like quite a happy camp at the moment. I know every club has injuries but Reading genuinely had reason and good cause to complain about them, so this year it’s about keeping the squad as fit as possible. If they do that then they’ve got a chance. But they all seem to be in pretty good shape at the moment, which is a step in the right direction.

What’s a realistic aim this season?

The pessimistic glass half empty fan inside of me says as long as they finish 21st then I’ll be fairly happy. But I think they might surprise a few people, because when you look at the squad and the mood around the camp I think they might be a bit stronger than some people expect. I’m cautiously optimistic they can finish somewhere above 21st.