The draw for the third round of the FA Cup is always one of the most intriguing bits of the calendar for Reading fans. It’s the first involvement of the season in a truly prestigious competition, with this stage being the entrance of not only Reading but also other Championship and Premier League sides.
Because of that, seeing which side Reading will take on at the start of January – and where – is keenly watched, probably more so than for any draw in the League Cup or later rounds of the FA Cup if Reading get there.
During the build-up, the excitement also means fans making it very clear what ties they’d be happy with and what ones they wouldn’t. Bottom of the pile are matches against teams we’ve played recently – even worse if we play them at home – but there are bonus points if Reading are given the opportunity to take on a new team – even better if it’s away from home.
So the news that Reading would take on Blackpool at home in the third round of this season’s FA Cup was met with a… mixed response. Although the Royals haven’t played Blackpool very recently, they were pretty regular league opponents until 2015.
The tie would certainly have been better were it scheduled to take place at Blackpool’s ground. Football fans like little more than a day out, and the chance to travel up to the northwest coast to a ground that would have been a new one for many supporters would have been relished.
Unfortunately we haven’t got that, but we do have an eminently winnable home tie – no disrespect to Blackpool of course, who I’m sure will view this game in the same way. They sit in a respectable eighth place in League One at time of writing, meaning Reading will go into this one as favourites.
Mark Bowen should approach it as such. On far too few occasions in recent years have Reading gone into a match as favourites, treated it with an appropriate level of self-assuredness and confidence, and duly won comfortably.
Taking on a League One side at home is a great opportunity to build up that kind of mindset, as much as for the squad players who’ll likely be rotated into the team as the regular starters.
The occasion should also be one for Reading to take the game by the scruff of the neck, play attacking football and entertain the crowd. It is, after all, a crowd that’s been largely starved of entertainment in the last few seasons.