I have never been the biggest fan of Tony Pulis. To me he is like a hole in the side of an inflight aeroplane, but instead of sucking out cheap headphones, head-pillows and those coarse, annoying blue quilts, Pulis syphons off fun.
Pulis treats every game as though it is yet another battle in a season long war of attrition, he would rather grind sides down than triumph through guile or inventiveness. This methodology can be sustained so long as the results are positive, but when the results begin to wane, the fans express their discontent.
West Brom’s league form has been poor, yet has still been solid enough to provide a decent buffer between themselves and relegation. The FA Cup has not shown to be much of a safe haven for the Baggies, having required a replay against both Bristol City and Peterborough, the latter of which needed a penalty shootout to determine West Brom as the victor.
Having got within touching distance of the FA Cup with Stoke in 2011, Pulis will be desperate to have a second opportunity at glory.
To do that his side must overcome a Reading team that seems to have lost their way since the turn of the year. Without a league win since the second of January, the Royal’s dismal run of form has coincided with the loss of their talisman, Nick Blackman, who was sold to Derby County.
Manager Brian McDermott will take heart from the fact that West Brom have struggled against lower league opposition in the past two rounds and that he masterminded a run that took his side to a semi-final defeat to Arsenal in last season’s edition.
Top marksman Matej Vydra and midfielder Danny Williams will be assessed in the run up to Saturday’s 3pm kick-off, Reading will also be without the cup tied duo of Kermorgant and Evans.
West Bromwich Albion will be without defensive rock Gareth McAuley and two of Pulis’ more adventurous players, James Morrison and Callum McManaman.
Two teams that are finding little to get excited about in terms of their respective leagues will no doubt look to get their kicks in the FA Cup, sadly I think this fixture has all the hallmarks of a tepid draw that will require yet another replay for Pulis’ men.
READING Al-Habsi, Gunter, Obita, McShane (c), Cooper, Norwood, Hector, Quinn, Robson-Kanu, Cox, Rakes.
subs: Bond, Vydra, McCleary, John, Ferdinand, Piazon, Barrett.