Q&A with Cardiff, Reading, Birmingham and Fulham Fans

Well, as you know, this weekend has the potential to be something special, so we Team Focus have decided to give you something special. Not only do we have our regular Opposition Focus this week, we’ve also asked two Fulham fans from the Focus team as well as some very kind Cardiff City, Reading and Birmingham City fans to give us their view ahead of their game on Sunday, which are both equally every bit as important in the relegation/promotion race which is going down to the wire.

CARDIFF – Bethan Phillips (@bethphill_) and Daniel Lewis (@daniel_lewis92)

Did you expect to be in this position at the start of the season?

Bethan – I never would’ve thought that Cardiff would be chasing an automatic promotion place at the start of the season. As nervous as it’s been at times, particularly over the last few games, with penalty misses against Wolves and losses to Derby… I wouldn’t change it. It’s so exciting to be in one of the most unpredictable promotion races the Championship has seen in years, with the fight for second place going down to the final game of the season.

Daniel – In one word: No. After dragging us away from relegation trouble last season and into the top half, there was the odd suggestion that Neil Warnock had built a team good enough to compete for a playoff spot. Many would have been happy with another season of building before giving it a go next time around, but Warnock being Warnock he has managed to turn a group of players that had struggled under the previous management into the second-best side in the division.

Does the fact you’re playing a team threatened with relegation, rather than a team ‘on the beach’, change the mentality and the style Cardiff are likely to play?

Bethan – Playing against a team that has as much to play for as ourselves won’t make it easy. Reading will want to win as much as us, for their own reasons. It won’t be the same as playing against a mid-table team on their final away day of the season. Both Cardiff and Reading have everything to play for… and the same up in the Midlands where Birmingham will hope to get a result against Fulham. We all need wins for completely opposite reasons. Our advantage is that it’s a home fixture. I’m expecting the Cardiff City Stadium to be a fortress on Sunday. That will no doubt help us.

Daniel – It certainly makes it a little more interesting for the neutral! A win for Reading last weekend would have worked out better for us, of course, but the bottom line is that Cardiff need to see off a team that has the sixth-worst away record in the division – only five wins from 22 matches. Just like against Hull City last time out, Cardiff will play their normal game and it should – should! – be enough to get the job done on the day.

Are you nervous at all?

BethanI’m nervous, excited, gob-smacked, and speechless! But for me, I’ve always said that the trip away to Hull was the tougher of our final 2 games. Fulham had a home game to put pressure on us, whereas Cardiff will end the season at home. I’m expecting a big atmosphere on Sunday. That said, nobody in Cardiff City will want to take on the playoffs. That’ll always be in the back of our minds. I think an early goal will settle the nerves.

Daniel – We could have been playing Wolves away or Sunderland at home on the final day and I would be feeling nervous. Cardiff do not have the finest of records down the years when it comes to end-of-season shootouts, famously ‘bottling’ it in the playoffs to Reading not so long ago, yet we have passed more tests than we have failed since Warnock took charge. Nervous, yes. Confident, yes.

Prediction?

Bethan – I’m going to go for a 3-1 victory to Cardiff. We’ve struggled with pressure at various points in the season, but I just have a feeling that the home crowd will get behind the boys. It’s advantage Cardiff. It’ll be nice not having to worry about the Fulham game and just concentrate on what we need to do. I won the prediction with my friends at the last home game vs Forest, so here’s hoping I’m right again. That said, any win will do me and the City of Cardiff.

Daniel – A couple of early goals would be great to settle the nerves, and if Warnock sends the players fired up there is no reason why this will be anything other than another straightforward win. That would be on any other day; this de facto play-off final means that there will be tension galore in the air so I would happily take a 1-0 win right now.

READING – Johnny Hunt (@Huntyroyal) and Louise Chadwick (@loulouchad_)

Did you expect to be here in this predicament at the start of the season?

Johnny – No, I didn’t but I didn’t expect it to be this bad, please smash Birmingham on Sunday.

Louise – Considering missing out on premier league football by one measly penalty, it is disappointing to see how far we have fallen in just one season. Having lost a manager and a few decent players since last season it seemed like an opportunity to build up some confidence. But alas no. Since Christmas we have basically been on a downward trajectory and losing 4-0 to Ipswich feels like the final nail in the coffin.

If you could guarantee your own safety, which club would you prefer to see promoted, Cardiff or Fulham and why?

Johnny – Fulham! Warnock is a w****r and seeing as we walked together for the Reading to Fulham walk, you guys as long as I don’t ever have to hear Lee Adams sing again!

How many of your current squad would you like to keep and build from next season, including the Manager?

Johnny – To be honest only about 3 of them. We need to get rid of a lot of dead wood and the useless, overrated t**t Aluko!

Knowing that you only need a point, do you expect Clement to play for the win or park the bus for a point?

Louise – I would like us to play for the win – that’s what you go out to do when you get on the field. Playing for a point is the last-ditch attempt for me – but considering the opposition we really need to pull our socks up and dig deep. Going down is not really an option, but I tend to sway from optimism to pessimism and I can’t help feeling that Cardiff’s form will seal our fate.

Are you nervous at all?

Johnny – Nervous? I am a bit, we will lose unfortunately for you guys. Sorry but other teams around us must stuff up for us to stay up.

Louise – Yes, I’m nervous, but at the end of it all, it’s a game. There are a lot worse thing happening in the world than reading going down. I would like to hope that we stay up by the skin of our teeth, so we can rebuild and start afresh next season.

Prediction?

Johnny – Haha, Birmingham 0-7 Fulham. Do I have to predict ours? You won’t like it, but we will get nothing, they will win sadly unless the manager sticks a rocket up their a**, 3-0 to them!

Louise – I really don’t like to predict, especially as playing 2nd in the table dictates we will get a good hiding… but I would take a draw… even though I have contradicted myself from a question above!

BIRMINGHAM – Will Brazier (@willbrazier) and Chris Pugh (@AWCAIB)

Did you expect to be in this predicament at the start of the season?

Will – No, I saw Redknapp sing ‘Keep Right On’ & put £25 on us to win the league.

Chris – In a word, no! Having Harry Redknapp as your manager during the summer traditionally translates to unwarranted overconfidence, and I think the majority of Blues fans fell for the transfer window madness and hoped for a much better season than last year, but as Portsmouth and QPR fans were telling us over and over again, it turned sour rather quickly and the relegation battle we find ourselves in was becoming an all too familiar tale. We made plenty of signings in the summer, quite a few loanees, but the fairy tale promotion push ended abruptly, and for the second season in a row we find ourselves in peril on the last day of the season.

Are you nervous at all?

Will – Yes, very! It’s Blues, we seem to be in this position on the last day of the season most years.

Chris – A little, but circumstances are a little more comfortable than last year when we were in the same boat. Last year it turned out that we had to win away at Bristol City on the final day to secure safety, and we were hanging on for dear life in the last ten minutes of that match, whereas this season there is a strong chance we could lose the game and still survive as others below us have tough away games. The fact we are at home, however, is also a big difference, our form at home of late has been decent, and in front of a packed St Andrews, there is more hope and confidence we could secure that point needed for safety.

If you could guarantee your own safety, which club would you prefer to see promoted, Cardiff or Fulham and why?

Will – Fulham, I hate Warnock!

Chris – That’s a tricky question to answer! Every ounce of me says football would gain much more from Fulham being promoted – better style of football, better players, more likeable manager and supporters, but selfishly I’d rather Fulham go into the playoffs. If that was the case, they either stay in the division, and Blues get to savour one of the best away days in the Championship for another season, or they win the playoffs, in the process ensuring Villa don’t go up, so in a self-serving way, I hope Fulham finish third, even if it means Warnock will be insufferable for a few months!

How many of your current squad would you like to keep and build from next season, including the manager?

Will – Few fringe players that haven’t even touched the first 11, like Jason Lowe but really excited by the young prospects.

Chris – The manager and his backroom team absolutely must stay should we secure safety. They have reinvigorated a squad bereft of confidence, and they have breathed new life into the whole club. The Fulham game is a sell-out, and there were bigger crowds for the previous couple of home games too, the fans have bought into everything they have done and, touch wood, it looks to have worked, and it will be another preseason of optimism should they stay and be given a chance to work on the squad. The one thing they have done since they arrived is played, where possible, a predominately Blues-owned team, the loan players haven’t featured as much, and I think this is a definite move towards looking to what they need in the summer. Of the loan players, Sam Gallagher has been the standout, his goals at the turn of the year in a run of victories could prove to be vital, but I think we could see another summer of upheaval in terms of departures and arrivals.

Prediction?

Will – 1-1.

Chris – Logic dictates that surely there is nothing but a Fulham win, but on the last day of the Championship, logic goes out of the window. If Blues can keep it tight for as long as possible, and say Cardiff are 3-0 up after half an hour, how much will Fulham be wanting to press for a winner, when it doesn’t matter either way for them. Heart over head, I will go for a 1-1 draw, and Blues wish Fulham all the best in the play offs!

FULHAM – Peter Grinham aka Spigs (@GrinhamPeter) and Dean Rosier, both are Focus bloggers.

Did you think you’d be in this position at the start of the year?

Peter – No. With the problems behind the scenes at that time, I thought we would be lucky to finish 10th.

Dean – At the start of the season I really believed we would be a strong team. Given our run towards the end of last season, keeping hold of our key players and adding what seemed as some exciting players over the summer gave me a lot of confidence. I did not expect us to go on the run we have, but I fully expected us to be a top 6 side. Any lower would have been a massive failure in my opinion.

Are you nervous at all?

Peter – I am nervous but my belief and respect for the mental strength of these players and coaching staff override that natural feeling.

Dean – I am not nervous in the slightest. I have never expected us to go up automatically. The fact we were 17th at one point in the season and staged this unbeaten run is just incredible. Cardiff are there on merit and have been there or there about all season. If we were to replace them on the final day it would be a huge bonus. Most Fulham fans do not expect us to come 2nd, and many forget this has all been possible because of our great run. Now if we got to the playoff final, and you asked me if I was nervous, you would get a different answer.

If you miss out, how do you rate your chances in the playoffs?

Peter – If we are in the playoffs, I believe our experience including the feeling of the disappointment last season, will see us through and we will come out bigger and stronger as a team and club.

Dean – Fulham do not have a good history in the playoffs, but I really believe we are the strongest squad in them. We probably were last season as well and that did not fair very well, but I hope the recent experience will stand us in good stead. No easy game in the playoffs but the fact we are at home 2nd leg will help. I think we will get to Wembley which will be a dream come true for me. That is a one-off game, so I hope we get a bit of luck and our boys play to their potential. We should fear nobody at this stage.

How many of the current squad do you think are good enough for the Premier League next season if we are promoted?

Peter – Including current loanees… Fredericks, Ream, Targett, Sessegnon, MacDonald, Cairney and Mitrovic. In addition, possibly Bettinelli, Odoi, Kebano, Johansen and Kamara would be decent squad players.

Dean – If we were to get promoted there is no doubt our club would need serious investment to compete in the PL. We played Southampton at the beginning of the year in the FA Cup and were 2nd best throughout when you look at their position in the league it would suggest the difference is huge between the championship and Premiership. Cairney has been linked with a PL move and is arguably the best player in the championship, but even he may struggle in the higher league. I think Targett and Mitrovic could compete but even they are loan players. I would say Ream, Fredericks, Sessegnon and Cairney could start in the PL. But all others would probably need replacing.

Prediction?

Peter – No chance! I’m superstitious and won’t be tempting fate!

Dean – Birmingham have improved under Monk, but they still need a point to be absolutely safe. Fulham are flying, and I can see them winning, but ultimately missing out on 2nd. I think It could be a high scoring game but can see Fulham winning 2-3.