No space for sentiment as Ashdown gets set for Royals rumble

Jamie Ashdown
Jamie Ashdown
Kenny Jackett. Picture: Joe Pepler

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Jamie Ashdown prepared to lead the returning Reading old boys into tomorrow’s mouthwatering showdown and insisted: There’s no room for nostalgia.

Ashdown will be one of a hat-trick of former Royals in action for Pompey as the two form sides lock horns in the play-off clash at the Madejski Stadium.

He will be joined by Dave Kitson and Greg Halford in the sell-out meeting as 4,000 Blues fans travel up the M3.

Ibrahima Sonko – another former Royals player – is once again set to miss out, with the number of loan players in Pompey’s matchday squad already maxed out at five.

The powerful defender will be an interested observer, though, while Hayden Mullins also has Reading connections having grown up in that area.

Pompey go into the game harbouring unlikely ambitions of making it to the play-offs with eight games remaining.

They are top of the form table after seven wins from nine, while Reading have four wins and three draws from their past seven games.

Key to Pompey’s run has been the form of Ashdown, who has kept an outstanding eight clean sheets in that period.

He will bid to make it nine tomorrow as he meets the club where he developed as a youngster.

Ashdown naturally has an affinity with Reading after his time there – as well as a respect for how they are run – but that will mean nothing when it’s showtime tomorrow in a match-up which has all the ingredients of a cracker.

Ashdown said: ‘I was born in Reading but I haven’t been there for seven years now.

‘I was there as a kid for nine years.

‘There’s hardly anyone left from when I was there. There’s a couple of backroom staff and the manager.

‘But there’s a few of us going there with Reading connections.

‘There’s a few with an attachment and, hopefully, we’ll get a good welcome.

‘I don’t think anyone left on bad terms.

‘But none of us will be thinking about that – we’ll go there to do a job and get a result.

‘They seem to have a decent team spirit and are doing well. It’s a good club in general.

‘They were starting to pick up when I was there.

‘They’d just changed stadiums and I spent a season at the new one.

‘It’s their home now. That takes time because there is so much nostalgia associated with stadiums. There’s a different atmosphere when you move.

‘They have probably been at the Madejski for nine years now.

‘They got into the Premier League on a good budget.

‘They didn’t spend too much and the wages were sensible, although they didn’t stay there.

‘It’s a really good club and they will give us a tough game.’

Ashdown admitted the Reading that Pompey will face tomorrow will bear little resemblance to the one he knew.

John Madejski has weaved his magic and put the club on a sound footing – something a world away from the story at Fratton Park.

Ashdown said: ‘It’s a completely new club and new players.

‘From what it was to what is now is totally different.

‘It’s a different club from what they were in the Elm Park days.

‘What Madejski has done has been brilliant.

‘He’s kept them on an even keel and not broken the bank to do that.

‘He’s gone about it in the right way.

‘Not many chairmen can come away knowing the club’s going to be okay for the next 20 years.

‘Look at clubs like Coventry really struggling.

‘It’s tough to survive without the backing of the chairman pumping in money.’

Reading’s upwardly mobile ambitions have seen manager Brian McDermott rewarded with a new contract as recognition for the club’s progress.

He is someone Ashdown knows from his time at the club.

The 30-year-old praised McDermott’s approach to working with players and believes Reading’s success reflects his attention to detail.

Ashdown said: ‘Brian’s done a great job.

‘He was there when I was there doing some coaching and scouting.

‘He was a good player as well. I think he played in every division.

‘He was real tough and hard working. He has instilled that in them because they are a hard-working side.

‘Brian’s a football man, that’s what he does, that’s how he thinks.

‘He gets things out of players in different way to some managers.

‘Some like to be vocal, some like to be one on one.

‘He seems to be quite quiet and talks about football and drills it into them in sessions.

‘Brendan Rodgers was there when I was there – they speak a lot and seem to be similar managers.

‘Brendan’s doing well at Swansea. It shows you they are making good coaches at Reading.

‘Nicky Hammond has done really well, too. Good luck to them.’