Much has been made of the difficulties surrounding Reading’s off-pitch financial woes, as the club linger dangerously close to relegation from EFL League One. Notably, the Royals’ match against Port Vale was postponed after fans flooded the pitch to protest against the club’s ownership, with Dai Yongge reportedly refusing to sell the club.
But on Wednesday, a top-flight team will travel to the Select Car Leasing Stadium, for a fixture that has been somewhat overshadowed by Reading’s financial instability. Jonas Eidevall’s Arsenal will make their way to RG2, disputing the final match of the 2023/24 Conti Cup group stage.
Reading have already been eliminated from the competition, while the Gunners need just a point on Wednesday evening to seal their progression to the quarterfinals of the competition. Despite the match having no real bearing on the course of the Royals’ season, head coach Liam Gilbert is relishing the opportunity for his side to test themselves against a team of such quality.
He told the club website that ‘getting this opportunity as a manager, and of course players, to test yourself against the best in the country and to have it on home soil, we just have to give it everything we’ve got – and put in a performance our fans can be proud of.’Embed from Getty Images
‘We know the challenge ahead, and there is no point shying away from it, you just have to look at the calibre of players. It’s an occasion that I know all of us are looking forward to, as a sportsperson you want to play against the best, and we will make sure we don’t hide away.’
‘We’re expecting a real big crowd, he continued, ‘our fans have sold out their allocation, and we know Arsenal fans always travel well, so it’ll be an enviorment and the type of football game that you relish.’
Gilbert acknowledged that ‘there’s obviously a lot of stuff going on around the club right now that we can’t control,’ but spoke with optimism about how the club can battle through tough times to make progress on the pitch.
‘We all believe in the process, and the girls have been brilliant in terms of how they pull together. I’ve been in different teams before where the players might have split and created a bit of a toxic environment, but that’s not the case here.’
‘We have the right culture and personnel to right our wrongs and to give our all for the last few months of this season.’