Ahead of tomorrow's eagerly anticipated top 6 clash between Leeds United and Brighton, I got the chance to speak again with Naz. A fond seagulls fan who I had the pleasure of interviewing in the reverse fixture.
Since our last interview, have your thoughts changed on the automatic places?
Yes, only through the teams I mentioned before. Villa and Norwich out of it. It's now three teams into two, which doesn't go. I think everyone in Sussex is fearing Huddersfield, but at the same time I'd imagine the Newcastle fans are fearing the both of us given their patchy consistency. You could offer me 10/1 on a two team combo to go up and I wouldn't bet my money.
The only thing we have in our favour over Huddersfield is goal difference. That's massive as that's what cost us last season.
Is your love for Anthony Knockheart still going strong?
Yes, Knockaert is unbelievable. What's been great is the support around him. I mentioned Murray in the previous interview, but Baldock has really stepped up in the last couple of months, as has Murphy, March is back and back in the England under 21 squad and Skalak has performed well in his last couple of games after being dropped. To have four great wingers who all play different types of game is such a strength and Knockaert is just the pick of a very talented bunch.
Who will be your key player on Saturday?
Baldock. He's been instrumental recently and really does help turn defence into attack with his running and his desire. Sounds like a simple thing, but coupled with his talent I think he'll be our key man on Saturday evening. Dunk needs to have a good game as well, with a somewhat makeshift and half fit back four alongside him.
You're currently missing a lot of defenders from your squad, do you have the back ups needed?
Yes, I think we do, I think we have enough for the home games certainly. I've seen that Bruno is now passed fit which is massive for us because he is absolutely unreal at RB even at 36 years of age, and just signed a new contract which is well deserved.
Our 4th choice CB has come in and helped us to successive clean sheets against Rotherham and Derby. It was heartbreaking to lose Goldson to a heart problem the day after the transfer window shut but Huhnemeier has silenced any doubts with his performances.
Who is your manager of the year?
Gianfranco Zola. To do what he's done with that Birmingham team from when he took over, it shows his class. The Birmingham board made a great decision and their fans should rightly be proud of the way their club is being run. Steve McClaren would be a close 2nd, he was unlucky to get the sack as I felt he did a great job with a side clearly built on a shoestring budget.
Who is your team of the season?
I can't possibly be objective with this. There's a lot of top players, I'd say back 5 would be Stockdale, Sessegnon, Jansson, Duffy, Bruno. Midfield would be Ritchie, Hourihane, Stephens and Knockaert, and then Gayle and Wood up front. Apologies for missing out anyone your readers would have preferred.
Also a shout of for Sone Aluko who would give Ritchie a battle for the other wing spot, whenever I've seen him this season he's been on fire.
What's your prediction for Saturday?
2-2. I fancy an entertaining game with goals, given Ayling being out for you I fancy that to disrupt your defence as much as ours is disrupted. I'd take any draw away from home against you right now, get that extra point on the board away and then our home games will take us to 90 if we win them.
Whatever happens, I wish you good luck for the season, although geographically if we go up automatically i'd want Reading to win the playoffs!
We'd like to wish Naz the best of luck for the season and hope to see both ourselves and Brighton promoted over the dog botherers this season.
By Ryan Ingham
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