Reading the Pious Act
Date: Friday 20th April 2007A cursory glance at the fixture list, pre-season, doubtlessly had some looking at the run-in and picking this one out as a big game…………for Reading! Steve Coppell and his band of barely shaving, untested youths plundered from lower league obscurity hither and yon being shown the way by calling on all the top-flight experience of John Oster, and Glen Little’s 20 minutes at our place, this lot were going down without a trace. Weren’t they? We, on the other hand, were about to start our descent to where such denizens of glory as West Ham fans claim we and our long-ball bunch of Jonny Foreigner ageing mercenaries belong – the Pop League, and would commence said journey by coming in mid-table. How bizarre that we both head into this game with separate European qualification ambitions. Oh I’m having none of it that Coppell’s not interested in Europe, and in oh so many ways I really hope that they do do it, just not at our expense, of course. Coppell’s official line now is that we’re going to give it our all in each of the remaining game because, get this, “We owe it to all the other clubs in the league”. That’s mighty sporting of you, Steve, mighty sporting indeed. Just let me get this right then? So, if by giving your all in every game you end up in the top seven (Reading are currently ninth, a point behind both Spuds and Pompey) and you qualify for the UEFA Cup, and if we were to make a dog’s dick of it and miss out, you’d hand your place over to us because we want it and you don’t? Aye, right-ho! We, on the other hand, are clearly about to make heavy weather of it once again anyway. Having gone into last Saturday’s game at Arsenal with an outside chance of usurping the Gunners for fourth spot, defeat for us along with Everton’s late, late show against Charlton’s late-but-no-cigar show has now seen us slip to sixth. Twitchy sphincter time once again! Thanks for that! Reading look to recall both Kevin Doyle and Steve Sidwell for the game. Both of these players being excellent examples of Coppell’s ability to spot talent and his willingness to back his own convictions. Doyle, a signing from Cork City, has repaid his manager’s faith by scoring 10 league goals, whereas the seemingly Newcastle bound (nooooooo, don’t do it!) former Gooner, Sidwell, is recalled after Coppell’s let’s-see-how-we-shape-up-without-him experiment against Fulham last week (very well as it turned out). Missing through injury will be the long-serving defender Greame Murty, and our former loanee Glen Little. Also out, only through suspension, is 14 goal top-scorer (and cheap striker in everyone’s fantasy footie team) Leroy Lita, who stands as further evidence as to what’s been available in the lower leagues whilst we were fannying about with an inflatable Brazilian and such likes (I’d perhaps best leave that particular subject there, maybe for another day). Anyway, back at the Reebok, Kevin Nolan has made it quite clear that he’d like fifth spot back. Good lad, so would we, but how about we concentrate on the shouting at people and you on the football. Deal? Word around the camp-fire has it that Tal Ben Haim’s still doubtful with a dodgy hamstring, and with Ivan Campo sitting this one out after his red-card down at The Emirates, the spot in front of the expected Aboulayesque centre-back pairing is up for grabs. Many see the wisest and most natural move as being to pull Gary Speed into the deep position with Nolan and Teimourian playing in the centre. I’ll expect to see Ricardo Vaz Te playing there then!