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Reading v West Ham United

Filed: Friday, 9th December 2011
By: Preview Percy

Preview Percy has spent much of this week taking the mick out of all those people people who recently discovered that their roots were in Manchester all along, though his written request to the football authorities that a minutes' uncontrollable laughter be observed before all matches this weekend was, for some reason, ignored. Here are his usual warped thoughts on this weekend's trip to Reading. If you hang around for a bit John Northcutt will be along with some real facts....

Next we make the relatively short hop down the M4 where we face Reading for a nicely traditional 3pm Saturday kick off. The match is being played at London Irish’s rugby ground which, as is the trend for modern stadia, is plonked out on the edge of town in the middle of nowhere. There is a railway line nearby but plans to do something useful like building a station there seem to have been quietly ditched. So if you’re going by train you’ll need a cab or shuttle bus from the main station – and don’t bank on being able to get a particular train home after the match.

There is, of course, a bit of history between the clubs, largely arising from the faux-indignation stirred up by club owner John Madejski over the departure of Alan Pardew to better things. The spottier element of their support took it on themselves to get all upset about it. Of course whilst all eyes were on West Ham, few outside Brighton noticed the unauthorised talks with Steve Coppell that Madejski was holding all the time. Meanwhile, inbetween bouts of spot-squeezing and keyboard warriorship, the one who owned a printer thought it would be a great idea to print out loads of A4 sheets bearing the word “Judus” – either none of his mates had the heart to tell him the correct spelling or, more likely, they didn’t know either. Somewhat more serious was the attitude of the club’s staff who took it upon themselves to deny entry the stadium to Hammers at one match for such “crimes” as ‘wearing a hat’. One teetotal supporter was even told that he would not be allowed in as it was an offence to be drunk at a football match. Prompted by this very website a few quiet words were had in the club’s shell like by the Football League, resulting in refunds all round. It is to be hoped that the pettier element have grown up a bit in the years that have passed. Or, at least, learned how to spell.

Our opponents currently lie in 12th spot having gleaned 27 points from their 20 matches so far this season. This leaves them five shy of a play-off place and seven away from a slot in the bottom three. They’ve won three and drawn three of their last six. The wins have come at home to Birmingham (1-0) and Peterborough (3-2) and away at Ipswich (3-2), whilst the defeats have come away at Forest and Blackpool (both 1-0) and at home to Cardiff (1-2). Their overall home record has seen them win three draw four and lose three from the 10 matches staged on home turf giving them 13 points from a possible 30 in Berkshire.

The manager is Brian McDermott. He took over from the Swansea-bound Brendan Rogers in December 2009 having done time in the scouting, youth and reserve team sections before his elevation to the manager’s chair. He guided them to the play-off final last season where his former boss Rogers got the better of him in a 4-2 win.

Whilst on the subject of managerial matters, though not strictly relevant to this match, it should be noted that Eamonn Dolan is currently at the helm on the Academy side of things. Dolan made a few appearances up front for us in the late 1980’s without ever (and I’m sure he’d be the first to agree) really looking like a top flight player. His career came to a shuddering halt in 1993 when, whilst at Exeter, he was diagnosed with cancer. Happily he beat that particular opponent and performed a number of roles for the Grecians, including a spell as manager before moving up to Reading in 2004 where he has been running the youth set-up ever since.

About this time of the review I normally take a look at the opposition squad. This usually takes the form of my looking for the strange, the unusual and, often downright criminal elements that we might be encountering. However, this week I am going to combine this with one of my rants against muppet things that ought to have no place in football. This may, in time, become a regular feature which, after a long spell sucking on a thoughtful Werthers Original I have decided to call “Rants Against Muppet Things That Ought To Have No Place In Football”. In assembling my research material for this match I got Nurse Rita (I say “nurse” – she has a uniform of sorts) to connect me to the Reading squad list on the electric computer thing. I instantly saw something that qualified for this section. You see (and Reading are not the only guilty ones in this respect) they list “their fans” as having the no.13 squad number. This is on a cringe-making par with playing music after goals. However, given that their average gates are about 5-6k down on those that used to turn up when they were in the Premiership one can only assume that the no.13 has returned to Chelsea (their parent club) and is currently out on loan at QPR where, at least, they won’t need a change of shirt. Anyway, “fans” listed in the squad list, definitely a Muppet Thing That Has No Place In Football.

Getting back to the part of the squad that is still there, keeping goal will be Aussie ‘keeper Adam Federici. Although he has been with the Biscuitmen since 2005, it is only in relative recent years that he has become the first choice, with Septic Marcus Hahnemann usually being the club’s default option. Hahnemann’s departure before the start of 2009/10 finally gave Federici the chance to claim the spot and he has been their principal no.1 ever since. At international level it’s been a similar story for Federici, for whom international caps have been hard to come by with Mark Schwarzer in the squad. Although he went to the 2010 World Cup he never got off the bench, though he did start a recent “Socceroo” (ghastly name) World Cup qualifier against Oman.

Veteran defender Ian Harte is still plying his trade in defence. I will admit to raising a surprised eyebrow when I discovered that he is in fact only 34 years old – he seems to have been around for so long that I had him down for a good 3 or four years older than that. Harte came to prominence in the Ridsdale era at Leeds when he was part of the team that made it all the way to the so-called Champions League semi finals. He has always been noted for having a decent shot at set pieces and has been known to take the odd spot-kick as well.

The skipper is ex-Hammer Jobi McAnuff. McAnuff was part of the job lot of players signed from what was then called Wimbledon during their spell of playing-in-but-not-being called Milton Keynes. His fellow team mates arriving in the same cab in January 2004 were Nigel Reo-Coker and Adam Nowland. Always something of a fringe player during his short spell at the Boleyn, he left during the following summer window for Cardiff as players were transferred out to raise money for new signings. Spells at Palace and Watford then followed before he followed his old Watford boss Brendan Rogers to Reading in 2009. Somewhere in the McAnuff attic gathering dust is a solitary cap for Jamaica gained all the way back in 2002 during his Wimbledon days. He missed Reading’s last match, the 1-0 defeat up at Blackpool, his 5 bookings in his 19 league and cup appearances earning him the week off from competitive football.

Also in midfield they boast Mikele Leigertwood. Leigertwood arrived from QPR in November 2010 on loan with the deal finally becoming permanent in the last summer window. Along with his QPR boss, Leigertwood was part of the Sheffield United set up who managed to blow a ten point advantage to get themselves relegated in 2006/07, a statistic that one will never tire of repeating. I see his old boss has this week been mouthing off about Liverpool’s role in Sheffield United’s relegation that season. Never your fault is it Warnock.

Up front, the departure of alleged Hammers target Shane Long, has seen a fair bit of responsibility for keeping the scoreboard ticking over land on the shoulders of Simon “Charlotte” Church. Church joined Reading back in 2003 at the age of 14, his registration being handed over by Wycombe Wanderers as part of the deal that took Nathan Tyson to Bucks. As he progressed he spent spells on loan at a number of clubs, including Leyton Orient, finally getting first team experience as the likes of Dave Kitson and Kevin Doyle were transferred out. He’s found the back of the net three times this season. Capped by Wales at full level, there is a senior FIFA committee investigating whether or not his first goal for his country should actually count as it only came against Scotland.

Also up front is Adam Le Fondre who came in from Rotherham in August for a reported fee of £350,000. Despite the exotic (well French anyway) surname Le Fondre is a Stockport-born Englishman who rejoices in the splendid real first name of Glenville. As with Brighton’s Mackail-Smith, Le Fondre is one of those players who seemed to score every week whenever I happened across those highlights programmes in recent years. Whether or not this impression was partly influenced by his unusual surname – not to many of those in Rotherham I’d wager – is a valid question. Maybe he wouldn't have registered on my radar with the name Smith. However, he did notch up slightly better than a goal every other game for the Millers during his spell there and he is the Biscuitmen’s top scorer with five (all in the league so far this season).

And so a few words about us. Injury news is that Matt Taylor’s going to be sidelined for a few weeks having retired hurt during the Burnley match. However, they think they've found the cause of the calf problems he's been having which may result in a speedier than hoped for return. Baldock has a couple of weeks to go, as does Reid.

On the brighter side, the return to action in midweek of Gary O’Neil was a most welcome sight, given the seriousness of the injury that kept him out for so long. He’s still a long way from first team action of course but his Development Squad run out will have done him a power of good psychologically. Also back in the 3-0 win over Brentford was Henri Lansbury, who is more likely to feature over the festive period.

Last week’s setback was, one hopes, a minor one. The defeat of Southampton at Doncaster meant that there was no harm done to the Championship-winning aspirations, though as the grumpiest resident of the Avram Grant Rest Home for the Bewildered (a title for which competition is intense) I will admit that my own main focus on the league table is firmly fixed on the gap between us and third, which is three points and some goal difference at present. I will be slightly happier with a few more wins – another 9 points should see us clear from relegation I reckon.

Of course we did have our chances against Burnley – we probably need a new set of goalposts for a start - and I’m still wondering how Nolan missed that sitter in the first half. For all the chances I would say that we looked a bit flat – especially towards the end of the match. Understandably so I suppose, given that it was the third game in a week that had seen them travel up to Boro’ and back. The return to just having Saturday fixture will hopefully have given the players a spot of recovery time using whatever the latest technology is in vogue at the moment. I believe Mr Allardyce is a fan of freezing the bits off the players using some sort of reverse microwave thing at the moment. The staff at this rest home achieve much the same effect by not turning the heating on.

Prediction? I dunno why you bother asking quite frankly. Unless it’s simply to avoid betting on anything I’ve forecast which, I suppose, is a pretty sensible way of doing things. The rest will have done us good – a few days ago I was thinking about the draw but on reflection I think I’ll chance my arm at a 2-1 away win with Blackpool sneaking a surprise point at whatever the Dell is called these days.

When last we met: : Our last visit to Berkshire in September 2007 saw us run out 3-0 winners with goals from Etherington (2) and Bellamy. A miss from Etherington prompted chants of “he’s got a bet on 2-0” before he messed that theory up by adding the third. The return fixture at the Boleyn on Boxing Day 2007 saw us draw 1-1 with a goal from Nobby Solano.

Danger man: Adam Le Fondre Despite the third-rate actor-style name, Glenville is their top scorer and has a decent career track record over the years. Keep an eye out.

Referee: Neil Swarbrick Last seen at the Boleyn doing what seemed to be our traditional 3rd round of the cup match against Barnsley back in January. Has been easing his way into the Premiership over the past 12 months or so – he handled the 0-0 draw between Swansea & Villa last weekend.

Daft fact of the week: I sent Nurse Rita over to the electric computer with the instruction to “find something interesting about Reading”. She came back with the information that the average American has a reading speed of 200 words a minute, though she didn’t say whether that was with or without their lips moving.

I sent her away again and she returned with the fact that former Reading striker Dave Kitson once claimed to be able to recite the whole of Macbeth, which just goes to show he wasn’t completely useless. Unlike Nurse Rita. Nice uniform though.

Stat man John: Northcutt's corner

Previous friendly encounters

16th April, 1970: 3-3 (a) Brooking, Bonds, Greaves.
3rd August, 1971 0-0 (a).
27th July, 1996: 2-1 (a) Quinn, Morley.
5th August, 2002: 4-5 (a) Kanoute, Cole, Defoe, Camara.

They played For both

Bill Robson, Jimmy Quinn, Jobi McAnuff, Ken Bainbridge, Tommy Dixon, Harry Kinsell, Sam Jennings, Trevor Morley, Ron Tindall, Rod Williams, Len Young, Steve Death, Shaka Hislop, Jim Holmes, Ray Houghton, Keith McPherson and Adrian Whitbread.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

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