Steve Coppell is bright, bright man – he’s forged a disciplined team out of the limited talents at his disposal. Readings key strengths lie in their cohesiveness and ability to play well as a unit – they lack the flair players but more than make up for it by their movement and discipline on the pitch.
Despite Reading’s awesome performance in the Championship last season, a quick look at the Premiership fixture list for October and November would give you the impression that the odds were heavily stacked against Reading for being anywhere else other than the bottom three come 18th November, when they play Charlton at home.
Why? Here’s a look at Reading’s Premiership fixture list from 23rd September to 12th November:
23rd Sep – Reading vs Manchester United
1st Oct – West Ham vs Reading
14th Oct – Reading vs Chelsea
22nd Oct – Reading vs Arsenal
28th Oct – Portsmouth vs Reading
4th Nov – Liverpool vs Reading
12th Nov – Reading vs Tottenham
7 matches, 5 of them with the top 5 placed teams at the end of 2005/2006 Premiership season. Its tough enough for any side, but for newly promoted club it is demoralizing and a real threat to their Premiership survival.
And if that wasn’t enough, Reading are due to play Liverpool at Anfield in the Carling Cup on 25th Oct – right after they host Arsenal and right before they travel to Portsmouth.
While West Ham would have been expected to pose a stiff challenge, it is the rise of Portsmouth as early pace-setters in the Premiership that will cause Reading fans to worry as well. Portsmouth have brought in quite a lot of players, and Harry Redknapp has managed to get them to play fairly well, even if Portsmouth have avoided playing the big boys so far.
For Reading, the next month – the next 6 games – will determine their fate and their season. On paper, they’re not good enough to win points against the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool. But they nicked one away from Manchester United (albeit on a bad penalty decision), and if they can take points off Portsmouth and Tottenham, with a draw against 2 of the other big 3, there’s still hope for Coppell’s side yet.