YOU ARE unlikely to see any Reading supporters making an early exit from their Barclays Premier League matches after the dramatic events of the past four weeks . . . ones which have given them genuine hope of extending their stay in the top-flight into a second season.
Brian McDermott’s side have claimed nine precious points by grabbing crucial late goals to boost their prospects of survival, the latest of which was Jimmy Kebe’s 85th minute winner in the victory over Sunderland seven days ago to ensure they stayed out of the bottom three.
That heartening run in the last month began with a remarkable turnaround in the closing stages of the West Bromwich Albion game when Kebe was on target with the first of three goals in the last eight minutes which transformed a two-goal deficit into a 3-2 victory.
Adam Le Fondre, one of the goalscorers on that occasion, then produced a late double to stun Newcastle United as the Royals came from behind to win at St James’ Park before repeating the feat to snatch a point from a 2-2 draw with Chelsea at the Madejski Stadium.
Not surprisingly, it was a late goal which enabled them to break their initial duck in terms of victories and it was Le Fondre who was on the spot to earn them a 2-1 triumph over Everton.
McDermott has made a number of additions to strengthen his squad in the two transfer windows, but he has not had the degree of spending power of Reading’s close rivals.
Chris Gunter’s £2.3 million move from Nottingham Forest has been his most expensive acquisition, while the most recent window saw the Royals boss snap our former loan signing Stephen Kelly and the highly-rated Sheffield United striker Nick Blackman for undisclosed fees.
Full name: Reading Football Club
Stadium: The Madejski Stadium
Owner: Thames Sport Investment
Chairman: Sir John Madejski
Manager: Brian McDermott
2011/12: Championship (1st), FA Cup (Third Round), League Cup (First Round).
Record transfer fee paid: £2.5m for Emerse Fae to Nantes, August 2011.
Record transfer fee received: £7m for Gylfi Sigurdsson from FC Hoffenheim, August 2010.
IN PROFILE – BRIAN MCDERMOTT
It’s little more than three years now since Reading handed Brian McDermott his big chance in management . . . and he has grasped the opportunity to mastermind the club’s return to the top-flight in English football.
McDermott was initially handed the role on a caretaker basis when Brendan Rodgers left the Royals in December 2009, having served in many roles as part of the backroom team, including chief scout and reserve team manager.
He made an immediate impact by guiding Reading to the FA Cup quarter finals for the first time for 83 years and they beat Liverpool at Anfield along the way, all of which led to him being offered the job on a permanent basis.
In the following season, he repeated the feat by reaching the same stage of the FA Cup once more, narrowly missing out to Manchester City who would ultimately go on to lift the trophy, but he went one better in the League by guiding the Royals to the Wembley play-off final after seeing off Cardiff City in the semi-finals.
Unfortunately, Reading came unstuck in the final where they were beaten a Swansea side managed by his predecessor Rodgers, but the Royals made sure of promotion to the Premier League last season in some style.
Tottenham Hotspur v Newcastle United (12:45)
Chelsea v Wigan Athletic
Norwich City v Fulham
STOKE CITY v READING
Sunderland v Arsenal
Swansea City v Queens Park Rangers
Southampton v Manchester City (17:30)
Aston Villa v West Ham United (Sunday, 13:30)
Manchester United v Everton (Sunday, 16:00)
Liverpool v West Bromwich Albion (Monday, 20:00)
All games kick-off at 15:00 on Saturday unless otherwise stated.
HEAD TO HEAD
League: 15 Stoke City wins; 16 Reading wins; 12 draws
FA Cup: 1 Stoke City win; 1 Reading win; 1 draw
League Cup: 0 Stoke City wins; 0 Reading wins; 1 draw
TOTAL: 16 Stoke City wins; 17 Reading wins; 14 draws
LAST FIVE ENCOUNTERS
Reading 1-1 Stoke City (Premier League) – 18/08/2012
Stoke City 2-2 Reading (League Cup) – 23/09/2008
Reading 3-1 Stoke City (Championship) – 17/04/2006
Stoke City 0-1 Reading (Championship) – 22/10/2005
Reading 1-0 Stoke City (Championship) – 06/11/2004
Tickets for this clash come under the ‘Category B’ price umbrella, with adult admission available from £25, over-65s from £19, under-17s from £16 and under-11s from £12.
With plenty of tickets still available, they can be booked online at scfcdirect.com or by contacting the Ticket Office hotline on (01782)367599.
Alternatively, they can be purchased in person at the Britannia Stadium Ticket Office or at the Club Store located in the Potteries Shopping Centre in Hanley.
ODDS WITH BET365
Stoke City win 4/5; Reading win 7/2; draw 5/2
REFEREE – MICHAEL OLIVER
Former Newcastle United trainee Michael Oliver has been a regular referee in the Premier League this season… further affirming his reputation as one of the brightest young officials around.
He has officiated 25 games in all competition in 2012/13, 16 in the Britain’s top flight, and given out 60 yellow cards but just one red – that was for Ciaran Clark in Aston Villa 3-1 home defeat to Everton in August.
His only other visit to the Britannia Stadium this year was in the 1-0 win over Fulham on November 24th, when a Charlie Adam strike secured the three points.