STOKE CITY open their 2012/13 campaign by visiting newly-promoted Reading this Saturday.
Brian McDermott’s men make their Premier League bow after storming to the Championship title last season, although as is usually the case with promoted sides, they are among the favourites to be involved at the wrong end of the table.
Despite the financial boosts of being invested in by a Russian tycoon and the wealth that comes with Premier League status, the Royals have been relatively frugal in the transfer market, spending only £5m.
They will be hoping the core of last year’s squad can carry the momentum through to give them the best chance of survival.
Full name: Reading FC
Stadium: The Madejski Stadium
Owner: Thames Sport Investment
Chairman: Sir John Madejski
Manager: Brian McDermott
2010/2011: Championship (Promotion, Champions), League Cup (1st round), FA Cup (3rd round)
Record victory: 10-2 v Crystal Palace, Division 3, 04/09/1946
Record defeat: 18–0 v Preston North End, 27 January 1894
Record transfer paid: 2.5m paid for Emerse Fae from Nantes, 2/8/2007
Record transfer received: £7m for Gylfi Sigurdsson from 1899 Hoffenheim on 31 August 2010
INTRODUCING THE GAFFER
A FORMER chief scout for the Royals, Brian McDermott was named Reading manager in January of 2010, and neither he nor the club has looked back since.
The 50-year-old former Arsenal midfielder has guided Reading back into the Premier League, topping last season’s Championship table, after they suffered relegation from the top flight in 2008.
McDermott was named League Managers Association Championship Manager of the Year last year, a consequence of his side’s promotion which included a magnificent run of 15 wins in 17 games.
A bitter disappointment against Swansea in the 2011 playoff final, losing 4-2 to his former colleague Brendan Rodgers, would have been hard to take for both staff and supporters. Nevertheless McDermott bounced back and his side finished as champions last season, one point ahead of Southampton.
This season will be McDermott’s first managing a Premier League side and only time will tell whether it proves to be a successful one. Doubts will circulate about whether Reading are capable of remaining in the top tier of English football and their manager will have to rely on his players to prove the doubters wrong.
McDermott was appointed as Reading’s manager as the successor to Brendan Rodgers following the departure of Rodgers to Swansea City.
A former professional in his own right, McDermott had stints at Cardiff, Exeter and Yeovil during the course of his lengthy career.
TONY PULIS will be without summer signing Geoff Cameron for the opening day clash against Reading . . . as the United States' international finalises his move to the Potteries back in his homeland.
The 27-year old has had to undergo a biometric test in Boston to rubber stamp his trans-Atlantic transfer.
Cameron impressed for the US in their historic 1-0 victory against Mexico on Wednesday evening, putting in a man of the match display as his native picked up their first ever victory on Mexican soil.
Pulis is able to call upon former Wolves man Michael Kightly however, and he could start for the Potters, however, fellow new boy Jamie Ness may have to wait for his first competitive start for the Club.
Robert Huth will undergo a late fitness test following his meningitis scare last week, whilst Jermaine Pennant is a likely non-starter after suffering a reoccurrence of a knee problem he sustained during pre-season.
Reading are likely to include up to four summer signings in their starting eleven, with new-boys Pavel Pogrebnyak, Gareth McCleary, Chris Gunter and Danny Guthrie all vying for a starting role.
The Royals will be without striker Jason Roberts, however, as he serves the first of a two-game ban, whilst Jimmy Kebe looks set to miss out with a hamstring injury.
Arsenal v Sunderland
Fulham v Norwich
QPR v Swansea
Reading v Stoke
West Brom v Liverpool
West Ham v Aston Villa
Newcastle v Tottenham 5.30
Wigan v Chelsea (Sunday, 1:30pm)
Man City v Southampton (Sunday, 4pm)
Man Utd v Everton (Monday, 8pm)
All games kick-off at 3pm unless otherwise stated
League: 14 Stoke wins; 15 draws; 17 Reading wins
FA Cup: 1 Stoke win; 1 draw; 1 Reading win
Total: 16 Stoke wins; 13 draws; 17 Reading wins
LAST FIVE ENCOUNTERS
Stoke City 2-2 Reading (League Cup) - 23/09/08
Reading 3-1 Stoke City (Championship) - 17/04/06
Stoke City 0-1 Reading (Championship) - 22/09/05
Reading 1-0 Stoke City (Championship) - 06/11/04
Stoke City 0-1 Reading (Championship) - 16/09/04
THE latest odds on this weekend’s Barclays Premier League opener at the Madejski Stadium.
Stoke to win, 21/10
Reading to win, 11/8
FRIEND OR FOE
KEVIN FRIEND will officiate the Potters’ opening game of the season against Reading at the Madejski Stadium this weekend.
The Leicestershire born official was selected to oversee last weekend’s Charity Shield encounter between Premier League Champions Manchester City and FA Cup winners Chelsea.
He dismissed Serbian international defender Branislav Ivanovic during the first half of the encounter, as well as booking eight other players in the entertaining affair at Aston Villa’s Villa Park.
Kevin’s last game in charge of the Potters came back in March this year, when he oversaw the 2-1 FA Cup Quarter-Final defeat against Liverpool at Anfield.
This is the first top flight meeting between the two clubs, as the Potters were promoted to the Premier League the season Reading were relegated back to the Championship.
The two sides did meet the following season, however, when the Royals travelled up to the Britannia Stadium for a Carling Cup tie. Stoke won the game on penalties after a 2-2 draw.
Dave Regis scored the only goal of the game when the Potters last won at Reading - on Boxing Day 1992.
Stoke's most memorable win over the Berkshire club, however, is the 1-0 win at the Britannia Stadium in 2003. Ade Akinbiyi's header ensured the Potters' survival in the Championship.
The Royals scored just 69 goals in their Championship season last year, the fewest goals of any of the top five teams in the league.