Feb 01 2013

Match Preview: Reading FC v Sunderland AFC – 2 Feb 2013

Cats v RoyalsEstablished way back in 1871, Reading FC is one of the oldest teams in England.  However, they didn’t join the Football League until 1920 and had to wait until 2006 to make their debut in the top-tier of English Football, only to be relegated two years later.

If you follow my match previews you already know that I like random and bizarre footy-facts.  However, you may find the next two nuggets of football trivia startling, and the answers could prove invaluable in your local pub quiz:

Which Club holds the record for the number of successive league wins at the start of a season?

No, it was not  the Arsenal ‘Invincibles’ or Chelsea who were unbeatable at home under José Mourinho, but Reading!  Yes, the Royals won their first 13 games at the start of the 1985–86 Third Division campaign.

Which club holds the record for the number of points gained in a professional league season?  

Thinking of Man United, then think again!  Yes, it was Reading, who gobbled up 106 points in the 2005–06 Football League Championship campaign.

Despite these noteworthy achievements, Reading have never won anything of note, although they did celebrate moving into the plush new Madejski Stadium (named after their chairman) in 1998.

When Sunderland beat Reading 3-0 in mid-December the Royals looked destined to be relegated.  However, their recent form has been a revelation with only one defeat in their last six league games, with the last three yielding 7 points in the most spectacular circumstances:

  • Beating WBA 3-2 by scoring three goals in last eight minutes
  • Beating Newcastle 1-2 with two goals in seven minutes, achieving their first ever win at Sid James Park
  • Drawing 2-2 against Chelsea, despite being two goals down with three minutes to go.

Phew!  Perhaps Reading should be sponsored by Grecian 2000 as their fans must have grey hair with all this drama.  Certainly super-sub Adam Le Fondre has given opposition defences more than a few hair-raising moments, plundering 12 league goals despite playing for a team that has struggled most of the season.  This haul includes the five he scored in the three games mentioned above, and he has been ably assisted by Pavel Pogrebnyak with 8 league goals this season following his summer move from Fulham.

However, defensively Reading are not so impressive with the second worst record in the league having conceded 45 goals.  Certainly former Sunderland full back, Ian Harte, who made 8 appearances for the Black Cats in 2007/8, will not be looking forward to facing a hungry Steven Fletcher or the newly acquired Danny Graham, who will be on a mission to prove his worth.

Graham’s ill-advised comments about Sunderland probably account more for the hostility from the Mackem boo-boys than his Geordie background.  However, I feel that his bravery warrants mention as he still had the morale fibre to sign for Sunderland and is realistic enough to acknowledge that he has to win over the fans.

 “I totally understand that some fans might need convincing about my commitment to Sunderland because of my roots, but I’ve always given 100% no matter what team I play for and no matter who I play against.”  (Danny Graham – Sky Sports)

An unhelpful poll in the Sunderland Echo didn’t inspire confidence with the question, ‘Do you want Sunderland to sign Danny Graham’ resulting in 883 ‘yes’ (22%) and 3128 ‘No’ (78%) responses – with the negative result likely being distorted by mischievous Magpies.

Personally, I feel that the Echo has missed the point.  The more intriguing question is whether Fletcher and Graham will be used together, or will a team that boasts two clinical frontman worth almost £20m continue to play a lone striker.  With Fletcher already on 10 goals and Graham having scored 12 goals for Swansea in their debut Premier league season – I hope the answer in no.  Either way, I’m predicting an away win for Sunderland.

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