ROYALS FLUSHED WITH SUCCESS*
By Henry Henries, Chief Football Correspondent
Last May, Reading travelled to Watford in hope of a playoff place, and left disappointed. This time, Steve
Coppell's team knows that its fate is in its own hands: win every match between now and the end of the season
and the Home Counties heroes will be Champions of the Championship Championship. It's that simple.
Plenty of water has flowed through the Thames Valley since poaching player-manager Steve Coppell from West
Ham United to replace Glenn Pardew, who was ruthlessly sacked after failing to guide the club to the
Premiership. It's been an exciting time, and Coppell has made many friends with his carefree
approach to football, something that he picked up at Crystal Palace.
There is still work to be done, however. The antiquated facilities at Elm Park, where the crumbling
terracing, overgrown pitch and Barratt-homes-for-goalposts show little sign that Championship Championship
football is still played, will surely need updating if the club is promoted. I put it to chairman John
Madejski that the Super-Hoops might do better to join the rugby club at the newly-built Majesty Stadium on the
other side of town, but he simply exclaimed, "What on earth are you talking about?" With that
attitude, it'll be a while before Reading can compete with the big clubs, like Middlesbrough, Bolton and Derby.
With the two clubs due to meet in a colossally crucial Carling Cup clash prior to Saturday's fixture, the
league match becomes even more important than it was before, depending on the potential result
of Tuesday's forthcoming game, whatever that was. One thing is certain: revenge will be in the
In goal for United, Marcus Hahnemann is American and has outspoken views on his country's involvement in The
Iraq Conflict: his biting commentary on world events, using everyday goalkeeping mishaps as moving, potent
metaphors, makes him a modern satirist of the stature of Jonathan Swift, George Orwell or Alistair MacGowan.
On the bench, Jamie Young is making good use of his time by knitting a large blue-and-white woolly hat for his manager
to wear when it gets chilly.
Graeme Murty plays at right-back, Nicky Shorey plays at left-back. They could play the other way around, but
it simply would not work as well. At the heart of the Rangers defence, Adrian Williams has lost his knees
but is expected to play, while Ivar Ingimarsson is an anagram of "viable share option scheme". Ricky Newman was
the inspiration for the Marvellous comic strip Bananaman. There are no other defenders at the club, following a humane cull.
The Blues' midfield is based around Glen Little: Sid's brother, whose distinctive glasses inspired Edgar Davids' catwalk cool. As
he's currently finishing the holiday season at Butlin's in Skegness, the gap will be filled by Steve Sidwell -
Dave's brother - and James Harper, who's an only child. Paul Brooker used to play for Coppell at Real Madrid,
before colliding with Gerry Taggart in a pre-season friendly, losing his memory and re-building his life, a
heart-warming story of triumph over adversity that will shortly be coming to the silver screen, starring Julia
Roberts and Ray Winstone. Andy Hughes is fifteen years old.
Up front for the Toon, Nicky Forster has been the subject of attention from local rivals Basingstoke Town. In an
exclusive interview, manager Ernie Howe claimed, "Nicky Forster? I'd bloody love to sign him. I'll have that
Wayne Rooney too, if you're offering." The clubs have yet to agree a fee, however. David Kay Itson has a fancy
name, like Marco Van Basten. Other options include Shaun Goater, if he can be distracted from reminiscence
about the war.
Fans will flock to Vicarage Road in their thousands for this top-of-the-table six-pointer, between the team in second and the team
a bit further down. There is surely no further proof needed that the Championship Championship provides champion
* Alternative headlines include:
"READING BETWEEN THE LINES"
"IT'S A FAIR COP"
"FANS COCK-A-HOOP WITH START"
"YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE MADEJSKI TO WORK HERE, BUT IT HELPS"
"OH LOOK, IT'S F***ING READING AGAIN"