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Reading prepare for glory days as Pompey fans show what they’re made of

From the state-of-the-art press room at the Madejski Stadium to the immaculate green pitch I peered down onto, everything about Reading screams Premier League. Having won seven on the bounce and within striking distance of leaders Southampton, promotion is more than just a speck on the horizon for the Royals.

This is despite the fact that Reading’s squad boasts conspicuously little Premier League experience. Flicking through Tuesday’s programme for the Portsmouth game, I noticed that of Reading’s starting 11, only the evergreen Ian Harte and new signing Jason Roberts can profess to be any sort of top flight regular.

For all the optimism that surrounds the Madejski, you have to wonder whether that will count against them if they go up. Neil Warnock’s faith in a team that had dominated the Championship ultimately cost him his job.

There is something altogether more impressive about Brian McDermott’s side however, which I believe stems from the manager. Like Paul Lambert last year and Nigel Adkins this, McDermott’s visionary stewardship has been the critical factor in Reading’s great season so far.

What he demands is co-operation from the top down. Everybody knows their role and understands their importance to the team. It is simple really but then when it comes to football, good things usually are.

Ruthless efficiency

The inevitability with which Reading took the lead against Pompey sums up the ruthless efficiency of the current side: don’t give anything away, don’t waste any chances. And though in truth it is foolish to use a side so shackled with the perils of administrations as a measuring stick, the result was never in doubt.

Victory over Leicester City at the Madjeski this Saturday would give the Royals a decent crack at a club record. With three sides in the bottom half awaiting them, Reading could equal the 13 consecutive wins made famous by the 1985-86 Third Division champs. Having conceded just two goals in seven games, would you bet against them?

But that’s precisely my point: there is something distinctly mechanical about Brian McDermott’s pursuit of success. As he said in the post-match press conference: “We’ll just keep ticking off those games and that’s all we can do”.

Let’s not forget that Reading sold perhaps their best player in the summer when Shane Long left for West Brom. Adam La Fondre, who was purchased to replace him, has failed to grab the limelight but that has not halted the Royals’ progress. Roberts was an excellent signing and has slotted right in. He was Reading's best player on the night, assisting the only goal with a superb cross for Noel Hunt to head home.

Reading are no longer are just a good team, they are a great club, and if success does not come this year, it will surely come next year.

Ravaged

To turn attention to Portsmouth’s plight for a second, they are a shadow of the side they were under Harry Redknapp, but what could anyone expect with the financial mismanagement that has ravaged the club, and will continue to do so? That’s not to subtract credibility from Michael Appleton, who I rate so far.

It is almost impossible for a club like Portsmouth to achieve any sort of success without paying the price and two FA Cup finals in three years represents part of the problem. A lot has been written about Pompey and there’s a lot more to come, but for me the real story of Pompey is the tenacity of their fans.

Only 1,340 travelling fans made the relatively short trip to Reading but from start to finish, their support was something to behold. The backing they gave their team would make any player proud to play for that club and so as long as Portsmouth survive, glory days will inevitably return.

Through the uncertain months and potentially years ahead, Pompey fans would do well to remember this. Good and bad times will come and go in an instant in football, but what has permanence is loyal support, and at Portsmouth they have the most loyal bunch in the game.

By Chris Smith

Follow me on Twtter @cdsmith789 or click here to check out my blog.


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