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The Oppo - Aston Villa

The Royals take on an Aston Villa side that has recently appointed the new-look skinny Steve Bruce. Handbags tells us the history behind this fixture.

Mark Thompson/Getty Images

A chilly Tuesday night fixture, a full away end of boisterous Villans, Reading welcome the first of two former European Cup winners to the Madejski in successive fixtures, Villa of course 1982 winners of Europe's most prestigious European club competition.

Head to Head

One to dread for Reading supporters, the record between these two clubs is horrific reading for Royals supporters. Since the first meeting in Division 3 in 1970/71 Villa have won nine of the 10 meetings between the clubs. The Royal's only win against Villa came in February 2007 when Steve Sidwell's brace saw Reading overcome their rather lacklustre opponents 2-0. And that is all there really is to say on the matter.

Played

RFC Wins

Draws

AVFC Wins

RFC Goals Scored

AVFC Goals Scored

Villa Overall

5

0

0

5

4

10

Elm Park

2

0

0

2

3

7

Madejski Stadium

3

1

0

2

4

4

Reading Overall

5

1

0

4

7

11

OVERALL

10

1

0

9

11

21

Memorable Match

The only Reading win in the league against Villa, as mentioned, came in February 2006, the weekend's early kick off as the Sky cameras were in attendance to witness an excellent Reading performance.

Martin O'Neill's Villa side saw a debut given to Shaun Maloney, while it also saw the likes of Ashley Young starting who had recently signed for a £9 million fee from Watford. For Reading, the starting 11 featured Andre Bikey at the back alongside the ever present Ingimarsson, with Shane Long and Leroy Lita leading the line in the standard 4-4-2.

Reading got off to an excellent start, dominating proceedings and Steve Sidwell gave a hint of things to come as he headed over from Stephen Hunt's corner early on, however he wasn't to be repressed for long as another near post corner saw Sidwell's run completely untracked and the flame-haired midfielder flicked home on the quarter hour.

Glen Little then proceeded to have a half of football that, even by his own standards, was simply a joy to watch, continually making Gareth Barry look a bit silly, on one occasions beating his man with a delightful looking nutmeg before sending over a typical Glen Little cross that Leroy Lita could only direct powerfully at Thomas Sorensen. Villa, in contrast, offered precious little going in the first half, and the Royals were good value for their lead.

The second half saw Villa improve somewhat and threaten on more than one occasion, Ashley Young in particular seeing an effort deflect wildly, completely wrongfooting Marcus Hahnemann, the ball spinning onto the post. The rebound fell to Gabriel Agbonlahor whose effort was well saved, but Reading still created the more numerous chances on the break.

Leroy Lita, in the form of his career, miscontrolled on the edge of the area, Steve Sidwell again had an effort from an angle saved by Sorensen, but the game was put to bed in the 90th minute. Sidwell picked up the ball 30 yards from goal and chose to drive at the heart of the Villa defence. A lovely one-two with substitute Dave Kitson saw Sidwell through on goal and a lovely first time sidefoot around Sorenson won the match.

The match summed up Reading at the time, playing with an air of confidence befitting of a side that was destined to finish in the top half of the Premier League. The season remains by far the best and most memorable season the club has ever had, 11 home wins providing a solid base from which to mount a European charge, while Villa finished a comfortable 11th.

They Played For Both Teams

I used to like to refer to him as Ecuador's Pele. A player who only made 25 appearances for Reading but who was a popular player nonetheless, I think I am right in saying Ulises de la Cruz was the first South American to don the blue and white hoops.

A free transfer from Villa, the Ecuadorian started his career with Deportivo Quito in his native country, followed by spells at Barcelona SC (of Ecuadorean variety!) and LDU Quito after a successful loan spell, while he also spent time on loan at Aucas and Cruzeiro, as well as a second temporary spell at Barcelona SC.

Alex McLeish it was who brought the South American to the UK as, when manager of Edinburgh club, Hibernian, he witnessed the player in an international match and impressed the Scotsman enough to part with £700k to sign him in 2001. De la Cruz only stayed at Hibs for a single season, scoring twice against cross-city rivals Hearts, before his performances in the 2002 World Cup were enough to convince Villans manager Graham Taylor to part of £1.5 million. In his four years at Villa de la Cruz made 99 appearances, scoring two goals.

Steve Coppell signed "Della" in August 2006 as cover for Graeme Murty, and in his two and a half years with Reading he would play 25 times. His only goal for the club was , of course, the memorable solo effort against Sheffield United where, playing at left back in the place of the injured Nicky Shorey, he ran from deep in his own half, exchanged passes with James Harper and ended up slotting a one-on-one with aplomb over Paddy Kenny from the inside right channel. The goal was overshadowed somewhat by the infamy of the Keith Gillespie sending off and the touchline fracas that followed, but the moment was one of the more memorable goals scored that season.

Sadly, the second season would not be so successful as we all know, and Della only played a handful of times before being released in January 2009. He ended up training with Birmingham City and was offered a one month deal in March 2009, however after just one substitute appearance the player decided against accepting the offer of a new contract and headed off back to Ecuador and a third spell with LDU Quito where he would see out his playing days.

Since retirement in 2013, de la Cruz has devoted his time to both his charity (supporters  will recall he donated a proportion of his wages as a player to his charity projects), and he is now a member of the Ecuadorean National Assembly which is the equivalent of becoming an MP in the UK, serving the Ecuadorena public alongside former national teammates Agustin Delgado and Ivan Hurtado.

Grudge Moment

March 2013, and the final nail in the coffin of Brian McDermott. Villa, a progressively poorer side year on year and in deep relegation trouble, visit and despite gifting Reading a goal, walk away with three points thanks to goals from Christian Benteke and Gabriel Agbonlahor before half time. The situation Reading were in shouldn't have mattered to TSI but as we know they had frittered away the PL money before it had even arrived, and a desperate attempt to retain Premier League status was pitiful. McDermott had done more than enough in my opinion in his 3 years at the club to deserve a second crack of the whip, but Villa put the nail in that coffin with a fortunate win in many ways, embarrassing in others for Reading, and I'm not sure I can forgive them for that, harsh as it sounds.

Fact, Interesting or Otherwise

FA Cup winners on seven occasions, it is perhaps befitting that Villa Park has a distinguished history in the neutral side of the game, with it being the most used venue for FA Cup semi finals. Of course, the likelihood of a stadium other than Wembley being used any time soon is remote, and it is somewhat diminishing to the status of an FA Cup appearance under the arch that it firstly comes as a semi final rather than the ultimate of a final.

Personally I am all for club grounds around the country being used for semi finals and Villa Park should be on the list of around eight that could easily be called upon to stage such a match.