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The Oppo: Derby County

After the disappointment of the visit to Griffin Park, the Royals welcome some familiar faces back to the Madejski Stadium as Derby County visit looking for their third win in a row in RG2.

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Head To Head

It goes some way to correlate the rise in stature of Reading Football Club in the last 15 years that clubs with whom we had relatively little league history are now regular and expected opponents on the equal footing of the league, and Saturday’s opponents are the fourth this season that we have no history of league fixtures with before the 1980’s. Derby County are a sizeable club in historic terms, however Reading now count them as equals, despite the lack of historic trophy success that Derby experienced in the 70’s.

And indeed, Reading have proven to be a constant thorn in the Derby side over the last three decades as the head-to-head testifies, with Reading winning well over half of the fixtures between the clubs. In fact the comparison between the record at the Madejski and Pride Park is remarkable in that it is identical – won 7, drawn 2, lost 3, so 14 of 24 matches have seen the Royals victorious since 2002/03 which was the first season the sides challenged in the same division since their respective relocations, and in the 12 years prior to the relocation of course the Royals took on Derby five times at Elm Park, winning four and drawing one. How Derby must wish they were playing us at the Baseball Ground!!

Mind you, Derby are currently on a run of four unbeaten at the Madejski, winning on their last two visits 3-0 and 1-0, and there’s no doubt the likes of Matej Vydra, Alex Pearce and Nick Blackman will be looking to continue that run and get one over on their former club.

Played

RFC Wins

Draws

DCFC Wins

RFC Goals Scored

DCFC Goals Scored

Baseball Ground


5

1

1

3

4

12

Pride Park


12

7

2

3

23

14

Derby Overall


17


8


3


6


27


26


Elm Park


5


4


1


0


7


2


Madejski Stadium


12


7


2


3


22


11


Reading Overall


17


11


3


3


29


13


OVERALL


34


19


6


9


56


39


Memorable Match

August 1995. Reading still in the Endsleigh League Division 1 after heartbreak at Wembley in May. Derby County, big spenders over a number of seasons, perennially underperforming, heralded a new era with Jim Smith in the dugout who had replaced Roy McFarland in the summer. Both teams commenced the season with draws, Reading gaining a creditable point at the Victoria Ground, Stoke, while Derby’s goalless draw with Port Vale at the Baseball Ground was considered underwhelming, and Reading would continue that trend on this warm summer afternoon.

The first half was very much a non-event with the exception of one moment of quality as the Royals 4-3-3 formation struggled to find any fluency against the Rams 4-4-2. The Royals went into the half time break in the ascendancy thanks to a close range header from Stuart Lovell, a throw in from right back Tom Jones was eventually worked to Lee Nogan all alone down the right wing who produced a wonderful cross to the back post where Archie was steaming in to plant a bullet header past Steve Sutton.

In contrast to the first half, the second half sprung into life around the hour mark as Reading won a free kick on the right which Jones delightfully curled right onto the head of new signing Trevor Morley. Morley showed an imperious aerial ability throughout his three years at Elm Park and this was the first glimpse of such a talent, the header powerfully flying past Sutton’s outstretched hand into the right corner.

The goal prompted changes from Jim Smith who brought on strikers David Preece and Dean Sturridge in an effort to salvage something from the game, and it nearly paid off as within minutes of coming on Sturridge had volleyed home on the stretch after a Harkes long throw had been flicked on at the near post, and just minutes later the usually reliable Dariusz Wdowczyk miscontrolled under pressure and left space in behind, with Keith McPherson horribly positioned fully 5 yards further back any sensible run would have seen an easy through ball and the player onside. Exactly that happened, the situation ruthlessly exposed by David Preece.

From that moment on there looked to be just one winner as Derby took hold of the initiative, piling on the pressure but the Reading rearguard steadied themselves and withstood the onslaught. And in the 93rd minute with the Royals digging deep, they forced a decisive breakthrough as the Duracell bunny in the middle of the park, Mick Gooding, pounced on a loose ball and took on two Derby defenders on his way to the byeline before passing across the face of the six yard area. Lee Nogan gobbled up the simple tap in with glee, and the opportunity for limbs to fly all over the place on the South Bank was taken with wanton abandon.

After the emotion of Wembley, the optimism of the new season hit overdrive. Sadly, as the season wore on it became obvious that a second season pushing for promotion wasn’t going to materialise and Reading stuttered to a 19th place finish, while Derby finished second. Unlike the previous season, second was enough to gain promotion.

They Played For Both Teams

Ask any supporter of Reading FC to name the 106 squad and they would undoubtedly be able to recall the names without hesitation. One player who doesn’t quite get the recognition he deserves considering his more than competent contribution to that season is one that Steve Coppell suggested, with a bit more luck, would have probably seen out the season in the first team after stepping in for Nicky Shorey who was injured in the second half of the 2-1 win over Burnley. I am, of course, referring to Chris Makin who made a total of 19 appearances in all competitions that season.

Makin was born in rugby league country, St Helens being his home town and he commenced his career straight from school, signing for Joe Royle’s Oldham Athletic in 1991. Oldham, of course, were in the Premier League at the time and Makin earned himself some vital experience on loan at Springfield Park, Wigan in 92/93 where he played 15 times, scoring twice. The experience proved vital and Wigan expressed more than a wish to sign the player, but Oldham failed to entertain the proposal and Royle gave Makin his Oldham debut in October 93 against Arsenal. Makin would feature another 113 times for the Latics over the next three years before a free transfer to French giants Marseille proved too good to turn down.

The Mediterranean coast proved a fruitless venture for Makin though, the Lancastrian failing to make a single appearance in France before Peter Reid’s Sunderland came knocking on the door with £500k for the Marseille coffers, and Makin was straight into the side that became embroiled in a three-way fight for promotion with Middlesbrough and Forest. Sunderland lost the fight, and then the playoff final to Charlton. Makin was a regular in the side that secured promotion a year later with a record 105 points (is that all?), and then gained 57 Premier League appearances between 1999 and 2001 before a £1.4m transfer to George Burley’s Tractor Boys in March 2001 after a total of 146 appearances for Sunderland.

Life in Suffolk wasn’t as lucrative as life in Wearside, although Ipswich did finish fifth in the season of his transfer and qualifying for the UEFA Cup, but despite playing alongside the unquestionable talents of the likes of Finidi George relegation the next season was a disappointment. Division 1 football the next season was tempered slightly by the return of UEFA Cup football again courtesy of the UEFA Fair Play league, but after a poor start in the league George Burley was sacked in October 2002 to be replaced by Makin’s former manager at Oldham, Joe Royle. Eventually a 7th placed finish, just shy of the playoffs, represented another disappointing return and the next season Makin played just five times in 2003/04. He was released at the end of the season.

Relegated Leicester City offered Makin a one year contract but after just 21 performances in a hugely disappointing season for Micky Adams’s Foxes Makin agreed to a loan spell just up the M1 in Derby where he would make 13 appearances and feature in his second playoff campaign, again ultimately unsuccessful as Derby lost out to Preston North End. Makin was released come season’s end, which is where Steve Coppell enters the equation.

Makin was considered a fairly routine signing for Reading, putting pen to paper on a one year contract and making 19 appearances, but due to the solidity particularly from October onwards of the Royal’s defence Makin was a squad player, mainly featuring in cup matches after his run of games. Come season’s end Makin was a record breaker again, 106 points eclipsing the 105 achieved earlier in his career at the Stadium of Light. Coppell though, ever fair to his players, allowed Makin to leave on a free transfer to Southampton despite the player signing a contract extension just a couple of weeks before, Saints offering two years and guaranteed first team football and Makin achieved a third playoffs in his career in 2007, regrettably losing once again on penalties to Derby, and the next season a hip injury put paid to his career. 454 appearances, just eight goals, but Makin was a hugely influential player wherever he went.

Grudge Moment

Reading fans have long memories, and will happily remind supporters of other clubs of their own folly from times past. We are, of course, susceptible to our own folly as pitch invasions against Burnley testify, but when it is the first day of the season and you proclaim your side Champions during a 3-0 win against a newly promoted side with players you have no chance of being able to afford for anywhere near the whole season, it makes you look rather silly. And when that newly promoted side goes on to finish 4th after 46 matches, it makes you look even sillier. And when the "Champions elect" finish 18th, 27 points behind the side you comfortably beat on the opening day, it rather makes you look stupid.

That day also saw the opening programme notes of the Derby matchday publication proclaim with nothing short of outrageous arrogance "...it was the moment when the fixtures came out and the Rams fans saw that the first game was against Reading that the reality of relegation finally dawned". To put it into context, bearing in mind that the Royals and Rams have been battling it out on a level playing field for all but one of the subsequent seasons, since 2002/03 Reading have finished above Derby County in 10 of the last 14 seasons. I hope reality has set in nicely for the author of that editorial.

Fact, Interesting or Otherwise

The Rams – ever wondered why Derby County are so called? The answer is fairly simple. Derby County FC once had close links with the First Regiment of Derby Militia, the ram being their mascot and "The Derby Ram" as their regimental song. They’ve maintained the link through their badge and nickname since then. Nothing quite like maintaining the links to your history eh Reading?