To finish off what has been a turbulent 150th anniversary year, some former Royals return to the Select Car Leasing Stadium to take part in a special legends’ match.
Steve Coppell and Brian McDermott will be leading many squad members of their promotion-winning squads into battle, as the 2005/06 and 2011/12 sides look to come out on top in what looks set to be an entertaining affair.
Who still has the quality they possessed all those years ago? How will Graeme Murty and Glen Little combine after many years apart? Will Jimmy Kebe ruin a left-back one last time in Berkshire? It will be fascinating to see.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of tomorrow afternoon’s clash.
What? Legends: Coppell vs McDermott
Who? Reading 2005/06 vs Reading 2011/12
Where? Select Car Leasing Stadium
When? Saturday 21st May 2022
Managers? Steve Coppell and Brian McDermott
Without a doubt, this is the best ever side to grace the Championship and that season symbolised everything that Reading Football Club should be about.
We may have broken our transfer record for Leroy Lita - but he was worth that £1m fee and in the end - he played a big part in guiding the Royals to 106 points. The signings of Kevin Doyle, Shane Long and Stephen Hunt were also exceptional, with the former making a particularly good impact that term as one of the Berkshire side’s top goalscorers.
There’s always the chance we could become Champions League winners in the future - but will there ever be another campaign as enjoyable as 2005/06 with how dominant we were? That remains to be seen - but it will be very tough to beat.
On paper, this side weren’t exactly favourites for promotion, even after competing in the play-off final during the previous season.
However, the togetherness and team spirit were on a different level and the players were clearly comfortable playing a certain way under McDermott. Quite frankly, we weren’t a team that was built for Brendan Rodgers’ style of play and to this day, I believe high tempo, ‘in-your-face’ football is ingrained in our DNA.
Fair play to Jaap Stam for successfully implementing a brand of football I never thought would work at the SCL - but it does feel as though the supporters would rather play a bit more direct at times and this is perhaps why McDermott was so successful during his first spell.
Ones to Watch
2005/06: Glen Little
Some of the 2005/06 squad are likely to be quite a bit older than 2011/12 and with this, you feel set-pieces crosses may be crucial to the former side’s cause. Technically, Little was an exceptional asset to have and if he has retained that magic touch, he could make a real difference. And defensively, he may also be crucial in helping Murty who will have his hands full with Jobi McAnuff. That’s if he starts out wide though.
2011/12: Jobi McAnuff
With McAnuff only retiring last year, you feel he still has a lot to offer and although you could argue that Hal Robson-Kanu fits into that category too (though he hasn’t retired yet), the 40-year-old will probably start over the Welshman. The 2011/12 side often made a fast start to games during that campaign and this is where the Sky Sports pundit can come in from the start and make a difference from the off.
- We still have the record of 106 points. That’s the most important stat.
- Between our two defeats that season, we went on a 33-game unbeaten run. Astonishing.
- We also conceded just 32 goals in 46 league games. Fulham 2021/22 squad conceded 43.
- We went unbeaten in 17 out of 18 league matches during a successful January-April 2012 period, winning 15. That’s 47 points won from a possible 54.
- We also conceded just 41 league goals during that season. Again, Fulham 2021/22 squad conceded 43. You really think the Cottagers are the best ever side to grace the second tier? Do me a favour.
- In fairness, we only scored 69 league goals during 2011/12, showing how crucial our defence was. However, we still looked like a threat going forward on a consistent basis under McDermott (during his first spell anyway).
Coppell XI: Hahnemann, Golbourne, Sonko, Ingimarsson, Murty, Convey, Gunnarsson, Little, S.Hunt, Lita, Doyle
McDermott XI: Stack, Griffin, Pearce, Gorkss, Cummings, McAnuff, Karacan, Leigertwood, Kebe, N.Hunt (yet to be confirmed but is surely involved?), Roberts
As the younger side, you would probably back McDermott’s side to come out on top but the scoreline may not be as emphatic as many people think. I just get the feeling Ibrahima Sonko and Ivar Ingimarsson will be a solid pairing once more, providing Jason Roberts with a difficult task in his quest to get on the scoresheet again.
In the end though, you’d fancy the likes of McAnuff and Jimmy Kebe to make a real difference. That’s why I’m going with a 2-1 win for McDermott’s team. McAnuff and Roberts to score for the winners, Lita to grab an equaliser for Coppell’s men before their hearts are broken.
Score Prediction: Coppell XI 1-2 McDermott XI