Coppell expecting another tough test at Newcastle

December 5, 2006

Reading manager Steve Coppell sees tomorrow's Premiership trip to Newcastle simply as the latest in a long line of stern tests for his players.

So far, the Royals have surpassed all expectations in their first season in the top flight, and will go up to third place if they pick up a point or more at St James' Park.

Victory for the visitors would also ensure the Magpies remain third from bottom.

Newcastle manager Glenn Roeder has had to cope with speculation about his future all season and knows it will continue as long as his team are in the drop zone.

The unavailability of experienced players because of injury, including England striker Michael Owen, has been Roeder's biggest problem.

But Coppell is aware Newcastle are unbeaten in their last six games, in the Premiership and UEFA Cup, and he has sympathy for Roeder.

'It doesn't matter who is coaching the team - if you haven't got players fit then it is a hell of a difficult job,' said Coppell.

'What their injury status is at the moment I don't know - but I do know they will have quite a few out. But maybe it won't be as many as in recent games.

'Who are we to say that whatever team they are going to put out will not be as strong as it might otherwise have been? We have no right to say that kind of thing.'

Coppell is wary of the fact Reading still have some way to go to truly consolidate their Premiership place.

'We have proven nothing yet, and this is a brand new occasion for us,' he said.

'I watched their game with Portsmouth, and the adage is that you are only as good as your last game in football.

'So after that one and the latest European result, maybe their ills are behind them and they are on the front foot now.'

Newcastle will have one advantage in that they did not have to play over the weekend - when Reading beat Bolton 1-0 at the Madejski Stadium to remain level on points with Arsenal and Liverpool.

The Royals are at Watford on Saturday, but Coppell is confident his players will be able to cope with the demands of three matches in a week.

He said: 'We would have liked this to be a Saturday game, but we have no complaints.

'It is a programme we are used to from the (Coca-Cola) Championship, where you play many more games.

'We had phases last year when it was always Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday, so I hope it is a routine we have not got out of.'

Winger Glen Little is fit again after missing the Bolton game with a hamstring problem but is likely to begin on the bench following a fine performance by his deputy John Oster on Saturday.