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Underdog Gets Premier League Nod

Posted March. 29, 2006 08:01,   


Reading is a small city of 144,000 64 kilometers west of London. It is also the home of the British Premier League’s newest soccer club.

Reading FC, the city’s second-division team tied Leicester City FC, 1-1 in on March 26 to earn a coveted promotion to Britain’s elite Premier League. With six games to go until the end of the season, the Reading club has 27 wins, 11 draws, and 2 losses (92 win points) and is leading the league’s third place Watford FC by 20 points. The tie effectively secures Reading at least second place in the league, granting it an automatic promotion to the Premier League next season.

It is the first Premier League berth for Reading in its 135 years. Reading is now the second oldest team in the Premier League next to Aston Villa, which was founded in 1874.

Reading was turned upside down at the news. Downtown pubs and streets were filled with people singing and getting drunk in celebration. A local, Lee Heron, expressed his jubilation, saying, “It’s a night that will go down in history for this city. We are ecstatic.”

Since its first entry to FA Cup in 1878, Reading remained in lower division leagues. The team hoped in and out of division four and three until the 1980s. Their best track record to date includes the division three championship in 1926, and the division three runner-up stature earned in 1949 and 1952.

The team went through a big change in 1990 when a newspaper publisher John Madejski purchased the debt-ridden football club. Madejski invested around 40 million pounds and built a new stadium of 25,000 seating. Reading brought in Steve Coppell (50) as the new manager. Coppell, a former star winger for Manchester United and the national team, led the team promotion making up with superb teamwork for what it lacked in star power. Division two clubs usually owes their promotion to star players, but Reading is largely comprised of promising players discovered in lower division leagues.

“Are we really going to the Premier League? It’s like a dream. The players gave their sweat and effort to make the dream come true,” exclaimed Coppell. The team captain Graham Murty said, “Coppell told us not to feel pressured. We did that and got to the Premier.”

March 26, 2006 is engraved in the history of Reading. The now-historic program prints of that day’s game are rising in value on Internet auctions.

Jae-Yun Jung jaeyuna@donga.com