Brian McDermott is fully aware of the challenge that awaits his side at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Royals face a Stoke City side who have lost just one home game in the Barclays Premier League this season – a defeat to European Champions Chelsea in January.
“Every time you go there you know the fans are very, very vocal. They’ve become an established club in the Premier League and it’s something that we would aspire to,” said Brian.
“They also play some really good football at times, they’ve got good players there. But then they mix it up too. In football you have to mix it up and do what you have to do. Tony has been doing it at this level now for a long, long time and he’s been very successful. He’s got a decent amount of points again this season, he knows what he’s doing.”
The manager was also asked about the rapid ascent of Hope Akpan, who has slotted easily into the top flight after joining from Crawley Town. Brian told his pre-match press conference that a fantastic attitude had greatly helped the midfielder’s rise to prominence, something which is by no means unique within the Reading squad.
“Hope has a real refreshing personality, he’s always smiling and he wants to learn. When I first met him he asked lots of questions on how he could improve and that is the perfect person to come in. We don’t sign players that think they’ve made it already, look at Ian Harte .
“He’s made it ten times over but every day he tries to get better. He’s had a wonderful career and you’d never know it. If you try and have a conversation with him about his career and what he’s done, he doesn’t want to talk about it. He’s played in the semi-finals of the Champions League, it’s an incredible career he’s had, and that’s what we’ve got around here. A lot of humility which is what I really like.”