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Former Royals who had a case of the Blues

7 April 2016

Reading players who have represented the Blues

On Saturday, Brian McDermott’s men host Birmingham at Madejski Stadium, and as per usual ahead of the game, we take a look at those select Royals who have also represented the opposition.

There aren’t an abundance of names in this list, and honorary mentions go to Martin Kuhl and Eamonn Dolan, who both represented Birmingham during their playing days.

Below we have chosen five players who have played for both and profiled their careers… 

Ulises De La Cruz

A former international who played 101 times for Ecuador and appeared in two FIFA World Cup squads, De La Cruz began his career when he was 16, starting out playing for Sociedad Depertivo in the Serie A League in Ecuador. He only arrived in the UK at the age of 27, when after several years playing in the Ecuadorian leagues, he signed for Hibernian in 2001. The following year, after making 31(+8) appearances in the SPL, he moved south of the border to join the Blues' local rivals Aston Villa where he enjoyed the best part of three seasons. After falling astray in the pecking order, De La Cruz was signed by Steve Coppell’s Premier League new boys, but not before he’d appeared internationally for Ecuador in the 2006 FIFA World Cup. He may have only played a bit-part role in the clubs initial two-year Premier League experience, but he proved a vastly experienced piece in the Royals’ top flight jigsaw. All in all, De La Cruz made just 12 starts for Reading before signing a one-month contract with Birmingham City in March 2009. He made just the sole appearance for the Blues against Doncaster in the league before retiring from the game in 2012.      

Kevin Dillon

Right-hand man to Steve Coppell during Reading’s record-breaking 2005/06 season, during his playing career Kevin Dillon has played a role for both the Royals and Saturday’s opponents Birmingham. Having begun his career as an apprentice with the Blues, he signed professionally in 1977 and made his first of 186 league appearances for the club against Leicester City. He left St Andrew's in 1983 to become a mainstay with Portsmouth, and upon joining in March he played a part in Pompey’s title run-in to become Division Three Champions. By the end of the 1986/87 season, he was again part of promotion celebrations as Portsmouth made it to Division One, finishing as runners-up to Derby County. Dillon had played 215 league games for Portsmouth and scored 45 goals before leaving Fratton Park in July 1989. He went on to play for Newcastle United for two seasons before joining Reading in the summer of 1991. After 101 league games in Reading colours, Dillon had spells with Stevenage and Yeovil before becoming assistant manager back with the Royals, where in 2005/06 alongside Steve Coppell he achieved record-breaking Championship glory.   

Brian Howard

Beginning his career as a trainee with Southampton, Howard went on to train with Chelsea who subsequently offered him a contract, but he turned it down instead opting to join Division Two’s Swindon Town. In his debut season for the Robins he featured in a play-off semi-final against Brighton, and ended the campaign with 41 appearances and netting four goals. That set the foundation for a further 42 games in red before a lengthy spell with Barnsley that followed. After making 121 league appearances with the Tykes, Sheffield United fielded the midfielder in their ranks before Reading swooped to sign him at the start of the 2009/10 season. Howard slipped straight into the first-team set-up and played 39 games scoring three goals in his inaugural season in Berkshire. A memorable FA Cup goal against West Brom would have been the highlight of 55(+14) appearances for the Royals, and upon expiry of his contract he moved on to Millwall, Portsmouth, Bristol City and then Birmingham, where he made 4(+1) appearances for the Blues during a short stay.    

Stephen Kelly

A Republic of Ireland international since 2006, Kelly began his career playing top flight football for Tottenham in amongst loan spells with Southend, QPR, and Watford. Moving to the West Midlands to join Birmingham in the Championship, after completing his first season for the Blues he made 41 appearances at right-back as promotion to the Premier League followed. In his unveiling season playing top flight football for Birmingham, Kelly was the only outfield player to play every minute of a game for his club – that’s 3,420 minutes of football! After making 82(+6) appearances for the St Andrew’s club, Fulham then signed the defender for their ranks and he went on to play 71 games across the space of three and a half seasons for the Cottagers. Midway through his fourth season at Craven Cottage, Kelly’s signature was acquired by Brian McDermott’s Premier League Royals, and he went on to play a further 16 games in the top flight before the club’s relegation back to the Championship. In total, Kelly had made 45(+7) appearances for our hooped outfit before leaving in the summer of 2015, and a short spell with Rotherham followed where he now plies his trade.   

Hayden Mullins

Born in Reading, Mullins entertained his early career as a trainee with Crystal Palace. He made his first-team debut in 1998, and progressed to become a mainstay within the senior set-up. Having established himself during the 1998/99 season, he featured in the semi-finals of the League Cup in 2001 and was also named captain of the squad in 2002. Having won Player of the Year on two separate occasions, Mullins had made over 250 appearances for Palace before moving to London to join West Ham in 2003. He proved his worth during his time with the Hammers, helping the side reach the play-off finals twice – first in his debut season with victory over his former employees Palace then again the following campaign where back to back promotions had landed them a place in the Premier League. After moving to Portsmouth where he enjoyed a successful three years, Mullins then joined the Royals on a loan deal until the end of the 2011/12 season. A mid-March loan signing, Mullins played seven games in our tittle run-in, after which he decided to join Birmingham for two seasons before spending time with Notts County in League One.

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