It’s the start of another Emirates FA Cup adventure this weekend. So here are a few tasty morsels of information to get you in the mood for Saturday’s cup tie…
We are exactly half way through our league campaign and we’re doing alright. But a smaller squad has crammed all those fixtures into a schedule that started a month later than normal and had six weeks stolen by international breaks.
So football fans across the country might expect their teams to rest and rotate for the upcoming Third Round ties in the Emirates FA Cup. It is not unusual - this first FA Cup hurdle has long been a chance for Royals managers to inject new blood into their first team.
Here are a few Third Round debuts that have been made by Royals in recent years…
Back in 2007, Steve Coppell’s men were flying high in the Premier League. So when an FA Cup clash with Burnley was thrown into the fixture schedule. Sir Steve decided to hand a debut to Alex Pearce.
The centre-half came off the bench to replace Ivar Ingimarsson and marked Clarets striker Ade Akinbiyi – a baptism of fire for the young defender. But the Royals won 3-2 to progress and Pearce went on to be a promotion-winner, a Premier League player and a Player of the Season for our football club.
In 2012, Brian McDermott was guiding the side to a title win, so when a Third Round encounter with Stevenage was dealt out, he handed young Academy midfielder Lawson D’Ath a professional debut as a late substitute for Shaun Cummings.
The Royals were knocked out at the Madejski that afternoon, but D’Ath used that springboard to go on to make more than 200 appearances in his career. He is currently 28 years of age and plying his trade with Yeovil Town.
Last season, Mark Bowen started with Andre Burley at the back against Blackpool. The young Academy graduate defender was only 20 years of age, but he was also joined by fellow Academy defender Ramarni Medford-Smith who came off the bench in the 2-2 draw.
It needed a replay, but the Royals went on to progress to the Fifth Round that season, losing out to Premier League high-flyers Sheffield United in what was the last Madejski match in front of an unrestricted capacity crowd before the pandemic hit.
It is not only our Academy graduates who have grasped the opportunity to make their Royals debuts in the Third Round of this great competition. In 2005, Les Ferdinand was 37 when he made his Reading bow in a 1-1 draw with Swansea City.
4 goals for Yakou
Our last trip to Luton saw one man shine brighter than others.
Yakou Meite scored four goals in an away encounter with the Hatters during the summer’s final nine games of the 2019-20 season to set up a fine 5-0 victory over Luton.
George Puscas was on target with the fifth, but the victory was all about Yakou – running onto a ball from the Romania, Yakou drilled the first past Sluga before adding a second from a spilled Gabe Osho cross a moment later.
Ovie Ejaria provided the ball for Meite to complete his hat-trick before half-time and he scored a fourth and Reading’s fifth just after the hour mark.
He won’t be able to perform the same heroics this weekend due to injury, but Yakou will be right behind the Royals in spirit.
The two teams have already met three times in just over six months and this will be our third match against Luton this season…with one more still to play!
Town visited Madejski Stadium in mid-September to knock us out of the Carabao Cup – Veljko Paunovic’s first defeat as Royals boss – courtesy of a 24th minute winner from Jordan Clark.
The Hatters were back in RG2 on Boxing Day and Reading got their revenge, winning 2-1 thanks to a Tom McIntyre volley and an assured finish from Alfa Semedo. Kazenga LuaLua pulled one back in injury time, but the points stayed in Berkshire.
A tale of 2 Serbs…
When Pauno is asked who inspired him and taught him what he knows about football and coaching today, he references a number of different influences that have shaped his career to date.
One of which, is the late ex-Luton defender and Serbian-born former Barcelona and Atlético Madrid boss, Radomir Antić.
In 1980, Antić moved on to Second Division side Luton Town and helped the Hatters win the Second Division title in 1982.
He spent two seasons in the top tier with Luton, notable scoring a winning goal four minutes from time in their final league match of the season, away against Manchester City, to save David Pleat’s side from relegation.
The Royals and the Hatters have only met once before in the competition, winning 2-1 at home in a tie played way back in December 1963.
However, the Royals will be looking to repeat a happier cup encounter with the Hatters that took place at Wembley in 1988.
The two teams met in the final of the Simod Cup nearly 33 years ago and Reading were victorious thanks to goals from Michael Gilkes, Stuart Beavon, Mick Tait and Neil Smillie.
It was a 4-1 win that would go down in Royals history.