Coppell backs Hunt claim of hounding from referees

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The Independent Football

The Reading midfielder Stephen Hunt believes he is being picked on by referees. Hunt was booked in Reading's 1-1 draw with West Ham on Boxing Day after an altercation with their goalkeeper Robert Green but insists he was the innocent party. The Republic of Ireland international has the support of the Reading manager, Steve Coppell, who fears Hunt is being judged on reputation.

"I have to speak up for Stephen Hunt. As far as I was concerned, he was totally innocent when he was booked," said Coppell. "He didn't do anything but chase a ball down. My fellow has done nothing wrong and was booked on pasthistory. The referee back-tracked at half-time. He told one of my staff it was to get him out of the way and when he didn't retreat he was booked

"The fourth official said it was dissent if anyone can understand Stephen Hunt in those circumstances they're doing an awful lot better than I can."

Hunt is a tenacious, hard-working midfielder but does not have a poor disciplinary record, the Boxing Day booking being only his third this season. He felt hard done by at Upton Park. Green collided with the retreating Scott Parker but appeared to exchange words with Hunt, and the pair then engaged in a shoving match.

"It was an over-reaction from the goalkeeper. It was harsh on me, and I'm a bit fed up with it," said Hunt. "It was nothing to do with me. Maybe the referee booked me for complaining, but you can't blame me. The way the goalkeeper reacted was not right really. I think when I get into certain situations the decision goes against me.

"There's nothing you can do I'm a committed player. I'm making a run forward, and there's little if any contact with Parker. It was the goalkeeper's fault."

Elsewhere on Boxing Day, Ledley King made his long-awaited return for Spurs from injury, and promptly set his sights on doing the same for England.

"It is an exciting time, and I am no different to any player I want to impress the new England manager," the defender said. "I want to stay healthy and once I have got a number of games under my belt then I can start to think about that."