Leicester City 1 Reading 1: Doyle puts Reading in the promised land

Coppell can smile at last as runaway leaders reward faith of euphoric chairman
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The Independent Online

Now, he can believe it. He can even cast a proud eye at the League table, something Steve Coppell has insisted that he had refused to do all season. There was even a broad smile across the Scouser's normally impenetrable features as it was confirmed that he is back amongst the élite, and Reading are there for the first time in their 135-year history.

To reach that goal before Easter, having lost just two League games all season and with 82 goals scored, is a remarkable achievement. The title can wait, probably until next week, at home to Derby.

So elated was the Reading manager after learning that the afternoon's scores had resulted in confirmation of promotion - as it transpired, it wouldn't have mattered had they lost - that as he joined his celebrating players he leapt over an advertising hoarding and hurled his coat into the visiting supporters.

"I can't put it into words how I feel, but I'd like to put it into a can and open it later," said Coppell, who returns to the Premiership he departed when he quit as manager of Manchester City. "It's brilliant. A great moment. A tremendous achievement. We were at Wigan last season when they were promoted, and it kickstarted something within us."

From well before the start, a sense of euphoria pervaded the visitors' section of the stadium. Premature? Perhaps, but the Reading chairman was not inclined to deflate it as he posed for photographs on the running track, holding a club scarf aloft, as the 3,000 travelling supporters acclaimed him. You just wonder what they see in the multi-millionaire John Madejski...

Actually, that is unfair, because his investment of £40 million (including the outlay on the Madejski Stadium), during his 16 years with the club has not been spectacularly extravagant. That point was enforced by the fact that it was the Ireland international Kevin Doyle, acquired for £78,000 from Cork City in the summer, who scored a belated equaliser to negate Iain Hume's first-half goal for City.

"My ambition since I first arrived was to get Reading into the top echelon of English football," said Madejski. "It doesn't get much better than this. I'm very proud of my team, particularly because we've done it in double-quick time. There'll be one hell of a hoolie at our final game on 30 April."

Earlier, Coppell had emphasised that Reading's chances in the top flight "were down to the level of the chairman's ambition". Madejski confirmed he had started planning a transfer budget. He also hoped Coppell would agree a new contract in the next few weeks. "I've always liked Steve. He's very school-masterly, cerebral, with his feet on the ground. Not a hot-head."

Coppell looked as though the occasion was getting to him yesterday, though, on one of those "what's happening elsewhere?" days. But with Watford losing and Leeds held to a draw, Reading's elevation to the Premiership was assured.

It scarcely matters now that they didn't actually perform that well. Reading may be runaway leaders but the form team in the Championship are Leicester, who under the caretaker manager Rob Kelly have undergone a renaissance since the former City player succeeded Craig Levein at the end of January.

Eight minutes before the break, an incisive move brought a deserved reward. Matt Fryatt released his fellow striker Hume, who eluded Ibrahima Sonko before beating Marcus Hahnemann from the edge of the area. It could have been worse for Reading when a Joey Gudjonsson free-kick hit the far post.

The second half belonged to Reading, although it was not until five minutes from time that Doyle headed home after Ivar Ingimarsson had flicked on James Harper's corner.

Coppell confessed recently that he would have been prepared for the sack if promotion had not been forthcoming in his third season at the club. Madejski shook his head. "Steve's an honourable man... he probably would have walked." Instead Coppell and his men can prepare for a giant leap into the unknown.

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