Two weeks ago, Leicester City played Real Madrid in a pre-season friendly at the newly named King Power Stadium. It was the brainchild of the club's Thai owners and was reported to have cost £1 million-plus to lure the "Special One" and his superstar troops. Apparently, a good time was had by all.
Yet if Vichai Raksriaksorn, the Leicester chairman, and "Top" Raksriaksorn, his son and vice-chairman, expect every home matchday to be brimming with untold excitement and celebrity status, with a touch of hero worship thrown in for good measure, they must think again. A fortnight on, all illusions have been crushed.
This is the Championship's harsh reality. Reading might not have the glamour of Real but there is a place in the second tier for organisation and hard graft, and they deserved their win against Sven-Goran Eriksson's disjointed toilers.
"It was very poor, especially in the first half," Eriksson conceded. "We didn't keep the ball, we had no flair, we played a lot of long, flat passes and lost the ball very easily. It was very frustrating. We were a bit better in the second half but, overall, it was just not good enough. With this squad, we should be doing better. And we conceded two goals from set-pieces, which was not acceptable."
In the first half, Leicester performed like 11 strangers suddenly thrust together, which essentially they have been over the summer. The £10m revamp of the squad has yet to knit fully, despite opening wins in the Championship and Carling Cup, and it was all Matt Mills – the new Leicester and former Reading captain – could do to nullify the bullocking runs of Mathieu Manset.
Having once offered the one-fingered salute to Reading fans, Mills had to contend with constant barracking from them when in possession. Not that the home fans were particularly happy either, a misdirected cross-shot from David Nugent the sum total of Leicester's opening efforts. Reading were comfortable, counter-attacking mostly through Manset.
After the half-time break, Leicester improved with Nugent striking Adam Federici's far post with a clever toe-poke and Andy King produced a fine save from Federici. Neil Danns went close, too.
However, last season's beaten play-off finalists are a resilient bunch. Leicester's defence is threequarters brand new and it showed in the 64th minute. Ian Harte slung over a corner from the left and Noel Hunt, without a marker in sight, glanced a firm header in. "What a great time to score," Brian McDermott, the Reading manager, observed. "There's a lot of expectation here, I can smell it, so for us to come here and get a win as well as a clean sheet is excellent."
When Jimmy Kébé almost doubled the lead soon after, Kasper Schmeichel, the Leicester goalkeeper, went berserk at his team-mates. To no avail, though. Hal Robson-Kanu drove in Kébé's set-up via Schmeichel's crossbar in the final minute and Leicester left the pitch to a chorus of booing. The reality check was complete.
Leicester City (4-5-1): Schmeichel; Bamba, Mills, Pantsil, Konchesky; Danns (Gallagher, 74), Fernandes, Abe (King, 46), Wellens, Schlupp (Waghorn, 61); Nugent.
Reading (4-4-2): Federici; Griffin, Khumalo, Pearce, Harte; Kebe, Karacan, Leigertwood, McAnuff; Hunt, Manset (Robson-Kanu, 72).
Referee Keith Stroud.
Man of the match Manset (Reading).
Match rating 6/10.Reuse content