Coppell puts club's case for limelight

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The Independent Football

Reading's growing success was reflected when 14 of their players were on international duty last week but Steve Coppell, the manager, thinks that more of his team should be winning recognition for their countries. Considering England's problems on the left, he was particularly surprised that Nicky Shorey, his left-back, was not in the squad to face Spain last Wednesday.

Coppell said: "When I look at what happened in midweek, I thought, 'Well, surely Nicky Shorey deserved a call-up just to get a taste of it, just so they can see him training, even if he then doesn't play'."

Coppell believes that his 25-year-old left-back is still developing as a player and credits him with having given his side belief for the task ahead when he inspired a comeback to defeat Middlesbrough 3-2 in the first game of the season.

"When we were 2-0 down it was a run from him that gave everyone confidence and changed the face of the game," said the Reading manager. "He had a 40-yard run down the left-half inside-left channel and everyone thought, 'Well, we can do it'. He was the catalyst for our comeback that day, without doubt."

Reading have climbed to sixth in the Premiership table and have won seven and drawn one of their eight matches since the turn of the year. However, Coppell believes that the club's inexperience in the top flight may be counting against his players in terms of international recognition.

"Their performances have got to be repeated," he said. "Because we are new nobody knows of our longevity. Nobody knows whether we're capable of sustaining our run. All the players can do is to sustain that run of form and keep knocking on the door.

"Don't get me wrong, I don't want any of my players to be away for a week at a time. All managers are like that. I'm like a jealous lover with them. I don't want anyone else to see them.

"I want them all to be the best-kept secrets in football. But I fully realise that football doesn't work that way and, for their own individual ambitions, international football has got to be an option for them."

Coppell said that Reading had 14 players, including juniors, on international duty last week. "It was a fair commitment from this club," he said.

The physical demands on those players were reflected in the journey that Stephen Hunt had to make after playing for the Republic of Ireland away to San Marino.

Hunt, who went on to play for Reading against Aston Villa in Saturday's lunch-time Premiership kick-off, got back to Dublin from Rimini at 3.30am on Thursday, caught an early flight to Heathrow and reported for training with Reading at 9.30am.

"That's why it's very important for the players to look after themselves," Coppell said. "The more games, the more chances of injuries and fatigue."

Reading brought in several new players in the transfer window last month but most have not yet been given a first-team chance. The starting line-up on Saturday featured 10 players who were at the club last season plus Andre Bikey, who joined on a season-long loan last year.

"We didn't buy them for the next 12 to 14 games," Coppell said. "We bought them for the next three to four years. That was our reasoning. The players who are in control of their positions at the moment are doing so well that I am certainly not going to start rotating," he added.

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