Hamann set for debut as Pearce tests Reading knowledge

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The Independent Football

Dietmar Hamann is set to make his debut for Manchester City at Reading tonight as Stuart Pearce's side attempt to cement their place in the top half of the Premiership table.

The veteran midfielder was a summer signing from Liverpool and City are likely to decide that Ousmane Dabo must make way if the German joins the starting line-up.

Pearce, the City manager, will pay special attention at the Madejski Stadium to Reading's midfielder Steve Sidwell. The 23-year-old was a City target in the summer, but his club refused to let him leave.

So certain did it appear that Sidwell would sign for City that the player spoke openly about how much it would mean for him to join the Blues.

Instead, the proposed transfer ground to a halt, with Reading refusing to bargain for the player, even though he is in the final year of his contract.

Pearce now finds himself attempting to halt the progress of a player who could yet find his way to Eastlands at some point, although it will be after Sidwell has helped Reading try to survive their first Premiership campaign.

"I did bid for Steve," Pearce said. "I think it says a lot about how highly Reading regard him that even though he is in the last year of his contract, they continued to say, 'No, no, no'.

"I did my homework on him and felt he would be a real asset. But, as with any negotiations, you enter them with your fingers crossed, hoping everything goes right."

Unfortunately for Pearce on this occasion they did not, although in bringing in eight new players the former England captain did not waste too much time reflecting on what might have been.

While Reading largely remain an unknown quantity in the Premiership, Pearce probably knows more about them than any of City's top-flight rivals.

As the closest club to his Wiltshire home, Pearce has been a regular visitor down the years. "They laid the foundations of a Premiership club before they became one," he said.

"They are my local side and I have watched them extensively, so I know their strengths and weaknesses, which I hope will help my team get a result against them."