Reading 0 Tottenham Hotspur 1: Coppell faces credibility crunch with spent force

Steve Coppell looked like a beaten man who was beating himself up. "We stood still last summer," the Reading manager said. "Everybody else moved. If you look at the champions, Manchester United, they spent £50m. Maybe I would accuse myself that we stood still. I took the calculated risk not to spend much money. If it doesn't work, it's my fault.

"Other teams were spending £20m, £30m, and we certainly didn't have that much. Over the last two years we set the players the goal of winning promotion, which they achieved with a record total of points. We set the goal last year of maintaining their Premier League status, which they did from eighth position.

"Once again, I made the decision that I didn't want to reward two years of success by telling half the team, 'Thanks a lot, but you're finished now'. We have a certain mentality. We never bought promotion. Last year we took advantage of teams who cocked up. We had momentum from the previous year, but you beat the system with money. It's the only way you can beat it. I spoke with Sam Allardyce in the summer and I asked him what's the secret to what he did at Bolton and he said, 'Spend, spend, spend'. Unfortunately, that probably is the secret."

So Reading didn't spend, but what should they have done? And didn't they have the money to spend in the first place? Coppell's arguments, although impassioned, were as muddled as his team's performance in losing dismally to Spurs. Indeed, there was a post-match air that suggested he may not be the club's manager for much longer. Coppell, having not spent, appeared spent.

The admirable cussedness of the man is that if Reading, who face Derby County next Sunday, do go down, as appears likely after they slipped back into the bottom three, Coppell will probably stay on to try to see them back up.

If they survive he may do a Paul Jewell and walk out as the former Wigan Athletic manager did on the final day of last season. Whatever the outcome, Reading, with much the same side that got them promoted two years ago, have slid dramatically. To not win in six games at this time of the season is one thing. To not even score in any of those matches is another. Three wins since Christmas say it all and as James Harper, the Reading midfielder, slowly walked off the pitch at the end he was in prayer.

"We sensed the tension," said Spurs' goalscorer Robbie Keane. "Unfortunately, that's the way it is. I've got mixed emotions because there are a few Irish lads there who I'd like to stay in the Premiership." They will not on this evidence unless the previously sought-after Kevin Doyle and Stephen Hunt move. It is also appearing increasingly likely that Dimitar Berbatov may too, be on his way. When asked whether the Bulgarian striker – missing on Saturday because of a groin injury – had played his last game for Spurs, their head coach, Juande Ramos, gave that usual shrug and replied: "I don't know, I hope not." Aaron Lennon was absent also and he, too, may not be at White Hart Lane after the summer.

A first win in six was easily gained. Keane – alongside Darren Bent, making just his 11th start of the season – carved Reading apart. He struck when the two strikers combined, stabbing the ball past Marcus Hahnemann, who was also beaten by Steed Malbranque although, wrongly, the effort was ruled out for offside.

Goal: Keane (16) 0-1.

Reading (4-4-2): Hahnemann; Rosenior (Oster, 88), Ingimarsson, Duberry, Shorey; Doyle (Long, 80), Bikey (Matejovsky, 65), Harper, Hunt; Lita, Kitson. Substitutes not used: Federici (gk), Cisse.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Cerny; Hutton, Dawson, Woodgate, Gilberto; Jenas, Zokora, Huddlestone (O'Hara, 61), Malbranque; Keane (Boateng, 77), Bent. Substitutes not used: Robinson (gk), Chimbonda, Taarabt

Referee: H Webb (South Yorkshire)

Booked: Reading Harper.

Man of the match: Malbranque.

Attendance: 24,125.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

RuPaul interview

The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

Secrets of comedy couples

What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

The best swimwear for men

From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

Mark Hix goes summer foraging

 A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket
Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

Aaron Ramsey interview

Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men
The unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth - and what it says about English life

Unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth

Bournemouth’s elevation to football’s top tier is one of the most improbable of recent times. But it’s illustrative of deeper and wider changes in English life
A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms