Reading 1 Middlesbrough 1: Coppell shrugs shoulders as Kitson does talking on and off pitch

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The Independent Football

Both Sven Goran Eriksson and his successor suffered from accusations that certain England players were rather too keen to bend the manager's ear. Yet should Steve Coppell turn out to be the man Brian Barwick and company want to step into Steve McClaren's shoes, it seems the England dressing room will be a forum for free speech.

Coppell has built his reputation on straight talk and honest opinion and while those qualities are by no means his exclusive preserve, the Reading manager adds something that may set him apart from others.

It is that he is not troubled if those under his charge reveal opinions of their own. Particularly if you take the view that, in the interests of presenting a united front, expressions of dissent should not be tolerated. Were you to have been of that mindset, then Dave Kitson, whose goal earned Reading a point, might not even have been considered for selection. Not after what he had said last week.

Kitson, whose scoring has been central to Reading's ascent to the Premier League, accused the club of putting commercial interests ahead of their players' fitness by going on tour to South Korea last summer. "We went out there to make the club money and in my view we shouldn't have," Kitson said, claiming his own recovery from injury was hampered as a result. "It was so hot you couldn't play a game and then do high-intensity running because you would die.

"After missing so much of last season, I really needed to get fit but how can you have a proper pre-season like that?" Coppell strongly refuted the claim. "It had nothing to do with money," he said. "It was an opportunity to take part in a terrific tournament, playing Lyons and River Plate, two teams we would never normally get the chance to match our skills against. I did not think it affected fitness. We still had three and a half weeks to recover."

Yet there was no retribution against the player. "Kits says a lot of things," Coppell said. "You don't necessarily give them credence but he doesn't toe the party line. But if it makes him a better striker, bring it on."

Gareth Southgate would not mind something similar from his strikers if the results were the same. After Kitson's clever lob had given Reading the lead early in the second half, Middlesbrough assertive and purposeful where Reading had lacked conviction secured the point they deserved only after Tuncay Sanli, thrown on 20 minutes from time, had succeeded where Jeremie Aliadire and Dong-Gook Lee failed.

The Turkish international, signed from Fenerbahce in the summer, met Luke Young's excellent cross with a thumping header that demonstrated clear talent but begged questions over why it has taken so long for him to get off the mark in English football. "Maybe the goal will give him the confidence he needs," Southgate said. With Mido sidelined, the Middlesbrough manager will hope the floodgates open soon for Tuncay.

Goals: Kitson (54) 1-0; Sanli (83) 1-1.

Reading (4-4-2): Hahnemann; Murty, Sonko, Ingimarsson, Shorey; Hunt, Gunnarsson (Long, 86), Harper, Convey (Bikey, 77); Doyle, Kitson. Substitutes not used: Ciss, Rosenior, Federici (gk).

Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Turnbull; Young, Woodgate (Huth, 69), Wheater, Pogatetz; Downing, Boateng, Rochemback, Johnson (Cattermole, 89); Lee (Sanli 70), Aliadire. Substitutes not used: Steele (gk), Hutchinson.

Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).

Booked: Reading Murty, Gunnarsson; Middlesbrough Johnson.

Man of the match: Kitson.

Attendance: 22,262.

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