Mick Gooding, Reading's joint player-manager, will risk further facial damage today to aid his First Division side's attempt to reach the Coca- Cola Cup quarter-finals for the first time, at Southampton's expense.
Gooding needed nine stitches in a gash under his right eye after a second- half clash with Glyn Hodges during Saturday's goalless draw at Sheffield United, but the 36-year-old Newcastle-born midfielder is determined to prove that Reading could have lived with teams from the top flight. They surrendered the advantage to Bolton in last season's play-off final at Wembley and lost 4-3 after extra-time.
The 14,058 all-ticket sell-out tie can also inspire Reading to set the record straight 17 years after their 1978 fourth-round replay defeat by Southampton, which still ranks as their best League Cup showing. Southampton went on to lose the final that season.
Gooding is aware that his injury could cause problems. "I could be in trouble if it opens up again, but only my film star good looks will be in danger, " he said.
Two other men Reading would love to have in their line-up are goalkeeper Borislav Mikhailov, who has missed nine games with hamstring trouble, and their captain, Adrian Williams, who has sat out five matches with an ankle injury. Both had been expected to play at Bramall Lane and a return now would be lift Reading, whose other appearances at this stage ended in defeat against Aston Villa and Cardiff in 1965 and '66 respectively.
Southampton's manager, Dave Merrington, must decide whether to start with striker Gordon Watson, who was disappointing in Saturday's 1-0 win against Bolton.
David Hughes, who came on and scored, is among those hoping for a chance, along with Neil Heaney, Tommy Widdrington and Neil Maddison, who is fit again.
"We are supposed to be a division better than them. It's up to us to prove it," said Merrington, who was youth team manager at the Dell when Phil Parkinson, now in the Reading midfield, was released after failing to make the grade.
n Diego Maradona and Enzo Francescoli, the two biggest attractions in Argentine football, failed to lift the derby between Boca Juniors and River Plate above mediocrity at the weekend. In a defensive and muddled goalless draw at River's World Cup stadium, the 35-year-old Maradona was Boca's best player, while Francescoli, the 34-year-old Uruguayan striker, threatened the visitors' goal only once.
The Argentine sports press were heavily critical of the poor play with the top-selling nespaper, Clarin, saying: "The 'super derby' did a better job at the box office than on the field - almost $2m in tickets sales, but hardly a few pesos worth of football."
La Nacion said: "The fun was in the stands and in the spirit of the fans, not among the players. Too much fiesta for too little football."
The result left Boca only two points ahead of Velez Sarsfield, 2-0 winners against Argentinos Juniors, with three games to go in the Apertura championship, the first half of the 1995/96 season.Reuse content