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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Sep 29, 2006

Coppell wary of taking on struggling West Ham

Reading manager Steve Coppell admits this weekend could be precisely the wrong time to take on struggling West Ham.

The Hammers, who host the Premiership newcomers on Sunday, are finding their second campaign back in the top flight much tougher than the first, which saw them reach the FA Cup final, qualify for Europe and finish ninth.

They have not won since the opening week and crashed out of the UEFA Cup at the first hurdle after Palermo wrapped up a 4-0 aggregate victory last night.

Hammers boss Alan Pardew's rocky relationship with the Reading fans - he walked out on the Royals in 2003 to succeed Glenn Roeder and spark a bitter compensation wrangle - will also add spice to the occasion.

But Coppell is still on speaking terms with Pardew and admitted he feared a backlash.

He told the Reading Evening Post: 'They may have hit a bit of a sticky patch, but that will only make them more determined to get back on track and win against us.

'I spoke with Al and he just feels it is a question of getting the right blend. I know him, he will be up for this game and it will be a really tough match for us.'

Coppell also refused to pin any hopes on the Londoners being jet-lagged either.

He said: 'I would have thought if anything the game before their European match would be the one they struggle in.

'We won't be banking on them being travel weary.'

West Ham have struggled to work out how to fit Argentinian imports Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano into the side but Royals coach Kevin Dillon was also interested in the 2005-06 side.

Dillon, who has just celebrated 10 years as a coach at the club, said: 'Look at West Ham last year, there were a few of their young players who hadn't played in the Premiership before and they did fantastically well.

'There are similarities, especially in the midfield area with Kevin Harper and Steve Sidwell and Nigel Reo-Coker and Hayden Mullins. With the wide players, we have got Bobby Convey, they have Matthew Etherington.

'I just look at the way they went about playing football. The games that I watched were fantastic, really attacking. They wanted to get forward and we are the same. We get at teams.'

Central defender Peter Mate will not be taking part on Sunday having sustained knee ligament damage in the reserves' 2-1 victory over Chelsea on Monday night.

It is not yet known how long the 21-year-old, who is on a season-long loan from Hungarian outfit Debrecen, will be sidelined.

Striker Dave Kitson and defender Sam Sodje have also suffered knee injuries this term and remain unavailable.