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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Nov 16, 2006

Coppell unconcerned by death threats

Reading manager Steve Coppell is convinced Stephen Hunt and Ibrahima Sonko have already shrugged off the death threats the pair received through the post.

Thames Valley Police have launched an investigation after threatening letters arrived at the Madejski Stadium in the wake of last month's controversial defeat by Chelsea.

Hunt was involved in a first-minute collision with goalkeeper Petr Cech which left the Chelsea man with a fractured skull and Carlo Cudicini, the Czech's replacement, was also hospitalised after colliding with Sonko in the final minute.

Jose Mourinho was scathing of Hunt's conduct afterwards and it is not the first time death threats have been made following an outburst by the Chelsea boss.

Last season Champions League referee Anders Frisk quit after Mourinho claimed he had colluded with Barcelona boss Frank Rijkaard during a game, with the Swede then being targeted with threatening abuse.

This time Coppell was convinced neither of his players would be affected, with one of the letters even ending up on the dressing room noticeboard.

He said: 'We went through the proper channels and we reported it. Obviously it was the work of a nut but nuts can be dangerous.

'One letter is a considerable amount as far as I am concerned. If you get one letter of this ilk then it is something to be concerned about.

'It is not a worry though. I don't think it will affect the players because we actually had one of the letters on the noticeboard for a week or so to show just how stupid and futile something like that is.

'But at the same time, at the back of your mind, we thought we had to report it.

'I wouldn't have thought this is a unique situation. There is so much at stake and football has been likened many times to a new religion so you are going to get extremists who are going to take it too far.''

Skipper Graeme Murty revealed the two players had received the full backing of their team-mates - via some dressing-room banter that was not for the faint-hearted.

He said: 'Stephen is a very strong character and so is Ibu and they are concentrating on what they do on the pitch. That is all they can do as if you let yourself be dictated to by outside influences then it will detract from your football.

'As a squad we have got around the two and made sure we are there for them if they needed us. It's not so easy to put an arm around Sonks because he is so big but if he needs someone to talk to we are always there.

'Hunty is the same and has a very strong support structure with his family and friends. I'm sure they will come through it. They want to determine their own fate and when they do that they look quality players.

'Some of the banter that goes on at football clubs is a little bit wrong, shall we say, but putting it on the noticeboard was a way of dealing with it.

'If something can have the mick taken out of it then you take the power away from it, that's the way we look at it. We have also been taking the mick out of both of them and they have taken it in the right way.

'We do it so they know we care and we are on their side. If we didn't take the mick out of them then they would be worried because it meant we didn't like them.''

Reading are at home to bottom club Charlton on Saturday.