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Reading have gone East
Tim on Tour - Peace Cup diary
Reading FC are in South Korea, getting their preseason off to a flying start in the Peace Cup tournament. BBC Radio Berkshire's Tim Dellor is in Asia with the team.
First up, take a look at Tim's latest photos from Korea. We've had a third batch, take a look at them here:
Reading kicked off their tournament on Friday 13 July against River Plate in Suwon. They defeated French champions Lyon by 1-nil in Seoul on Monday 16 July. Now they're in Goyang to face Shimizu S-Pulse on Thursday 19 July.
All the group matches kick off at 12 noon UK time, 8pm local time.
Tim Dellor will be reporting live for BBC Radio Berkshire from inside the Reading camp, and covering all the team's games. Read his tournament diary below.
DAY 9 (Thursday 19 July 2007)
Reading's Peace Cup dreams came to an abrupt end with a 1-0 win against Japanese side Shimizu S-Pulse. Brynjar Gunnarsson scored the only goal of the night but it proved to be too little.
Lyon beat River Plate 3-1 meaning Lyon progressed through to the final against Bolton on Saturday.
Reading squandered numerous chances, the most notable both falling to Shane Long. First he knocked his header over the bar from a yard out, then with ten seconds of injury time remaining the Japanese goalkeeper produced a wonder save when Long looked certain to score.
It means Reading will be heading home on Friday.
Steve Coppell has deemed the tour a great success, he will be relieved no players picked up serious injuries.
In fact the only person going back with an injury is coach Wally Downes. He tore his hamstring during the warm up!
That's an injury that won't trouble Steve Coppell too much.
Could the Peace Cup final be between Reading and Bolton on Saturday?
Could you fit these on your bike?
Reading have to beat Shimizu S-Pulse today, by more than Lyon beat River Plate, to go through - Bolton are already in the final.
Alan Bennett will make his debut in central defence for Reading - he says he feels ready for it and he's been waiting a while, he just wants to play the game.
Spare a thought for kitman Ron Grant. Occasionally things have been getting lost in translation.
"I know no Korean and they know a little English, so we've just about got by. There was a bit of a misunderstanding when I didn't bring towels, we ended up having fifty towels delivered by motorbike."
He's not the only one who's concerned. Mrs Dellor's preoccupied with the builders back home. I get regular updates on the dogs' welfare and hens' welfare too. She says she's getting so much done and she's enjoying coming home to a tidy house, with no sport constantly on telly.
If Reading win she'll be able to enjoy that a bit longer. We've all got flights back out of here tomorrow morning so if Reading do qualify for Saturday's game, there'll be an awful lot of calls to the airline, and we might not get back until next Tuesday or Wednesday.
DAY 8 (Wednesday 18 July 2007)
"Blimey what a scorcher", as the tabloids like to say, every time the sun appears in the UK. Properly hot today in South Korea, and for the players training must have been an ordeal.
"I think a couple of them have got a little bit of heat stroke", said Assistant Boss Kevin Dillon. "We have to be careful in these conditions and make sure the players get lots of drinks. We've got the factor 159 out for Kits and the Icelandic lads."
Training lasted for 90 minutes, and rather off-puttingly was led by a bare chested Wally Downes. While Steve Coppell and Kevin Dillon have quite rightly had praise heaped upon them over the last couple of years, the role the energetic and infectiously enthusiastic Downes plays should not be underestimated.
Reading play S-Pulse on Thursday
Bolton have already qualified for The Peace Cup final, and Reading will be aiming to meet them when they play S-Pulse of Japan tomorrow night. Steve Coppell has already said Alan Bennett will get his long awaited first team debut at the centre of defence.
The Irishman was delighted with his call-up. "I've been waiting for this for a while", he said. "There are a lot of good centre halves at this club, but I want to show I can play at this level. I've never played an Asian team before, but I'm expecting them to be quick and very mobile. It will be a new experience".
Meanwhile Reading announced they are to sign three Koreans to play in their academy. The 16-year-olds are moving to the UK to work as part of Reading's set-up.
Tomorrow morning there is a staff outing to the 38th Parallel, on the historic North and South Korean border.
Then Reading will be fighting to keep alive their chances of a spot in The peace Cup final against S-Pulse.
The permutations are confusing, but in short if Reading win by a greater margin than Lyon beat River Plate they can come top of the group. However a win or a draw would be good enough for the Argentines.
Of the couple of dozen Reading fans here several presumed Reading would not reach the final, having been put in such a difficult group.
Those pessimists have booked flights to leave Seoul on Friday, after Reading's last group game.
Some are returning to the UK, while others are visiting other Far Eastern destinations.
If Reading do squeeze through, the hotline to the flight companies will be doing overtime as frantic fans try to rearrange travel schedules.
DAY 7 (Tuesday 17 July 2007)
Reading v Lyon match report:
Have Reading peaked too soon? That can be the only worry for Reading fans after the team produced a sensational 1-0 win against Lyon in the Peace Cup.
On 62 minutes Simon Cox scored the crucial goal. Shane Long drove down the right flank, squared the ball to Cox, who from 10 yards out fired home.
28,000 had earlier seen Kevin Doyle's penalty saved. Doyle also squandered two chances in open play a few minutes later.
Michael Duberry in action against River Plate
Reading central defenders were especially impressive. Andre Bikey and Michael Duberry deserved the plaudits offered to them by their teammates come the final whistle. Behind them Graham Stack almost had a fine night spoiled by a wicked bobble in the final couple of minutes, but fortunately the Reading goalkeeper got his body in line with the ball and it bounced harmlessly away.
Now Reading play Japanese side S-Pulse. If they win that game on Thursday night, by a greater margin than Lyon beating River Plate, Reading will go through to Saturday's Peace Cup final. For River Plate to reach the final a win or a draw would be good enough.
Those not involved in the win trained this morning. This afternoon the team were Go-Carting or sight seeing. Shane Long proved the fastest around the track, pipping fellow Irishman Kevin Doyle in a hotly contested final. Importantly all the players returned to the team hotel fit, and no doubt relishing another gruelling morning on the training ground tomorrow.
Finally from me, concerns for the safety of guests at a nearby hotel who were playing badminton on the roof - despite a distinct lack of safety barrier.
Thankfully no-one overhit their shot!
DAY 5 (Sunday 15 July 2007)
Reading's players have had a couple of days between their opening Peace Cup matches - they've spent the time either training or making the most of the computer games and DVDs in the hotel.
In the mean time I've been out into Seoul, the South Korean capital, taking some snaps.
Reading's next game, against French champions Lyon on Monday night, will be played at the Seoul Olympic Stadium, where Bolton drew the opening game of the tournament last Thursday.
Dotted around Seoul it is easy to spot the legacy from the 2002 World Cup. Vast, modern, clean and well organised stadia seem to be in every district.
According to the official figure more than twenty thousand were rattling around the comically named Big Bird Stadium for Reading versus River Plate. It is rumoured the Seol factor has made Reading against Lyon a fifty-five thousand sell-out.
They may be unhealthily obsessed with Reading's right midfielder, but there is no denying Koreans love their football.
DAY 4 (Saturday 14 July 2007)
In past seasons Reading's opening pre-season games have been against the likes of Didcot Town, Tiverton, and obscure town teams in quiet Swedish backwaters.
From the Swedish backwater of Borlange...
Not so this year. They were up against one of South America's finest outfits, in River Plate.
This is a team that has won the Argentine Championship on 32 occasions, so the chance of Reading racking up a cricket score, as has been the habit in previous pre-season openers, was remote.
River Plate dominated for long spells of the first half – they had nearly a dozen shots before the 28th-minute goal broke the deadlock.
Reading's second half display was more energetic and they played the game at a far higher tempo. Reading's best chance of the night fell to Kevin Doyle, who met a pinpoint and pacey cross from the boot of James Harper, but headed the ball a couple of feet over the bar.
Doyle thought he had made amends after latching onto a wonderfully created opening from his striking partner, Dave Kitson, but having slotted the ball into the net he was adjudged to be offside.
... to the Korean capital, Seoul.
Steve Coppell made four substitutions in the second half, the most eye catching of which was the introduction of Kalifa Cisse. The debutant produced one especially 'Sidwellesque' bit of ball winning, and then neat short distribution from the halfway line.
The most bizarre incident of the night occurred ten minutes into the game, when the sharp eyed referee spotted Reading midfielder John Oster was wearing a ring on his finger.
As is traditional in the Premiership, Oster covered the offending item in more tape and went back onto the pitch. The referee remained unhappy and issued a yellow card.
Oster then had a frustrating few seconds trying to remove the ring, much to the amusement of the crowd, who for a brief few seconds took their eyes off the tracksuited Seol Ki-Hyeon on the Reading bench to watch something more interesting.
DAY 3 (Friday 13 July 2007)
"What the guidebooks fail to tell you about South Korea:
1) Every time you ask a Seoul taxi driver how long it will take to get anywhere the answer will inevitably be "45 minutes". South Korean taxi drivers' only English expression is "45 minutes", regardless of the true distance. In truth you rarely get to the opposite end of the street in 45 minutes, such is the gridlock. Ken Livingston would need to introduce something more dramatic than congestion charges in the unlikely event he ever becomes Mayor of Seoul. Reading's games are all being played in the South Korean capital, and their fabulous training ground is only five miles from the plush team hotel. Still 45 minutes though.
2) Tattoos mean trouble in this country. Apparently they are associated with the feared Korean mafia. If you are planning on a dip in the pool, and like John Oster and half a dozen other Reading players you sport artwork, you may be disappointed. The authorities have banned the display of tattoos – so no swimming in the hotel pool. Some of the players are considering appealing to the authorities to extend the ban to running as well as swimming.
3) You will sweat buckets. Despite the burning sun you wouldn't want to hang the washing on the line, as everything is dripping in the humidity. It is like being wrapped in one of those post meal complimentary hot flannels they give you at curry houses. The players are being urged to take as much liquid on board during training sessions as possible. I did a few laps of the athletics track surrounding Reading's training ground – just to check it was hot. It is.
4) South Koreans have an insatiable appetite for football, bordering on the unhealthy. There are 24 channels on my hotel room TV, discounting the "pay-per-view entertainment". At one point last night football was being shown on eight of them. Reading are the most supported Premiership team in this part of Asia, and it's remarkable how knowledgeable local people are about our domestic league. Judging by the crowds at the airport when Reading arrived the ladies rate Kevin Doyle, but everyone rates Seol Ki Hyeon. The poor guy gets hounded everywhere he goes.
5) This country might be a digital and technological leader, but nothing works. Clean, sunny, delightfully helpful people, modern, economically successful, and yet my mobile won't work. Neither does my laptop, or my satellite kit, or anything else for that matter. On the first night it took me 20 minutes to work out how to turn off all the lights in my hotel room, so complex were the switches.
I thought it was me, but was comforted to discover the next morning my colleague from the Reading Evening Post had suffered the same problem, and had taken a further 10 minutes working out how to flush the loo. Seoul is strictly a no-go zone for techno-phobes because this is gadget city."
Come on lads, it's not difficult
DAY 2 (Thursday 12 July 2007)
"It's jolly nearly midnight. I'm in the Seoul World Cup 2002 stadium. We watched the opening ceremony earlier with spectacular fireworks.
Now I'm watching Bolton Wanderers play the local team Seongnam Ilhwa, who are getting ferocious home support (final result 1-1).
This time tomorrow I'll be at the Suwon stadium in Seoul watching Reading play River Plate.
We were watching the Reading players train this morning and they all came through unscathed.
Some good news for South Korean Seol Ki-Hyeon who looked fit and available to play if selected tomorrow by Steve Coppell.
Speaking to the local people, Reading should be playing in front of capacity crowds out here which is good news for them and good news for the tournament.
The weather has been muggy, but I'm more concerned with the traffic and the half-time refreshments.
It's spring rolls and seaweed at half-time and a drink called makkoli which seems to be a Coca-Cola derivative. It is absolutely disgusting."
DAY 1 (Wednesday 11 July 2007)
"It's 16 minutes to 9 o'clock at night here in South Korea. It's been a long 27 hour journey door to door.
My first impressions of Seoul? Well, there are 10 million people in this city and I think every one of them is driving their car. The traffic is an absolute nightmare.
It puts Reading into perspective. 6 lanes of traffic each way through the city centre, utter gridlock!
The other thing I should mention is the torrential rain. July in Seoul is even worse than June in Britain.
As for the players, they had light training yesterday (Tuesday) and more intense action today (Wednesday), building up to the first match against River Plate on Friday.
The players were mobbed by teenage girls at the airport; Kevin Doyle came in for particular attention.
The squad were whisked off to the hotel in limousines no less, like nothing Reading Football Club has ever known before.
We're just hoping the rain stops and I'm fairly keen to get some kip before training tomorrow."
last updated: 19/07/07