Royals relishing underdogs tags - Hunt

Published: 29 Mar 2012 17:300 comments

NOEL Hunt says Reading will rely on their working-class, underdog spirit when they head into the Upton Park cauldron on Saturday.

Team spirit: Noel Hunt jumps on Ian Harte's sholders following the defender's goal against Blackpool.

West Ham still boast an abundance of footballing riches despite their relegation from the Premier League last season.

Reading, on the other hand, have endured a rollercoaster campaign that included the sale of their top players, the potential departure of Brian McDermott to Wolves and a Russian takeover.

But it is McDermott's men who sit above Sam Allardyce's Hammers in the Championship going into Saturday's promotion showdown in East London.

More than 3,000 Royals fans will make the short trip to the Boleyn Ground and Hunt believes they will relish their underdog tag once again.

"We're still above them in the table but West Ham are a big side in this league and we'll be the underdogs on Saturday, no doubt about it," stressed the 28-year-old striker.

"We know it's going to be a very hard game against a quality side. They've got a lot of big names in their team, but we will go there with a game plan and try and impose it on them.

"We go into every game thinking we're the underdogs and we want to keep it that way.

"West Ham have some big players who have done it in the Premier League whereas a lot of our players have got something to prove and want to play at the highest level, especially those who haven't done it before.

"I certainly feel I'm the underdog in every battle I play in. It spurs me on to play well and work harder. We go in there as the underdog, as a working-class team. We work our hardest to break down teams and score goals."

Royals are likely to receive a frosty reception from West Ham fans this weekend. Reading secured a comfortable 3-0 win over the Hammers when the sides met at the Madejski Stadium in the infamous Jimmy Kebe, 'sockgate' clash in December.

Kebe could now be a target for the Hammers supporters, though Hunt believes the mercurial winger can handle the pressure.

"If he does he does, it won't really bother him," he insisted. "I don't think Jimmy understands what fans say anyway. I'm sure he'll be okay.

"It was a great home win for us that day. It was a really feisty game with a couple of red cards but it was great to play in. I just pray it will be a similar result this Saturday."

Reading have won nine of their last 11 games in the Championship to rise up to second in the table. The Hammers, however, have won only one of their last six games and have drawn five in a row at Upton Park.

Now Hammers fans are beginning to feel the strain and have been quick to jeer their own players when things go wrong.

However, Hunt stated: "We get it sometimes. Every fan is entitled to an opinion. They pay their money and if they think the players aren't doing well they will boo you.

"It's the same throughout football at every level and in every league. But West Ham are third in the table and will be pushing for second on Saturday. It's our job to stop them."

West Ham closed the gap on Reading to just one points when winning their game in hand at Peterborough United on Tuesday night.

Now, Saturday's clash at Upton Park is already being labelled a promotion decider as to who goes up automatically with leaders Southampton.

Hunt added: "It could decide it, but you could say the same about our last game or the week before. Look, we know it's a big game and we know they've had a lot of draws recently. We will work hard at our game plan this week and go there full of confidence."

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