Harper critics won't sway CoppellBy Nick Ive
February 12, 2009
Steve Coppell says he has no intention of bowing to pressure from Reading fans who want James Harper dropped from the team.
Harper has been jeered on occasions this season by a Madejski Stadium crowd, frustrated by some of his displays.
In contrast Marek Matejovsky, who replaced Harper during Saturday’s goalless draw at home to Preston, was given a huge cheer when he entered the field.
But Coppell insists Harper remains one of his key players in what he hopes will be a promotion-winning season.
Speaking exclusively to the Evening Post, Royals boss said: “I am aware of him getting some stick, but he has always been a solid player for me.
“He isn’t as flamboyant as some players, but he is massively efficient and he covers lots of gaps and sometimes that is under-estimated.
“Players are judged on results. Everyone likes midfielders to be creative and be able to release other players, and weigh in with a couple of goals. But the best team is not always the best 11 players.
“Harps is an important cog in our team and he is a massive influence in the dressing room. At the moment I am comfortable with his performances.
“Could he do better? Yes, but so could everyone.”
Matejovsky, who is currently on international duty with the Czech Republic, is regarded as one of Reading’s most creative players.
However, he has only played a bit-part so far this season.
An ankle injury kept him out of the first half of the campaign, but despite over-coming that problem several months ago, he has been limited to a place on the bench.
Royals also have Jem Karacan and Brynjar Gunnarsson as recognised central midfielders, while new signing Jay Tabb and Andre Bikey can also play there.
Coppell added: “There is competition there, as there is everywhere. Marek is a very gifted player and as one player comes in it can change everything about a team and we play a certain way.
“I know people think the subtlety of some players makes a difference but it can affect the balance too.”
Meanwhile Coppell insists he is in no rush to discuss renewing his contract as manager as he is focusing on promotion.
His current deal runs out at the end of the season and, as we revealed yesterday, the club will open talks with him in the next few weeks.
“I never ever look beyond my existing contract,” said Coppell. “I am in exactly the same position as some of the players. I’m sure what will happen will be determined by where we finish – the same goes for the players.
“I don’t make the decisions. My only desire is to get as many points as we can and finish as high as we can.”
Reading will be keen to keep Coppell even if they do miss out on promotion.