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Reading V Stoke at Madejski Stadium : Match Preview
Royal welcome swayed Pogrebnyak
Pavel Pogrebnyak has claimed he snubbed Fulham to join Reading because Mohamed Al Fayed did not try as hard as Anton Zingarevich to sign him. Pogrebnyak made a sensational start to life in the Barclays Premier League after moving to the Cottagers on loan from Stuttgart in January, netting an unprecedented five goals in his first three games. The 28-year-old's record-breaking exploits sparked a flurry of interest from clubs across Europe but Fulham appeared to be in the driving seat and offered him a contract. Pogrebnyak turned it down and has now suggested it was because the deal was for one year only, with an option to extend it, and also because he felt Cottagers chairman Al Fayed was indifferent towards him staying. That was in stark contrast to new Reading owner Zingarevich, who bent over backwards to convince his fellow Russian to spearhead his Royals revolution, visiting the striker during their country's European Championship campaign this summer and offering him a four-year deal. Speaking ahead of what is expected to be his competitive debut in their Premier League opener against Stoke, Pogrebnyak said: "I signed four years here. Fulham gave me, one and after two. "Fulham's president, I think, didn't want so much for me to be at Fulham." Confirming Zingarevich sold the club to him during the Euros, he added: "He said that he wanted to see me at Reading. "It's very important for me that Anton speaks Russian and as well that our coach wanted me." Pogrebnyak was also won over by the plans of Royals boss Brian McDermott. "I knew a lot about Reading and the coach was the number one coach in the Championship," he said, confirming he was also desperate to remain in the Premier League. "I prefer England and it was my dream. I always wanted to play in England. I want to stay here as long as possible." Meanwhile, Reading were still waiting on whether goalkeeper Mikkel Andersen would join crisis club Portsmouth on loan. That would allow the Royals to complete a move for Stuart Taylor, who has been training with them since being released by Manchester City this summer.
Stoke begin the season with a trip to Berkshire, while they face Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool in their first eight games. Boss Tony Pulis said: "We've had tough starts but I think this is most probably the toughest we've had. You have to accept there's going to be a run of fixtures you look at and you think, where are the points going to come from? "The opening game away to a newly-promoted team, that's what nobody wants. I'd rather go away to one of the top sides because everything is fresh, the supporters are up for it and it's really difficult." Stoke will check on the fitness of defender Robert Huth and Pennant ahead of tomorrow's game. Huth spent most of last week in hospital with viral meningitis while Pennant has been struggling with a thigh strain. Pulis added: "You'd have to hit Robert with a bus to knock him down. Whether he'll be fit enough to start tomorrow, we'll have to wait and see. But we're just pleased to have him back, it was a big scare for us and a big scare for Robert and his family."
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