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Royal flush

As part of Sky Sports' Championship spotlight, Chris Burton catches up with Reading midfielder Mikele Leigertwood.

Features - Championship Spotlight Posted 25th February 2012 view comments

It is fair to say that that Reading Football Club are in a good place right now.

Having fallen at the final hurdle last season, as they came unstuck in the Championship play-off final, the Royals are looking to go one better this time around.

They have given themselves every chance of doing just that, with everything starting to fall into place at just the right time.

Mikele Leigertwood: Hoping Reading can go one better than last season and return to the Premier League

Mikele Leigertwood: Hoping Reading can go one better than last season and return to the Premier League

Performances on the field are of a consistently high standard, allowing them to pick up points on a regular basis, while new investment has been found off the pitch.

Reading have also been boosted by the news that manager Brian McDermott has spurned Premier League advances and committed himself to a new long-term contract.

Stability is imperative when attempting to climb through the divisions and the Royals are in the best possible shape heading forward.

Had McDermott departed for pastures new, with top flight strugglers Wolves having made their interest known, it is possible that the wheels could have fallen off their promotion wagon.

As it is, the club are now looking to put their foot on the gas and prove to their manager that he was right to display show much faith in them, with it possible for him to fulfil his ambitions at the Madejski Stadium.

Sky Sports' Chris Burton recently infiltrated the Reading camp to get an insider's view on the club's plans for the rest of the season and started by asking defensive midfielder Mikele Leigertwood how important McDermott's decision to stay could be in the quest to secure a Premier League return.

Attention

He said: "It's massive news. He has been linked with a lot of other clubs, including Premier League clubs, but being able to secure him says what we are about and it has been a massive boost for everyone involved.

"He has won the manager of the month and we have been in good form lately. He's done really well since he has been in the job, so it's only normal that he is going to attract attention. For us to be able to keep him, that's great for us."

McDermott's achievements since taking the Reading job in December 2009 are all the more remarkable when you consider that this is his first Football League post and he has been forced to part with the likes of Shane Long and Matthew Mills - key men in previous campaigns.

Leigertwood added: "Since he has come in they have sold a couple of players and brought in quite a lot of money, but that money hasn't always been available to him. What he has created at the club with the people he has brought in, the staff and the people that were already here, he has done a fantastic job."

McDermott has Reading sat fourth in the Championship table at present, with 12 wins having been picked up in their last 16 second tier outings.

Leigertwood said: "We have given ourselves a good chance, a better chance than where we were at this time last season. We have got to remain focused and hopefully get ourselves pushed right up there.

"Our form of late has been good. We have just got to keep that going. We have got a massive game away at Middlesbrough up next and we just have to take each game as it comes and try to get the right result."

Saturday's trip to Middlesbrough sees Reading pitched against a fellow promotion chaser, making it all the more important that they take something from the game - with points having already been dropped against Cardiff and Hull City in recent weeks.

When pressed on the importance of scuppering the hopes of those around you, Leigertwood said: "You do have to. Exactly that. That will give us more confidence and will probably send out a message to the rest of the league. We are confident and as long as we can impose our game on them, then we should fancy our chances of getting a result."

Reading are also determined to try and close the five-point gap which currently separates them from the automatic promotions places, with the club keen to avoid the play-off lottery again if possible.

Push

Leigertwood said: "Yeah, definitely. If that's the way we have to do it again, then we will give it a good go, but if we can avoid that route, automatic would be ideal.

"We were in good form when we went into the play-offs last year and that did help us get to the final, but it is always different. We have sold £12million worth of players and we have done better without those players, so we have just to stay focused and hopefully give ourselves a better chance than we did last year.

"We have got the new investment come in, the new owners will be looking to give us that extra push. We have had a few additions, Jason Roberts and Matthew Connelly coming in, so hopefully they will give us that extra push that we need."

Leigertwood has played a leading role in Reading's success this season and admits to being pleased with his own form.

It is easy to see why, with the Royals having taken positive results from 41 of the 49 games the 29-year-old has started since first joining the club on loan from Queens Park Rangers in November 2010.

On being a good luck charm, he said: "We have got a great squad, the lads are fantastic. I think that is our strength, that we have got so many good players and good people to come in and do a job whenever people find themselves out of the team for whatever reason. I can't take that credit for myself, it's a collective thing more than anything.

"We try to play to our strengths and people have said that we are picking up results but we aren't playing great. At this time of the season, we are just happy to be picking up wins. At times you are going to have to win ugly, and that's what we will do. There are so many games to come that you aren't going to play well in every game. We just have to make sure we do the right things and stay focused in every game."

Focus appears to be the key word in the Reading camp right now, with the club aware that they cannot afford any untimely slip-ups from here on in.

Asked to give his opinion on what Royals supporters can expect from the rest of the season, Leigertwood signed off by saying: "Hopefully more of the same. We have got a big game this weekend and then have another week break, with another good week in training before we play Millwall. We are just going to take each game as it comes and try to give ourselves the best possible chance to progress."

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