CRAIG Gardner says newly-promoted Reading have a massive challenge on their hands at the Stadium of Light tomorrow.
The central midfielder says the Championship champions will find the trip to Sunderland a daunting one, especially as they are currently bedding in half a dozen summer signings.
“Reading are in a similar situation to us last year,” he told the Echo. “They’ve brought a lot of players into the club and will need them to gel early on to come to a place like Sunderland.
“When I was at Aston Villa and Birmingham City nobody really wanted to come to Sunderland for a game because it’s such a tough place to play.
“That’s especially true when you’re a promoted team with a new bunch of players – they know they’ll be in for a real game up here.”
Reading have made an impressive start to life in the Premier League, playing well even though they’ve taken only one point from six.
They forced a late draw against Stoke and were leading 2-1 at Chelsea before losing 4-2 after a controversial Fernando Torres goal was allowed to stand.
They will need every bit of that dogged, never-say-die attitude this weekend says Gardner, especially with the Stadium of Light set to up the volume levels this season now that away fans have been moved high into the North Stand and home supporters have the entire lower bowl.
“It’s good that the away fans have been moved because now when we score we can celebrate with our fans wherever we are on the pitch, instead of having to do a loop-de-loop and head over to the south-west corner,” he smiled.
“Goals are as much a buzz for them as they are for us, so we need to be close to the supporters
“When you go to a place like Newcastle which is a massive game and you can’t even see the away fans it’s a big advantage to the home team.
“Of course we can always hear them because the Sunderland fans are unbelievable but it’s time that we gave the away fans the same treatment when they come to the Stadium of Light as our fans get when they travel to other Premier League grounds.
“Let’s see how they feel when they come here, and let’s us enjoy the benefits of having supporters around every part of the ground like our rivals do. Let see away supporters get up into Row Z and see what it’s like – Sunderland fans have had to do that at loads of grounds over the years.”