1. Have We Met Before?
If you're a West Ham fan then it's probably reasonable to suppose that the only decent experience you have ever had of Reading is leaving the place. For a team we have only ever played 4 times away from home it's somewhat incredible that they have managed to inflict quite so much pain on us.
I mean, we haven't won at Liverpool since the Plantagenet Dynasty but even then I can muster up a flicker of optimism for our visits.
On the other hand, whenever we venture down the M4 I'm just hoping that we can keep it respectable.
For the love of God - John Oster plays for them.
2. The History
Needless to say then, our statistics against Reading make for grim reading. Not "grim" like a Victorian thriller, but "grim" like a autopsy report. We have only played Reading six times and have lost four games. Not just ordinary defeats by the way, but truly Bad News Bears type massacres.
Last year we turned in a plucky little display at the Madjeski stadium losing a six goal thriller on New Years Day. Closer examination reveals that we were 4 down within 35 minutes and 5 down after 53 minutes. Sit back and consider just how Sunderlandic that really is. Attendance at this game should come with a health warning.
Prior visits yielded truly abysmal 3-1 and 2-0 defeats, although compared to last years showing they look like halfway decent performances.
A little tip, painting your eyes with Satinwood Dulux will ensure that you cannot see the carnage, but may have some side effects. Like blindness.
3. The Opposition
Reading must be pretty fed up by now as being described as "the new West Ham" given that they have shown no signs at all of descending into the realms of Shakespearean farce. There is much to respect about Reading as a club. Steve Coppell has done a marvellous job with the sows ear he inherited from Pardew, and has instilled a collective work rate that is a wonder to behold.
Again, I state that John Oster plays for them.
(Not that beating us last year required work rate, so much as "the ability to breathe unaided").
Players such as Kevin Doyle, Shane Long and Stephen Hunt have been plucked from obscurity in the Irish leagues and look every inch Premiership players, whilst Brynjar Gunnarsson looks every inch a Bond villain.
They've got to sort out those supporters though. There's only so much happy clappy joy joy stuff a man can take.
4. Well That Was A Let Down
My dedication to you all, and my incessant tardiness means that I'm writing this after the close of the transfer deadline so by now I am able to tell you who we will be adding to our injury list on Monday. Nolberto Solano and Henri Camara will be joining, which really should be illegal when the club have made an official statement to say that they are in negotiations for Adriano. That's a heroin like come down.
If I was Nobby Solano coming to fill in on our right wing I think I'd be feeling a bit like Indiana Jones in "The Last Crusade", walking up to take the final tests and seeing the decapitated bodies of his predecessors lying strewn on the floor around him.
Henri Camara was quite the surprise seeing as no media outlets picked up on it at all, and he's rubbish. It smacks of a panic buy to be picking up Wigan reserves on deadline night, particularly given that if we really needed an inconsistent, occasionally brilliant forward we could have just held on to Marlon Harewood.
I can't be the only one feeling a little deflated at the apparent lack of foresight in our transfer planning though. It rather smacks of the same old West Ham to be linked with Bent, Adriano, Gudjohnsen, Anelka and Johnson, only to end up with Henri Camara as your wonderful new striking option.
We've also been comprehensively outspent by Fulham. Fulham I tell you.
Mind you, given who they've spent it on I am able to temper my jealousy somewhat.
5. The Ashton Effect
Games started by Dean Ashton: 14
Number of those games to end in defeats: 2* (Man Utd (a), Chelsea (a))
* I will never count the FA Cup Final as a defeat.
I'm still not convinced that throwing an unfit player into the mix is the immediate answer to our problems but I'm just pointing out that he's got a bit of previous.
6. The Zamora Effect
Bobby Zamora has never scored for us against Reading. Hang on, that's not an effect. That could very well be a cause though.....