SUNDERLAND face a side tomorrow tipped by many as relegation fodder before a ball was even kicked this season.
But Martin O’Neill says Reading have more than earned the right to be in the Premier League and believes their natural resilience gives them a chance of survival – especially with so many teams still in the mix as the final third of the season beckons.
The Black Cats boss says every club in the bottom half of the table – including Sunderland – are still looking over their shoulders.
And with none of last season’s promoted sides – Southampton, Reading and QPR – showing signs of giving up the ghost, a tense and exciting end to the season potentially looms.
Reading have produced a fine recent run of form and, having taken seven points from their last nine, have given themselves hope of survival.
And O’Neill believes the Royals will keep on battling all the way because that’s what comes naturally to them.
“Reading are a team that have shown a lot of character simply to get into this league,” he said.
“Last season they went up as champions, and that said a lot about them because the previous season they’d suffered the awful disappointment of missing out on promotion in the play-off final.
“When you get that close, and fail to win promotion, it can really knock the stuffing out of a side.
“But they came back the following season to win the Championship, and that suggests there’s a resilience there among the coaches and the players.
“Newly-promoted sides always look to start the new season well in the Premier League and look to get some momentum going.
“But if that doesn’t happen, then you need a strength and resilience to keep going, and I think Reading have shown they’ve got that.”