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Everything is done and dusted - 18/06/2005

   Steve Coppell
   Martin Allen

STEVE Sidwell says Reading are signing a top class player and a 'Craic-ing bloke' in Irishman Stephen Hunt.

The 23-year-old Brentford winger will put pen to paper on a two year deal when he returns from holiday in a couple of weeks' time.

Royals manager Steve Coppell gave Hunt his league debut in 1999 when in charge of Crystal Palace and the pair have been linked ever since.

Coppell made Hunt his first signing at Brentford and then later tried to take him to Brighton but the move collapsed.

However, Coppell appears to have got his man this time after Hunt pulled out of a move to Bradford to rejoin his former manager.

Speaking exclusively to The Reading Chronicle from his holiday hotel, Hunt said: "I'm not allowed to say anything at the moment because I don't know what has been made official.

"Everything is done and dusted but I can't say any more than that until I get back from holidays."

It was during Sidwell's loan spell with Brentford from Arsenal that he struck up a close friendship with Hunt.

And Reading's midfield enforcer insisted: "He's a nice lad and he'll be a great acquisition if he comes.

"We've always kept in touch and I still talk to him now. He used to live near my mum so we would travel down to Brentford together in the car every day and keep each other company.

"Then we started going out together because he lived local and we got on really well."

Waterford-born Hunt will become the third Irishman to sign for Royals this summer after Cork City duo Kevin Doyle and Shane Long penned two years deals recently.

And Sidwell believes Hunt, a natural left-footer, can fill Reading's troublesome left-midfield position where Paul Brooker, Bobby Convey, Andy Hughes and Dean Morgan all played last season without much success.

"Nobody who played on the left was an out-and-out winger like Stephen is," Sidwell said. "He's full of energy and will run all day. He's a very fit and nippy lad.

"He's quite small with a low centre of gravity and he can beat players easily, get crosses in from the bye-line and cut inside and score goals. He can also play behind the front two and is a real attacking threat.

"He takes people on and when he drops the shoulder he's gone. But he's also got a great work ethic and will run up and down that line for 90 minutes.

"In fact, he's very much like Steve Coppell was as a player, so perhaps it's not surprising he's gone for him again.

"But more than that Hunty's a lovely person. He's a typical Irish lad with a great personality and is someone you just like being around."

Sidwell, Hunt and Reading defender Ivar Ingimarsson were all in Coppell's Brentford team which lost out to Royals in the promotion deciding clash at Griffin Park in 2002.

The former Republic of Ireland u21 international also played under Royals coach Wally Downes with Bees, and Sidwell admitted:

"It's funny how things turn around but Hunty always had plenty of ambition.

"I wouldn't say he was a big fish in a small pond at Brentford but he was always set for bigger things and to play at a higher level."

Hunt was not offered a new contract by Martin Allen at the end of the season when he scored three goals in 24 appearances after missing four months with a groin injury.

The pair are believed to have fallen out after Hunt expressed his desire to play in a higher division, though Allen continued to pick him when fit.

Meanwhile, Sidwell will become the third member of staff at Reading to tie the knot this summer when he gets married this Sunday.

Royals captain Graeme Murty is set to wed partner Karen thisFriday and physio Jon Fearn was married last week.

Sidwell stated: "I had the stag-do last week which I've still yet to recover from. It was pretty heavy but I'm the first out of my mates to get married so there's plenty of payback time ahead."

IC Berkshire

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