READING (England): Reading look certain to reach the top flight of English football for the first time in their 135-year history.
The Royals haven't lost in the Football League Championship since the opening day of the season, and their 30-match unbeaten streak has given the team a seven-point lead over second-place Sheffield United.
More importantly, Reading lead third-place Leeds by 19 points.
Bookmaker William Hill stopped taking bets on Reading getting promoted when the odds went down to 1-7 – despite 15 games remaining in the season.
The top two teams in the division get promoted automatically, with the next four reaching the playoffs for another spot in the English Premier League.
“I don't think anyone expected it,'' Reading midfielder Bobby Convey said. “I don't think anyone expected us to not lose since the first game of the season.''
The United States international isn't taking anything for granted, however.
“You never want to get ahead of yourself,'' Convey added. “People are looking at promotion and saying how easy it's going to be for us, but obviously you are just going to jinx yourself if you go too far ahead. There's no point in talking about it until it actually happens.''
Since losing to Plymouth 2-1 in their season opener, the Royals are 23-7-0. The team's only other loss was to Arsenal in the League Cup.
Reading is a city with a population of 144,000 and is 64km west of London. It is famous mainly for its yearly rock music festival.
Formed in 1871, Reading are the third-oldest club in England. Their best chance of promotion was in 1995 when they finished second.
While that would normally guarantee promotion, a decrease in Premier League clubs from 22 to 20 meant the club had to go through the playoffs. Reading squandered a 2-0 lead in the playoff final and lost to Bolton 4-2 in extra time.
Three years later, Reading moved from the 15,000-capacity Elm Park to the newly built, 24,700-seat Madejski Stadium.
The venue is named after their millionaire publisher-owner John Madejski, who took over in 1990 when Reading was in the third division.
This season, Reading started off as a 25-1 shot to win the League Championship. Last year, the team were leading the league at this point in the season but went 11 games without a win and missed out on the playoffs.
Manager Steve Coppell, who took over at Reading in October 2003, wanted an answer for his team's collapse.
“At the end of last season we had an inquest into what went wrong and we decided that goals were the main issue,'' Coppell said. “That was the big stumbling block for us. Last year we scored 51 goals in 46 games, which was not enough.''
Coppell is a rarity in England.
He studied Economics at Liverpool University while playing for Manchester United in the 1970s and 80s, and often trained by himself. He retired when he was 28 in 1983 with a knee injury picked up in his 42nd and final England game.
Coppell also managed Crystal Palace at various times from 1984 to 1997, getting the club promoted to the top flight in 1989 and into the Premier League in 1997.
To combat the lack of goalscoring after last season, Coppell bought England Under-21 international Leroy Lita and Kevin Doyle to play alongside leading scorer Dave Kitson. Convey and fellow winger Glen Little have also contributed to the 66 goals scored in the league so far.