Rapids Alumni Player Marcus Hahnemann Leading Humble Reading Towards English Premier League

LONDON (AP) - Reading's soccer history can be summed up in one word - humble.

Formed in 1871 the club has never won a major English trophy or played in the topflight. The club's nickname - the Royals - seems out of place.

That's all about to change.

Reading - led by two Americans midfielder Bobby Convey and goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann - can clinch promotion to the Premier League on Saturday by beating Leicester with six matches remaining. Even a draw or loss might be enough.

The Royals are so far ahead in the League Championship that promotion has been a foregone conclusion for months. They lead with 91 points followed by Sheffield United (75) Watford (72) and Leeds (71).

"I just hope we can finish the season off in the same way we've gone all year said low-key manager Steve Coppell. "We had a really strong spell and we got daylight between ourselves and the rest of the pack. We've managed to maintain that distance. But I'm not saying it's become routine now."

Coppell whose playing career was cut short by a knee injury after 42 appearances for England has been on the edge of fame before.

Once seen as a potential England manager he earned Crystal Place promotion to the top flight in the 1988-89 season and took the club to the FA Cup final a year later losing a replay to Manchester United.

He moved to Premier League team Man City in 1996 but quit after six games citing stress. In the following seasons he bounded around - returning to Crystal Palace and then coaching Brentford and Brighton before taking over at Reading in 2003.

Located 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of London Reading - pronounced RED-ing - has been close to promotion before.

In 1995 the Royals finished second in the old first division which would usually guarantee promotion. Under present rules the top two teams advance automatically to the Premier League with the next four teams playing off for the third promotion spot.

But in '95 a decrease in Premier League clubs from 22 to 20 meant Reading faced a playoff. The Royals squandered a 2-0 lead in the playoff final and lost 4-2 to Bolton in extra time.

Last year Reading was leading the league but went 11 games without a win and missed the playoffs.

Financed by multimillionaire owner John Madejski the Royals have gone from drawing 10000 fans to sellout crowds of 24000. Much of the credit goes to Hahnemann and Convey.

Convey has scored seven goals while Hahnemann has registered a club record 21 shutouts - the club has allowed only 25 goals and has scored 81. Hahnemann has become a fan favorite by giving away his shirt after every match to any fan waving an American flag.

Hahnemann former goalkeeper for the Colorado Rapids was with Fulham when the club won promotion to the Premier League in 2001. But he soon lost his job when Fulham bought Edwin van der Sar from Juventus.

"A lot of things are going to have to change for them to be ready for next season Hahnemann told the Daily Mail. "This is a wake-up call because all of a sudden you are trying to complete on a new level."

"Whenever you think you're staying somewhere you're gone Hahnemann added. "But I do feel attached to Reading. This is where I made a name for myself and this is where I want to stay."