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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 December 2006, 10:45 GMT
Hunt ready for Chelsea
Exclusive by Stuart Roach

Stephen Hunt
Hunt would like a private meeting with Petr Cech
Reading's Stephen Hunt says he is relishing - and not fearing - a Boxing Day trip to Stamford Bridge.

Hunt received death threats after a collision that left Chelsea's Petr Cech with a fractured skull in September.

And, although he expects hostility from Blues fans in the next encounter, he told BBC Sport: "Thinking of Stamford Bridge won't ruin my Christmas.

"Chelsea away is a big game and will be a hostile atmosphere, but that's good."

Hunt added: "As a footballer my Christmas is all about games anyway - and you look forward to going to Stamford Bridge whenever it is you go.

"I'm sure if I got a kick then the person coming to Reading would get booed. I can't affect the reception I get - all I can affect is what I do on the pitch.

"But at the same time, people are not stupid. They know it was an accident and the majority of people - probably the majority of Chelsea fans - know I didn't mean to do it."

Hunt was making his first Premiership start when he collided with Cech in the opening seconds of Chelsea's 1-0 win at the Madejski Stadium in October.

Cech's replacement Carlo Cudicini was also carried off on a stretcher late in the game and Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho was critical of the emergency facilities at the newly-promoted Berkshire club.

Suddenly it seems everyone knows who I am - but for the wrong reasons

Stephen Hunt
But Hunt is not fearful of a continued backlash over the Christmas period and remains hopeful of meeting Cech for the first time since their horror collision.

"If I see Petr then I would like to talk to him. Privately, not publicly. I have written to him since the game at the Madejski Stadium and I will probably send him a Christmas card.

"And, of course, it would be good to talk to Mourinho. He has won two European championships and two Premiership titles in four or five years so he is obviously a good manager.

"But he looks after Chelsea's football team, he doesn't look after Reading's, so I will talk to our gaffer and that will probably be it.

"Jose Mourinho is always in the press anyway. So you listen to what he has to say and then you get on with it. Simple as that."

Hunt has no regrets over the collision that catapulted him to infamy less than a minute into his first Premiership start.

But he insists he would rather be recognised for his football than for his part in the accident that looks to have ended Cech's season.

"It was a shock to me at the time. It suddenly seems everyone knows who I am but for the wrong reasons and it was only after our game against Charlton that people said 'oh yeah, he's a good player', said Hunt.

"What is most disappointing is that Reading Football Club has started off really well and the whole team has done really well. I had just got in the team and got all this limelight to an extent we didn't deserve.

"The team deserved credit for the way they had played in the first eight or nine games, so I was sorry for the players and for the club because we got criticised for the wrong reasons."

Hunt also admits frustration at being advised to remain silent for nearly a month after the incident, but feels he and the club will emerge stronger from the experience.

"The club wrapped me in cotton wool after the incident," he stated.

"They were dealing with the situation and there were more comments made in the days following the incident but it was impossible for me to respond as my words would have been twisted.

"So it was frustrating and people would have thought 'oh yeah, he ain't coming out'.

"But at the same time everyone else was making comments and most were coming to the conclusion that I didn't mean to do it, so I didn't need to say anything.

"I would have liked to but that was Reading's choice and they dealt with the situation as best they could.

"The club has not dealt with situations like this before and has probably got stronger from it in terms of how to deal with everything that goes with football off the pitch."

Reading's Ibrahima Sonko and Stephen Hunt
The letters were coming to the club and if they had come to my house it's a different situation

Stephen Hunt
And for Hunt - and team-mate Ibrahima Sonko following the aerial collision that left Cudicini unconscious - death threats were an alarming element of their own steep learning curve as players.

"I opened the first one but after that the club opened all my mail," Hunt explained.

"It happens. If people want to write death threats they will. You can't control that and it was out of my hands.

"The letters were coming to the club and if they had come to my house it's a different situation. But they didn't and Reading have good security people around the place so you can't afford to be worried about it.

"I didn't know who the person was, so I just got on with it."

However, the midfielder is still trying to rebuild his own tarnished reputation and impressive performances since the match against Chelsea suggest recognition in the form of a full Republic of Ireland cap will not be far away.

Hunt conceded: "I have gone from people not knowing me to everyone knowing who I am. It's a bit weird but I want to be known for the way I play and not what happened with Petr Cech."

Hunt collision still haunts Cech
27 Oct 06 |  Chelsea


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