As far as memorable Reading matches go in recent times, Alex Pearce has pretty much been involved in them all.
Whether it was having to watch the 4-2 play-off final defeat to Swansea back in 2011 from the bench or being part of the side which clinched promotion to the Premier League a year later, the 26-year-old has experienced the ultimate highs and lows with the Royals.
And the Academy product is now preparing to help the side try and rip up the club’s history books this weekend, as victory over Arsenal at Wembley on Saturday would see Pearce and co become the first Reading team to reach the FA Cup final.
“It is certainly up there (in his list of memorable games),” said the centre-back.
“Obviously being promoted, the play-off final day was a great day, not in terms of the result, but for what we did after that; to go on and get promoted the season after, I think it certainly spurred us on.
“So that day (beating Nottingham Forest 1-0 to seal promotion) is up there in my mind and obviously Saturday is going to be up there as well.
“There has been many great days at this club and hopefully Saturday is another one.
“We are certainly due a win, aren’t we?!?”
Pearce was involved when the two sides last met in the league back in 2013 when the Gunners recorded a 4-1 victory at the Emirates in what was then-boss Nigel Adkins’ first game in charge of the Royals.
And the defender was again on the bench when the two semi-finalists played out a truly memorable League Cup clash in the same season at Madejski Stadium.
In a fixture the player described as “probably the weirdest game I have ever seen”, a rampant Reading side raced into a 4-1 half-time lead, only for Arsenal to hit back after the break and snatch a 7-5 success after extra time.
Arsene Wenger’s men, according to Pearce, may have underestimated their opponents on that particular night, something he believes they are unlikely to do this time around.
That year Reading were mixing it up with the big boys.
At present, the club are not yet safe from relegation to League One, while their opponents are on the coat tails of leaders Chelsea, having won their last eight Premier League games on the spin, losing just one of their last 11 outings in all competitions.
But form, as they say, goes out the window in such matches.
Pearce said: ‘It is obviously much higher opposition, and we know what we are in for.
“There are players in the dressing room that have played in the Premier League before and we have played against Arsenal before.
“We know there is top quality players all over the pitch for Arsenal, but the manger will prepare us really well, we’ll go there with a game plan and hopefully can carry that out.”
He added: “I think you just take one step at a time. All we need to worry about is this game on Saturday.
“If we start thinking about the final and that kind of stuff I think we’ll slip up and we won’t do what we have to do, which is go there with a game plan, do as many right things as we can during the game and hopefully that gets us the result.”
In the absence of Jem Karacan, Pearce has been filling in as Royals’ captain.
But with the midfielder back in the first-team fold having recovered from a serious ligament injury which ruled Karacan out of action for over a year, Pearce has no complaints in handing back the armband to his team-mate.
“Obviously it was a pleasure and an honour for me to captain the side and it was great, but now Jem is back, he has been captain and that is absolutely fine,” said the stand-in skipper.
Pearce also revealed all the players’ holiday plans have been put on hold.
Should the side get through to the final, they will have almost a month’s wait between the end of the Championship season and a return trip to Wembley.
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