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Regal Royals: The Best Reading Signings of the 2010s
21 February 2020
By Hob Nob Anyone?
The 2010s was an intriguing decade for Reading, starting it off battling for promotion.
One year after a lost promotion playoff final against Swansea, that fight would be won in 2012, with Reading re-joining the Premier League after a four-year absence. Immediate relegation followed though, and the Royals have struggled to get back into the big time ever since. A cruel penalty shootout loss in the play-off final of 2017 is the closest they have since come to a top-flight return.
While the Championship is a tough league to negotiate, especially when the three-year parachute payments window has long expired, all it can take is the right initiative to drastically shorten any team's promotion odds.
Reading are no different, and though long-term top-flight establishment was elusive in the 2010s, the decade still heralded some great signings. These men stand out as prime examples of inspired scouting work and transfer nous, and provide the current staff with food for thought, as another year in the wilderness beckons.
Gunter may not be the most dazzling name on this list, but the consistency he showed in the famous hoops throughout the 2010s has to be admired.
Gunter was amongst those that played in the solitary Premier League season. He stayed true to Reading after the drop, choosing to negotiate the rollercoaster that is the Championship every year rather than seeking to find a club with better promotion prospects.
His opportunities in the last couple of seasons may have been limited, but Gunter is still a solid member of the side. He has long since passed the 300-game milestone for the club, proving that loyalty still has a place in modern day football.
Towards the end of the decade, Liam Moore had a hugely positive impact on the club. Like Gunter, he too has been a great servant, and while his penalty miss in the 2017 play-off final was a huge blemish on his legacy, Moore continues to be a colossal captain. The key numbers show exactly how brilliant an all-round defender he can be, with an average of 4.7 aerial duels per-game won last season. His consistency has been excellent, and he could well be at the club for years to come. Fans love his no-nonsense defending, and at the age of 27, Moore could have his best years ahead of him in the Reading backline.
Right at the start of the decade, Reading signed Harte from Carlisle in what was a curious transfer on paper. Formerly of a strong Leeds side in the Premier League, the Irishman was well past his best by 2010, in spite of the experience he boasted in European competitions for the Whites. Yet, despite playing just 99 games for Reading, Harte created some great memories and scored some very important goals. His tally of 15 goals and 15 assists from those games was partly due to his legendary free-kick ability, which proved a great asset towards Reading's Championship title in 2012. The three seasons he spent at the club showed that his career was far from done, and that the Reading squad of today should cherish top-level experience regardless of age.
Adam Le Fondre
Signed from Rotherham in 2011, Le Fondre had a good spell at the club until his departure in 2014, scoring 41 goals in 110 games for the club. Like Harte, his spell included that wonderful Championship title win, but he too would find out (as constantly reflected by Premier League predictions) that newly-promoted sides can often be nothing short of cannon fodder.
Though disadvantaged by being part of an outclassed squad, Le Fondre was still highly industrious in the subsequent Premier League season of 2012/13. He scored 12 goals, including goals in four of Reading's meagre six wins that season. Perhaps most memorable were his two late goals vs then-European champions Chelsea to secure a draw.
Since signing for the club, McCleary has gone on to make over 200 appearances in the hoops, scoring over 20 goals in the process. Like Gunter, he signed from Nottingham Forest, but his status as a free signing makes his arrival one of the best pieces of business the club has made in the last decade. Having signed in 2012, McCleary was thrown in at the proverbial deep end, and faced keeping Reading in the Premier League from the off. While McCleary may not have been able to prevent relegation, he still played a huge role in the team getting to the play-off final in 2017.
Omani goalkeeper Al-Habsi may not boast the longest Reading career, but the two seasons he spent at the club were brilliant. He won the player of the season award for those two seasons, and in that run towards the 2017 promotion play-offs, he collected no less than six man of the match awards. Al-Habsi also averaged 3.6 saves per game that season, which represented a personal best for his career so far. In a different world, he would have guided Reading back into the Premier League, and given them a fair chance of survival, but fate dictated otherwise.
With over 100 appearances and plenty of goals, John Swift could well turn into a Reading legend. The 24-year-old may be a little inconsistent at times, but is surely only going to get better. He is generally great to watch, and has also shown particularly talismanic qualities on home turf at times. Notably, Reading had won ten of the dozen Championship home fixtures in which he had scored prior to their home game vs West Brom in February.
Swift's current rate of assists this season shows a growing maturity, and he has also kept the goals coming. Additionally, his pass success percentage has been consistently over 80%, with man of the match awards being a pleasingly frequent occurrence. Ultimately, Swift was not only one of the best signings of the last decade, but could also easily become Reading's best player of the 2020s.
As with any list of this ilk, some great players are bound to undeservedly miss out. Amongst them is unquestionably Jason Roberts, with his goals being crucial in getting Reading promoted. Sadly, for the Premier League journeyman, the injuries he sustained the following season limited his impact.
Danny Williams also deserves a huge mention, with four great years at the club, and there have also been some impressive loan signings in the recent past, such as Nathan Ake, Emiliano Martinez, Nathaniel Chalobah, Ovie Ejaria and Glenn Murray. The likes of Yann Kermorgant could also make this list, for the impact that he had on the club and the memories he gave.
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