Player of the season  

This season hasn’t been a classic. I doubt that many of you sit around reminiscing about the 90/91 season when Keith McPherson won the official Player of the Season, and we finished 15th in Division 3, five places above Swansea, but it happened. I also expect that he’s still a bit proud of winning that accolade. So you don’t just have POTS during the good seasons. It’s a reference point for future years.

 
To start with I would like to give mentions to HRK and Nick Blackman, especially the former. When fit, Hal has been a key player this season. I hope he can continue this form next season, even if it’s not for us. 

On to Nick Blackman – for 3 months of this season he singlehandedly spearheaded our ‘promotion push’. He was the man to ask for lottery numbers on a Saturday night, everything was going for him. 

Now let’s get down to my top three.

3. Ali Al Habsi

When we signed Ali I instantly gave him the nickname ‘KitKat wrists’, and on his home debut he did nothing to disprove me. But as the season progressed he’s had some very impressive games, notably Palace in the cup. He kept us in that game with one of the best displays I’ve seen from a Reading goalkeeper. 

I’m fully aware that he can decide that he’s going to liven up the game, sometimes with catastrophic results, by going for a cross that he doesn’t need to go for, or by rushing out of his area as if he were Manuel Neuer playing with a sweeper. Hector is normally his partner in crime in these scenarios. 

But that’s part of the charm of Ali; he has got a personality and he’s not scared of showing it. My own favourite moment of the season was when he jumped into Y26 after Piazon’s clinching goal against WBA. That was spontaneous, and a rare moment when fans and players joined as one. Personally I hope he’s still here next season, as our number one. I think he’s capable of better performances than his predecessor Federici. 

2. Oliver Norwood

Here is a player who seems to split the opinions of our fans. I’m clearly a fan of Oli, although until recently I always checked the other scores on my phone when he stepped up to take a set piece. Fortunately he seems to have realised I wasn’t paying attention and improved. Thanks Oli! But seriously, he’s a quality player, lovely touch and rarely loses possession. He’s also got a vicious shot on him. Who can forget his goals against Ipswich and Forest?  

Where some people, and sometimes even the manager, go wrong with Oli is that they expect him to play as an attacking midfielder. In the games where he played deeper he looked so much more impressive. Ask him to slide through balls to the strikers and he’s not in his favoured role. I can see why Bournemouth are showing interest in Oli, he would fit perfectly into their side. Obviously I hope he stays and is a key figure in our team next season.

1. Paul McShane

When we signed Paul, a few people on Twitter said that he was no better than Alex Pearce. Now I’ve got a lot of time for Alex, but this was quite frankly a ridiculous comparison. I do hope those people realise that they now look rather daft. McShane is the kind of player that you want to be your captain. He is a top player so his place in the starting lineup is assured, and he is a leader. We all know about the Boro incident, which was totally out of character for Paul. I did consider Danny Williams for my top 3 after that game – anyone who is prepared to take on an angry, red-haired Irishman deserves some kind of award!
Thinking back over the season I can’t remember McShane having a poor game. So, in a season of mediocrity, McShane has stood out like a beacon for me. Hopefully next season he can even notch a few goals in the blue and white hoops.

 
I hope you enjoyed reading my thoughts on POTS, feel free to get in touch via @elmparkroyals.
Paul Mann 

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