Who are the best footballers we never saw play for our club? Something like this will always be subjective. But how do you come up with a list like this? Ray ‘Bomber’ Reeves, Ronnie Blackman, Steve Death, Kerry Dixon and Neil Webb, all huge characters from the club’s past, but also players I feel no affinity with at all. That was my starting point. It should really be players I wish I had seen, that I could have actually seen. This then gives a mid-eighties to current time frame, so let me begin……….
This may be a controversial choice, but I’ve opted for Steve Francis. He was the first goalkeeper I remember in a Reading shirt, and was a good shot stopper, while not always looking the biggest. He was outstanding in the Simod Cup Semi-Final shootout against Coventry (late night Radio 210!!!), I can also remember the excitement when he arrived from a Division One club, at a time when Reading didn’t really sign anyone from that high up the league.
I will start here with Steve Richardson and Colin Baillie. Richardson was a long-time servant of the club, and played with pace and tenacity, something you always like to see in your defenders which probably helped him get his two Player of the Season awards. Baillie was quietly effective, the perfect complement to Richardson, although though will be remembered to many as someone who lost his passion for the game at 28, becoming a policeman. Kaspers Gorkss is next up. Potentially a bit of a one season wonder in the promotion team of 2011-12, Gorkss added experience and backbone to the Reading defence when they most needed it. He also developed a bit of an iconic status, with the beard that was not removed until promotion was secured. Finally, the defence is rounded out by Paul McShane, our current captain. If you follow Paul on Twitter, and see his post match tweets, you’ll understand why he’s here.
OK, let’s start with a beast at the beginning. Terry Hurlock. Hurlock was the sort of player you wanted on your side. Mean, physical, with a bite that took chunks in the tackle, just ask the landlord of the pub where Hurlock ripped the door off with his bare hands!!! Next, we’ll go a lot more cultured. Simon Osborn. He was probably the player I wished I’d seen most to a degree, he left the season before I got my ST. A central midfielder who could pick a pass, and had a good shot, he was another one season wonder for the Royals, playing a huge part in Reading getting to THAT play-off final, you know the one. I like wingers, players who use a bit of pace or trickery to provide those crosses goal-scorers thrive on. I would like to have seen Bobby Convey play in the flesh, as he looked a great acquisition for Reading and was extremely promising before a bad knee injury. Finally, we come to god, Gylfi be thy name. If you want to best judge an impact a player makes, see the reaction when they go, and how long their name is spoken after they have left. Gylfi has long since left these pastures, but his name regularly comes up, if not in terms of him as player, then in terms of what Reading is missing, both in terms of tactics and attitude.
Who else? Big Trev it has to be. A proven goal-scorer, a man who just knew where the net was. We’ve had a few over recent years, but none of them eclipse the goal machine that Trevor was. The other striker I will go for is Noel Hunt. Not the most prolific, but got his share. His most redeeming aspect was his doggedness and ability to keep on going. It’s always accepted in football that defence starts up front, and Noel worked his socks off for the cause, something a few of our current team could bear in mind.
Shaka. It was a close run thing but I think Steve Francis shaded it on helping us win some silverware at Wembley. Steve Wood, a classy Centre-back, when things here tended to be more agricultural. Paul Canoville. His was a career that was cruelly cut short, but I think he showed enough glimpses to know that we would have had a real crowd pleaser on our hands. Lastly, and perhaps, most sombrely, Dean Horrix. A player who was one of Big Trev’s partners in crime, and sadly taken from this world way too young.
These lists always are a bit subjective, ‘why him?’ or ‘what about…..’ These are my choices, feel free to let us know your thoughts via @ElmParkRoyals or the comments section below.