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THE SUMMER SO FAR……….

Well, a new season of ‘Reading Football Club’ has started on a seemingly positive note so in time honoured tradition, here is that segment that nearly always pops up, and for which I shall adopt a husky voice………

‘PREVIOUSLY, ON READING FOOTBALL CLUB – THE SERIES…..’

I thought I would look at what I think are three key things that have developed since last season.

The season ended on pretty much a flat note, in keeping with what had gone on in the weeks (and months?) immediately prior to it. A team that seemed to be drifting, with neither drive nor direction, a seeming inability to keep a lead, or a clean sheet for that matter. Still there was the in-fighting among the fans, was Brian the right man for the job? Should he be given more time, and money to create his own team? For the record, I have never bought into that argument. A GOOD manager should be able to work, motivate and develop any squad he has. We went nowhere. (Don’t believe me? Check out Colin’s effect on Rotherham, as much as I don’t like him!!!). I guess the only surprise was, when the axe did fall, it was a few weeks into the summer. And so we jumped on the managerial merry-go-round once again. One of the notable changes had happened before the end of the season with Director of Football Nick Hammond off to pastures new (although don’t scout midfielders Nick, Tony doesn’t have much use for them!) The largely unknown Brian Tevreden moving into the hot seat, with a very sharp intake of breath from the Royals faithful.

Where were we? Ah yes, on the merry-go-round. Now we have all been down this road before, some of us will remember as far back as the Bernd Schuster talk, some even further than that. We all sit there and play the waiting game, growing ever more anxious as the teams around us (with managers!) make signings while it appears that we are just treading water. Rumours were already swirling around the club in the days/hours leading up to the sacking that the club had been talking to Jaap Stam. I am guessing many of us were wearing the same expression that Wolves fans now have about Walter Zenga. (Come on, admit it, we knew who he was but who had he managed??). It actually took a while to get there, but eventually Jaap was appointed. Who can forget that press conference, eh?? SJM picking completely the wrong moment to outline his feelings (apparently Paloma Faith shares Jaap’s angst). So now we have a new manager and already we have seen a number of signings coming in, quite a few of whom have raised eyebrows, which leads me on to my next point.

We can never know how a transfer that looks good on paper is going to pan out (Matej Vydra anyone??), but the summer has borne fruition with the influx of a number of potentially good players, and we are led to believe there are still more to come. However, there are three transfers that stand out for me, and I have to say (dons flak jacket) that at least two of them I am not sure would have happened under BMc. Roy Beerens. I remember seeing a tweet going ‘I thought we weren’t going to sign another Dutchman!’, well, I think it is nice to see that we shot in and got, what seems, a really good player as an out of the blue opportunity. Whilst Stuttgart are in Bundesliga 2, they have been a consistent Bundesliga 1 side, so it was a bit of a coup to get him once his transfer there collapsed. The two that really spring to mind though are John Swift and Yakou Meite. These are both extremely highly rated young players who both chose the fields of Berkshire over potentially more lucrative opportunities (especially in Meite’s case). Can you really, in your heart, see Brian enticing players like this to our club? Really? Stam has brought his own thoughts on management to the club, but he has also brought his name, a name that may at least get his call to a player’s agent answered. I just couldn’t always see that happening with Brian. Sorry!

The final point is probably the most important. Ownership. We have all seen over the last few seasons that there have been certain question marks over the Thai owners; who is in charge? How long does it take to make a decision? Why is Jacob Smith Klein in Lady Sasima’s music video? There was also the loud silence emanating from them over the second half of the season (see I did an oxymoron there!). Much of the running of the club seemed to fall to Pairoj Piemsongsant, but during the close season there seems to have been a shift with Sumrith ‘Tiger’ Thanakarnjanasuth taking a much more hands on role with the club (seriously, how cool is it having an owner called ‘Tiger’?? Hull City so missed a trick there…..). Even though he is not supposedly the majority shareholder (source: Get Reading 9 May 2016 lists Narin Niruttinanon as that) he has been the face of the club over the summer, overseeing the managerial appointment and sanctioning the transfers. I say this is the most important change, because I do wonder if the other two things would have occurred without this; is finally having some clarity of ownership going to provide drive, focus and impetus going forward?

These are just my ramblings, let me know yours………

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Royal Republic 

When the editor dropped me a line and asked me to do a bit about Ireland, I got a little bit excited as you do, Guinness, Dublin, Jamesons, Croke Park. Then I realised he actually meant Irish players. I pondered what qualifications do I have for this? My father’s side came from Norfolk, and my mother’s from Kent (with a wee bit of Scotland a few generations back!), so in the eyes of Jack Charlton, that makes me perfect (little 90s Irish squad selection joke there…..).

Last season we had Cox, Quinn and McShane. Delve into the more recent past and you get the Hunt boys, Doyle, Long, Kelly, Pearce, Bennett, Harte, and if you go further back in time you find Houghton and Maybury. So what can we discern from this? What you can gain from our recent history with Irish internationals, is that there is no one way to trace or record how they arrive at our club. Some have arrived in the twilight of their career, while others we developed ourselves, while yet more have arrived mid career. Maybe a couple of comparisons would help??

When you consider the players that arrived in the twilight of their career, the two that stand out are Ray Houghton and Ian Harte. Both had long careers with the Republic’s international squad (73 caps and 63 caps respectively). Houghton arrived as Bullivant took over the club, a season that promised much but only delivered relegation. A sad, but perhaps very Reading way, of saying goodbye to Elm Park. He stayed for the first season at the Madstad, playing over 40 times for the Royals with a solitary goal again Manchester City. Houghton was a busy player, but this was a very poor Reading team. Harte, on other hand, came on an out of the blue transfer from Carlisle. While there was no doubting his pedigree, there was a perception that he was past it, and was too slow to be any good. How wrong were we? He made the PFA Team of the Year two years running in the Championship, and provided a significant contribution to Reading’s second promotion to the Premier League. It’s a bit sad to think that both players left the Madstad off the back of relegation seasons, maybe a thought to ponder if we look at ‘veteran’ Irish free transfers in the summer??!!

Next up you have the players we have go in young and looked to develop. This is a field we have dabbled in a lot over recent years. Getting youth players in for free or a pittance, in the hope you can unearth a gem is something many clubs have do, if not to create millions, then to at least add decent players to your squad. This will always be a bit of a punt, hit or miss. The hit that stands out here, more than any is Shane Long. A Gaelic footballer and Hurler, with not much football pedigree, who arrived as part of the Doyle deal (yes, I know I could say Kevin, but he virtually went straight into the first team didn’t he?). Shane spent a few years developing, before really coming to the forefront when Doyle left. A number of seasons leading the line led to full Irish caps and a big money onwards to West Brom. Compare this with the recently released Pierce Sweeney. A centre back who arrived with a lot of promise in 2012, he was the captain of the U21 team that won the Premier League Cup in 2014, but somehow he never seemed to kick on from being on the fringes of the first team in Nigel Adkins time, to becoming an actual first teamer. He has watched Jake Cooper bypass him and become a first-team regular. It really was probably not a surprise that he was released this summer.

Finally we come to established players we’ve bought in. Two you could look at here are Noel Hunt and Simon Cox. What makes Cox different is that he was a youth player for Reading, before making his career with Swindon, West Brom and Forest before coming back. After a goal spurt in his opening games, Cox went on a barren run of form that continued through a loan spell at Bristol City, and to his return to Reading. Having arrived with the image as something of a goalscorer (to be honest I think this was mainly from his Swindon period!!), we all wished him well as a local boy playing for the team, and alas, it did not work out in the end, with Cox also leaving this summer. Hunt, on the other hand, was a bit of a dark horse to me. I must admit I did wonder, initially, if we were signing him to keep Stephen happy. Glad to say I was proved wrong. Hunt was never prolific, but he was a willing workhorse for whoever he played alongside, and his constant running meant that defences could never be comfortable when he was around. We could probably have done with him still around if we’re honest!!!

Ultimately, there is no rhyme or reason, to whether a player will be a success for your club, whatever stage of their career they may join at.

Darryl Griffin 

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