Now that the parade is over and the trophy safely in the cabinet there's time to reflect on what has been a remarkable season for Reading Football Club. Over the next few weeks we'll take detailed looks at lots of different areas of the 2011/12 season and today we'll start our position by position breakdown of all those that have made an appearance for the Royals this year, starting today with the goalkeepers and the defenders.
As a quick guide the rankings are from A-E with A being Jimmy Quinn in 1994 and F being Mark Reilly. Data includes Carling Cup & FA Cup Games and is taken from the Reading OS.
The midseason report card can be viewed here
I've not given ratings to players that haven't made an appearance this year but credit to Mikkel Andersen for backing up Federici all year, Federici himself has said that Andersen's quality helps keep him sharp and hopefully we'll see him in a Reading shirt one day.
Adam Federici - Appearances: 47 - Clean Sheets: 20 - Midseason Grade: B+
Federici was one of our standout performers this season and was well deserving a place in the top three of the Player Of The Season vote. The Australian entered the year under a bit of a cloud, with transfer rumours linking him with Swansea and Wolves and the stopper doing himself no favours by giving an interview to Sky Sports News that said he needed to be playing in the Premier League. He also had to deal with a vocal group of Reading fans who were upset that Alex McCarthy had been so quickly dropped at the end of the previous season and who beleived that McCarthy's development was being blocked. Throw in the fact he also had competiton from one of the standout performers from the European U21 Championship in Mikkel Andersen and suddenly Federici's form seems that much more impresive.
Federici improved just about every aspect of his game over the past 12 months, with his distribution, command and shot stopping all top notch throughout the campaign. Aside from a minor wobble or two during the team's rough first month Federici won us countless points with stunning saves. Over the second half of the season he's been near flawless and his contribution in wins over Coventry, Brighton stand out clearly in the mind. His penalty save at the AMEX a few weeks ago could well have been THE moment that helped get us over the line and as much as Jason Roberts, Jimmy Kebe, Ian Harte and out centre backs get credit, Federici deserves equal if not greater praise.
He's certain to start next season as our number 1 and he stands to play in the Premier League for years to come, with or without Reading.
Final Grade: A
Alex McCarthy - Appearances 1 - Clean Sheets 0 - Midseason Grade: C
As mentioned above, McCarthy might have felt a little hard done by having been dropped just two games from the end of last season after a run of fine performances covering the injured Federici. After being part of Stuart Pearce's England U21 squad for the Euro's in the summer many felt that McCarthy might well start the season back in goal but Federici retained his place and McCarthy had to settle for just 1 League Cup appearance before returning to bench duty.
Loan moves to Leeds and then Ipswich were sandwiched between the young 'keeper signing a new long term deal, but while Alex won praise at Elland Road, he never fully displaced Andy Lonergan. At Ipswich a red card early on in his time at the club resulted in him losing the starting spot at Portman Road as he spent the next six games out of the team. However, McCarthy did win his place back and in total made ten appearances at Ipswich before being recalled to cover an injury to Mikkel Andersen.
It's hard to judge him having not seen him play this season but another 15 or so games at Championship level could only have helped his cause. Reading will once again enter next season with three good goalkeepers and one of Andersen or McCarthy will probably be sent out on loan. However, with Federici so impressive and the TSI takeover pending, I wouldn't be shocked to see one of them leave on a permanent deal as it could be that neither will be fully happy spending another full season away from his parent club or sat warming the bench.
Final Grade C
Alex Pearce - Games: 46 Goals: 5 Assists: 2 - Midseason Grade: B
I wrote back in the pre-season that this could be the defining season of Alex Pearce's Reading career and I'm delighted it's panned out on the positive side in such a massive way, with Pearce named player of the year by the fans. Pearce became the first man since James Harper in 2008 to start every league game in a season and joins Ivar Ingimarsson and Ibrahima Sonko as centre backs to have played every game of a Championship winning season for the Royals. Pearce looked a little shakey alongside Khumalo at the start of the year, but soon formed a formidable partnership with Kaspars Gorkss as the pair helped keep 19 clean sheets in 43 games. Pearce also contributed with a fair few goals at the other end, and key goals at Ipswich and Doncaster as well as what one Reading pundit called a 'World Class Header' against Blackpool on his way to five league goals. Equally impressive was his discipline, with Pearce giving away just one penalty and receiving just six bookings all season, without a single red card.
A deserved player of the year and here's hoping to another fine season from the Oxford born defender.
Final Grade: A
Kaspars Gorkss - Games: 43 Goals: 3 Assists: 0 - Midseason Grade: A
Possibly the best signing in the Championship this season, Gorkss added to the Championship winners medal he got last year with QPR by helping the Royals to title glory in 2012. Gorkss immediately settled a shaky defence and his partnership with Pearce will be mentioned in the same breath as other great Reading pairings such as Williams and Wdowczyk and Ingimarsson & Sonko. Gorkss solid defending and trusty left foot were one of the key reasons for our success, while his equalising goal at West Ham sparked some of the wildest celebrations of the season. Not only has he been great himself, but he's helped the likes of Pearce and Cummings improve as well and I'm sure Brian McDermott will give him a chance to impress in the Premier League next year.
Final Grade: A
Ian Harte - Appearances: 34 Goals 4 Assists: 8 - Midseaon Grade: C+
Harte struggled to bounce back from a disappointing day at Wembley and was replaced early in the season by Joseph Mills who looked to have made the position his own before he picked up an injury in mid-November. That opened up the door for Harte who set up two goals in his return at Ipswich and after a brief injury lay-off, Harte was an ever present as the club stormed to top spot in the spring.
Harte provided several key assists and scored key goals in wins against Middlesbrough, Blackpool and West Ham as he was ultimately voted the best left-back in the Championship by his peers for the PFA team of the year.
The Republic of Ireland man was just as good defensively and except for one comical mismatch away at Peterborough you barely heard a complaint about his lack of pace, as his positioning was just that good. Whether that positioning will be enough next year against the likes of Theo Walcott, Nani, Scott Sinclair and Aaron Lennon is unknown but Harte deserves one last shot at the Premier League and was a key part of the Championship winning team.
Final Grade: B+
Shaun Cummings - Appearances: 36 Goals 0 Assists: 0 - Midseason Grade: A
Going into last season, Cummings looked to have no future at the club having been left out of the pre-season tour and labelled by more than one person and a notable radio pundit as one of the worst signings in the club's history. An injury crisis brought Cummings out of the cold for a game at Leicester and after shutting down a dangerous Lloyd Dyer at the Walkers, Cummings slowly began to earn more and more chances to impress. Coming into this year and the former Chelsea youngster was still second choice to Andy Griffin, but injuries and lack of form to Griff gave Cummings his chance and the youngster never looked back, featuring in 36 games over the remainder of the season.
He's still not quite in the same bracket as guys like Murty but he's slowly improved all season long. The one big question mark remains his crossing and general attacking play but at such a young age he's got plenty of time to hone that area of his game and he'll be a fine choice to start next year at right back.
Final Grade B+
Joseph Mills - Appearances: 16 Goals: 0 Assists: 1 - Midseason Grade: B-
Mills came into the team at the end August and soon replaced the slumping Ian Harte as the team's first choice left-back. After a bit of a slow start he really began to find some form, notably impressing in a game at Crystal Palace before suffering an injury in November that kept him out for large parts of the season.
Ian Harte came back into the team and made the shirt his own, limiting the injury hit Mills to just one further start against Coventry when he played as a midfielder. While things didn't go his way on the pitch, Mills was rewarded with a new long-term contract at the club that will see him remain at the Madejski until 2014.
The left-back was a victim of circumstance rather than poor form and there's no shame being behind the man voted the Championship's best left-back two seasons in a row. While his impact on the pitch during 2012 might have been limited, he was still a key part of the group and with Ian Harte not getting any younger, he could well see a few games at left-back next season, especially against some of the quicker wingers.
Final Grade: B-
Matthew Connolly - Games: 6 Goals 0 Assists 1 - Midseason Grade: NA
Connolly arrived in on loan from QPR at the end of January to help provide some cover across the back four but injuries to Griffin and Cummings meant that he immediately came into the team at right back. In his first four games in the side we won and kept clean sheets but sadly for the former Arsenal man, he picked up what seemed an inauspicious injury in the 2-1 win at Millwall that would keep him out until the final game of the season when he played an hour against Birmingham. Steady but not spectacular, Connolly looked perfectly capable of performing at Championship level and with age on his side there's no reason not to sign him next year to help provide vital depth in the defensive department.
Final Grade: C
Andy Griffin - Appearances: 9 Goals: 0 Assists: 1 - Midseason Grade: D+
In many ways Griffin never recovered from the roasting he got in the play-off final by Swansea and after an injury hit start to this campaign he was replaced by Shaun Cummings. Cummings went from strength to strength and Grffin's days as our first choice right back were over. Griffin made a handfull of starts as an emergency left-back and while steady he never really made a case to be starting there on a regular basis, though we did earn wins and clean sheets in his last four games.
With his struggles to earn a place in a Championship side it wasn't a great surprise to see him move on and with his young family still based near Stoke, it makes sense for him to move a bit closer to home for more regular playing time. I still think he's capable at Championship level and certainly at League One, so Griff - all the best.
Final Grade D+
Bongani Khumalo - Games: 5 Goals: 0 Assists: 0 - Midseason Grade: E
Arriving from Tottenham on-loan, we had high hopes for Mr Khumalo who had appeared for South Africa at the World Cup just 12 months previously. Khumalo figured to be a key part of our defence alongside Alex Pearce but things never panned out that way and after three defeats in his five games for the club, he was replaced by Kaspars Gorkss and never made the starting XI again. Khumalo was quite woeful but then again as I wrote back in midseason, maybe we'd been a bit too harsh in writing off the South African, given the fact that others like Leigertwood, Harte, Griffin etc were all equally as bad at the time and then bounced back. Had he been given more time alongside Gorkss then who knows how he could have performed though in hindsight it really doesn't matter as you couldn't have asked for anymore from either Gorkss or Pearce. In all we can call the move a failure but Khumalo will forever be part on on-loan lore alongside the likes of Nick Colgan, Steve Blatherwick, and Sekou Baradji.
Final Grade: E
Sean Morrison - Games 1 Goals: 1 Assists 0 - Midseason Grade: NA
Morrison joined the club last January but 18 months on the 21 year old centre-back still has just one appearance for Reading. The former Swindon man made his Royals debut in the League Cup defeat at Charlton and scored our only goal in an otherwise forgettable night for Brian McDermott's inexperienced side. Morrison was then loaned out to Huddersfield where he's made 19 appearances and has the chance to play at Wembley should the Yorkshire side make it through their play-off semi-final. Morrison has admitted that he does not know what his Reading future holds but at the moment he's one of just three central defenders with a decent amount of league experience at the club so unless replacements are brought in he stands to be part of the squad next season. At such a young age it's foolish to write the guy off but he'll need at least a season at Championship level before being able to push Pearce or Gorkss for a starting berth.
Final Grade NA
So that's part 1 of our player by player review, but what do you think? Let us know your thoughts below.