Every summer transfer speculation is always rife, and even more so following a promotion. And as clubs publish their lists of released players and former Royals become available, there’s discussion about which former Royals would be worth bringing back for this second spell in the Premier League.
So, just for fun, here are some thoughts on just which of the former Royals from the record-breaking 2005/06 team and the subsequent Premier League seasons we should consider re-signing. For simplicity, I’ve only considered players who made a significant contribution or played in a reasonable number of matches, and as this my opinion piece I get to decide what a "significant contribution" or a "reasonable number of matches" actually means!
The class of 2005/06
Quite an easy decision, as Marcus was no spring chicken even when at his peak with us, and time’s done him no favours. Although he’s been released by Everton today so is now available, with our Goalkeeping Trinity of Federici, McCarthy and Andersen we are almost embarrassingly over-blessed with goalkeeping talent and this is one area where we don’t need cover.
2. Graeme Murty - No
Again, time is the enemy here, since earlier this year Graeme announced his retirement from the game. So not appropriate here, although I’d love to see him back at the club in some kind of coaching or ambassadorial role. His influence was as marked off the pitch as on it, so I’m sure he could be of great use to us in some role.
3. Nicky Shorey - Maybe
This one is more open to discussion. He was a massive influence for us and a key part of the team at its height – who can forget his run at Middlesbrough in the first Premier League match that inspired the team to come back from two goals down? His performances lead to an England call-up, but after January 2008 his mind seemed to be elsewhere after, reportedly, a transfer offer well under the release fee in his contract wasn’t put to him. Many won’t forgive him for the lethargy and seeming lack of commitment to the cause in the relegation season, and it must be said that after leaving us he didn’t set the world alight elsewhere, and he’s just been released by West Brom. So, in the words of the Gallagher brothers – a “definite maybe” here. If he’s hungry and could reproduce the form of his early days then he’d certainly be a worthwhile addition to the squad, if only as cover. And although he’s now 31, he’s still younger and faster than Ian Harte!
I’m not sure he’d be available or that Fulham would release him, but I’d welcome him back without a moment’s hesitation. Steve has held down a pretty regular starting place in Fulham’s first team this season and doesn’t seem to have lost any of his commitment and tenacity. As a ball-winning, box-to-box midfielder he’d still be a great addition.
5. Ibrahima Sonko & 16. Ivar Ingimarsson - No
It makes sense to cover these two as a pair, since they were inseparable in central defence during the glory years, and have even ended up together at Ipswich. But sadly age and injuries have taken their toll, and Sonks was never really the same after his knee injury, so I’d much rather remember them in their prime and accept that time has moved on.
6. Brynjar Gunnarsson - Not applicable
Bryn is the only significant player from this period still here – and he’s to Reading what the Ravens are to the Tower of London –if he ever leaves, the MadStad will spontaneously crumble to the ground. So the news that he’s taking his coaching certificates is good news – as far as I’m concerned he should be a permanent fixture in any role he wants, and should change his name by Deed Poll to “Brynjar Mr Reading Gunnarsson”.
I’m convinced that one of the great reasons for our success in 2005/06 was that we managed to get a virtually full and injury-free season out of Glen – but we crucially lost him to injury for virtually all of the next season before he gained fitness and immediately left for Portsmouth! But when he returned on loan in 2008 it was clear that some of the magic had faded with time and injury, so enough said that he’s now 36 and turning out for Wrexham in the Conference.
8. Leroy Lita - No
Always an emotive character, Leroy’s attitude to life seemed to outweigh anything that his undoubted talent might bring us. He scored some memorable goals (think of the overhead kick against Palace) but his stock sunk so low that when he missed a penalty in the League Cup at Stoke many were convinced he’d done it deliberately! Since leaving us leaving us he’s failed to realise his initial potential, so it's "no thanks" from me.
9. Kevin Doyle - Yes
Despite his relegation with Wolves and being written off by many, I’d jump at the chance to see Kevin back here. Those who look at his goal-scoring record just see a small part of his game, as where he is superb is playing on his own up front and holding the ball up until the midfield join him – and that’s exactly the sort of player we’re likely to need playing in the Premier League. So a definite “yes” from me here.
Mainly a bit-part player in the Championship-winning season, he really came into his own once Bobby Convey was injured, and for a period of about three months he was superb. But cynics would say that at the end of those three months, once he had been granted a new contract, the talent somehow evaporated. My views are coloured by memories of countless corners that failed to clear the first defender and a slightly acrimonious parting, so I don’t think he’d add anything to the current squad.
11. John Oster - No
He never really got a chance to shine in the Championship season, and when he did get a run in team over later years he never really captured the imagination – often being abused by the East Stand for the usual crime of not being Glen Little. But I think his level is closer to Doncaster, where he is now, rather than in the Premier League.
12. Dave Kitson - No
A real enigma. He made such an impact, and then it all seemed to go wrong in a period of a couple of months – shortly after the press were touting him as an England possibility and features on him seemed to be in different media every week. Since then he’s rattled around other clubs without settling, and on his return here on-loan as Steve Coppell’s last throw of the promotion dice in 2009 he looked a shadow of the player he previously was.
Another real enigma. Described as being “as mad as a sackful of monkeys” he was always one of the first names of the teamsheet, forming a near-perfect partnership in central midfield with Steve Sidwell. And then, suddenly, he didn’t! The box-to-box play turned into sideways passing and his career slid inexorably downwards, via Sheffield Utd and Hull to a loan spell at Wycombe. I can’t explain what’s behind this sad decline, but I think it’s gone on too long and too far for him to be worth a return.
16. Bobby Convey - No
I can still vividly remember every step of Bobby’s run from his own area to score against Millwall, and for me that sums up the great season he had for us. But really that was it – injuries intervened and when he returned in 2007/08 he looked a different player. Whilst he’s now fully fit and doing great things at Sporting Kansa City in the MSL, I think we’re lucky he was fit at just the right time in that memorable season.
24. Shane Long - Yes
Not a difficult decision, this one. Although he was a regular super-sub in 2006-08, he didn’t really come of age until the past couple of seasons, under Brian McDermott, who turned him into a finely tuned, highly motivated and deadly striker. I don’t think any Reading supporter would disagree that the chance to reunite Shane with Brian’s leadership would be too good to miss.
The Premier League Years
2. Liam Rosenior - No
Football is all about opinions, including irrational dislikes, and I have a massive one against Liam – coupled with the view that if he’d known how to choose the right studs on his boots and stayed on his feet we’d not have been relegated in 2008. So it’s No, No, Dear God, NO!
4. Khalifa Cisse - No
Never came close to being a replacement for Steve Sidwell, and seems to have found his level at Bristol City, so not a player who would benefit us in any significant way, even as a fringe player.
8. Marek Matejovsky - No
Undoubtedly a massively skilful, but sadly ineffective player, Marek is always the subject of hot debate. Whether he was just too good for the players around him or we played the wrong tactics to bring the best out of him is to open discussion, but I’d not want to see him have another chance here. As much as anything, he was a defensive liability, with every tackle a yellow-card or penalty waiting to happen.
19. Ki-Hyeon Seol - No
Scored a few memorable goals, especially at West Ham, but failed to set the world alight. Another right-winger who earned the scorn of many for the crime of not being Glen Little, and for “not looking like he’s interested”, he’s another whose time has been and gone.
Better known to us as Andre Bikey, a real favourite for many fans. Always looked far too good to play centre-back, and often seemed to do the difficult thing rather than take the easy option. Burnley played him in midfield where many Royals fans wanted to see him start for us, but the fact that he’s been released by them today suggests he’d not be worthy of a return, especially as you never knew quite when the next explosion of fury would come along.
23. Ulises De la Cruz - No
Loved him when he was here, and his goal against Sheffield United still lives in the memory. But he’s now 38 and I think that tells us enough.
28. Greg Halford - No
Now at Portsmouth, having left us in dubious circumstances. Clearly not the player he thinks he is and not one I’d welcome back.
Not strictly within the scope of this piece as he didn’t play with us in the Premier League, Gylfi is another former Royal who’d be welcomed back with open arms. But I don’t think it’s ever going to happen – already his talent is too great, and too expensive for a club of Reading’s size – he’s destined to go to a team at the very top, and sooner rather than later. So he’s already out of our budget, and coming back to us wouldn’t be a positive career move for him, either, sadly. We can dream, but dreams of Gylfi coming back just aren’t realistic.
What do you think of these opinions? Please let us know below.