The immediate difference between these two title-winning seasons is a difference of 17 points and 30 more goals scored for the 106 class. While we dominated the league six years ago, it's been debated as to whether winning the league this time around has been more enjoyable and satisfactory, considering we've overcome all expectations and beaten Big Sam's arrogant Hammers to the crown. So, how do both squads compare?
It's been widely publicised how well Adam Federici has played this year, and the fact he holds the record for the highest number of clean sheets (20) for 2011/2012 supports the reason why he came second in the POTY poll. Aside from the fact he has kept the most clean sheets, he has saved a great deal of points for the royals, playing out of his skin at times. It could be suggested that he has won us the league by saving shots the resolute defence has failed to stop. His penalty save at Brighton, his courageous display at Southampton, the countless saves he made vs Coventry... he has been a fantastic servant to this football club, and long may that continue.
When compared to Hahnemann though, it's very, very close. Despite the fact he didn't keep the most clean sheets in the league in 05/06, he still beat Federici's amount (22, Preston kept 24 that season). He also conceded just 32 goals compared to Federici's 41, so on statistical lengths, Hahnemann is obviously the victor. However, this post wouldn't be entitled 'comparing the champions' if Federici hadn't saved all those points... so by my judgement, Federici takes the gold...
Winner: Adam Federici.
Shorey and Murty were a consistent part of the initial title winning side, and both put in several match-winning displays. the inspiration came from the captain Murty, with both attacking and defensive flair oozing from Shorey. Shorey scored 2 and assisted a staggering 14 goals, whilst Murty was defensively more resolute, he apparently scored some goal on the last game of the season...
While Harte had cemented his place in the Reading team halfway through the season in the absence of Joe Mills, no one really capitalised on the right full back spot until Shaun Cummings had a run of games towards the latter stage of the season. Probably the most occupied position throughout the season, Cummings, Connolly, Griffin, Mullins, Karacan, Brynaldo and Tabb all filled in at one point. Connolly was unfortunate to pick up an injury at Millwall, as he was getting used to being an regular in the team, and put in a emphatic display against Middlesbrough. Cummings then took centre stage and to some extent excelled, as he adapted his defensive game and offered more going forward than both Connoly and Griffin.
Due to the absence of a permanent right sided defender, Murty takes the first full back spot by storm. Harte vs Shorey is an interesting one, a battle that could be ignited next season too, but overall, Shorey contributed more to the team, adding assists, stability and flair to the team.
The centre half positions will be very well contested- Both Ivar & Sonko and Pearce and Kaspars will have some sort of argument. As mentioned previously, the 05/06 squad conceded less goals and kept more clean sheets than the 2011/2012 side, but like Federici, Pearce and Gorkks certainly gained us some extra points. For example, when losing to Ipswich Pearce and Gorkss collaborated to equalise twice before Noel Hunt finished off the tractor boys. Or on the night of promotion, whilst the crowd were hysterical with delight at the fact we were 30 seconds from the top flight, Pearce kept his mind on the game and superbly blocked off the line. This is the most difficult decision to make, but Pearce fully deserves a place in this elite side. I'm going to disregard Gorkss now and focus on Ivar or Sonko. From my memory, Sonko was a tad calamitous and was prone to the mistake, but simultaneously gave his all like everyone else and contributed goals from tricky Shorey set pieces. However, Ivar was the brave, powerful defender who filled in perfectly for Murty when injured, and kept the defensive line perfectly. Therefore, the iceman take the glory.
Winners: Shorey, Murty, Ingimarsson, Pearce.
Ever since the 05/06 title campaign the Royals have consistently been strong in midfield. Aside from Scott Davies and Emerse Fae, the most memorable midfielders include; Matejovsky, Cisse, Gylfi and (love him or hate him) Brian Howard. As I say, it all started with the original champions, as we had an array of talent in the middle of the park with the likes of Gunnarsson, Harper and Sidwell. The latter two formed a formidable partnership throughout this campaign and were often praised by managers across the championship. Although Gunnarsson didn't start the majority of games, his goals were especially valuable. The lingering memory from Gunnarsson is his two goals that denied Sheffield United from taking a point of us at the Mad Stad, as he netted a last minute header to secure all 3 points. Ideally I'd like to put all three of the 05/06 centre mids in this team, especially Gunnarsson as he has now won two medals, but I can't. Overall, Sidwell has to be the best out of the three. In all honesty, he is the best central midfielder I have ever seen in Blue and White hoops (given I am only 16) . He was immense in all of his 36 starts, scoring a remarkable 10 goals. Granted, he may not have been as successful if it weren't for Harper, who's telepathic communication with Sidders was an integral part of our glory.
Karacan and Leigertwood, like Sidwell and Harper, also unearthed a special bond. At times during the season their relationship was the stronghold of the team, and the reason why we won so many games in the second half of the season. Albeit, their form didn't come without hiccups. It took Jem an age to get over Wembley, as he produced a string of wayward performances during our horrific start and was subsequently dropped. Leigertwood, also suffered in the opening games, as he looked a shadow of his former self. However Jem regained form after scoring a 97th minute winner at Burnley, and they went from there. The incredible partnership was alive again. Again, it's difficult to decide who is superior between the Antiguan and the Turk, but ultimately i think we missed Leigertwood more when he was injured than we did Karacan. Furthermore, when Leigertwood recovered from injury he scored the goal that gave us promotion with an extroadinary hook past Lee camp in the Forest goal.
Kebe, McAnuff, Little and Convey. Little is almost guaranteed a place in any Reading FC legends side, hence the reason why he walks over Kebe. However tricky and pacy and magical he may be, Kebe is far too inconsistent, and didn't contribute as much as I'd have expected him to this year. He obviously loves the club, and the fact he signed a new contract in January demonstrates his ambition to play at the top levels. Again though, he is miles off what Little was at his peak. His sublime chip against Plymouth is one of Reading FC's greatest ever goals and an astonishing 14 assists prove how sensational yet under-rated player he was.
McAnuff vs Convey is also a close-knit contest. Convey, whilst naturally left-sided and much improved form 04/05, was an important ingredient of the Reading FC recipe 6 years ago. The highlights of his season was when he completely annihilated Millwalls defence for a superb counter attacking goal, or a 25 yard screamer at Turf Moor. McAnuff has/had his doubters, especially at the start of the season. Allegedly he couldn't lead the side, and perhaps Hal Robson-Kanu should have been given a chance. Credit to him though, he picked up his form and definitely matured into the role as the Reading of old were back. McAnuff's 11 assists better Conveys 10, and McAnuff's inspiration towards the end of the season was one of the factors behind promotion.
Winners: Little, McAnuff, Sidwell, Leigertwood
The 05/06 string of attackers were certainly more partial to a goal than the strikers of 11/12. Lita, Kitson and Doyle scored a whopping 47 goals between them, whereas Roberts, Hunt, ALF and Church managed just 33 goals. The only real contenders to take the slot from 11/12 contenders are ALF and Roberts. Le Fondre will go down in Reading folklore, as he single-handedly performed miracle after miracle, scoring late winners against Watford, Millwall and most importantly, Southampton. However good he maybe from the bench, he wasn't the same when he started and although he was our top scorer with 12 goals last season, he doesn't compare to the likes of Leroy, Doyler or Kitson. That leaves Roberts, who (without a doubt) altered the teams belief and confidence, adding a presence to the changing room that everyone in the squad looked up to. Also, I believe he affected Jobi's self-esteem, making him the reliable captain he is today. 6 goals may seem a bit poor, especially compared to Kitson and Doyle's 18 strikes, but Like Federici and Pearce, he has been one of the few who have gained points just by what they bring to the team. Promotion, it seems, wouldn't have been possible without the Big Bad Wolf.
I will re-iterate again that selecting the best from these two teams is extremely hard, and none more so than selecting which striker to select out of Lita, Doyle and Kitson. Lita displayed moments of absolute genius at times, like his hat-trick against West Brom, or his spectacular overhead kick versus Palace. the £1million man started the majority of games at the start of the season, but eventually Doyle and Kitson were the two who formed the key partnership. Both bargains, Doyle and Kitson scored 36% of Readings goals that season. Certainly, both were value for money. Kitson was the natural finisher, whereas Doyle was the more athletic and agile forward, primarily the entertainer. For £67,000 what we got was goals, entertainment and some mind blowing moments of football. Sorry Kits, but Doyler takes the victory.
Winners: Doyle, Roberts.
Team Line up:
Let me know your selections from the two teams in the comments.