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This one’s a keeper – or is he?

A personal view on Reading’s goalkeeping situation.

My favourite Reading player has been getting rave reviews over recent weeks. He’s played a major part in his team’s push towards the play-off positions, and every supporter speaks really highly of his abilities. I only wish I could see him play for Reading – because, of course, I’m talking about Alex McCarthy, who’s just started his second loan period at Leeds United.

Whilst I understand the need to keep him match sharp, and I can see the point of this loan, it’s immensely worrying, because Alex is one of those players who comes along rarely who just looks the part, and who has the obvious potential to succeed at the highest level of the game. And I’m itching to see him fulfil that potential – or at least start to fulfil it - for the team I support, rather than for a rival team in the Championship.

Because from what I saw of him in the 15 games he played for Reading last season, he is by far the most promising goalkeeper I’ve ever seen. The only way to describe it is that he just looks like he was born to play there – despite his young age and relative lack of experience he commands his area and I have total confidence in him when he’s between the posts.

This all leaves me with a bit of a dilemma, because I find myself resenting Adam Federici for keeping Alex McCarthy out of the team. I’ll put my cards on the table and confess I’ve never been a great fan of Adam Federici – the calamities of his early days and his habit of turning routine saves into flashy “camera saves” never endeared him to me, and his comments to Sky Sports News in the summer, interpreted as “come and get me, I’m too big for this club” didn’t help his cause with me. There’s nothing in his game I can particularly criticise– except perhaps a reluctance to command his area – but I still feel unhealthy antipathy towards him for preventing Alex McCarthy from playing for Reading.

In terms of ability I don’t think there’s very much to choose between the two keepers - but the fact that McCarthy is 4 years younger and has played more than a 100 matches fewer to reach the same the same standard is a testament to his ability.

But this isn’t an attack on Adam Federici, who is a very, very good goalkeeper. I just fear that he’s never going to be much more than that very, very, good goalkeeper – and his presence is stopping Alex McCarthy from having the opportunity to develop here into what I believe could be - a truly great goalkeeper.

So, as we approach the January transfer window, and with Alex McCarthy still second in the pecking order at Reading, I really do worry for his future here, and I hope he is given the opportunity here to bloom.

Because my other worry is that that chance won’t come for reasons of player seniority. Dropping a “number one goalkeeper” when they’re not injured carries a message whether it’s intended or not – and the message is that they’re not “number one” any more. So with the two ‘keepers so close in ability at the moment, I wonder if we’re in a situation where the path of least resistance for the manager is to maintain the status quo. Because who knows what dropping Federici would do to dressing room harmony and to Federici’s happiness and attitude – I certainly don’t but I have my worries so I understand why we’re where we are now. But the status quo can only go on for so long with two such talented keepers at the club – and that’s before we consider the dynamic with Mikkel Andersen added in as well!

My dread about the current situation is that the inevitable result of maintaining the status quo for too long will be the loss of Alex McCarthy from Reading FC – and personally I’ll be gutted if that happens. Because more than any other young player it’s Alex McCarthy who I want to see fulfil his potential with the club I love.