Reading have signed striker Karl Sheppard on a 2 1/2 year deal as confirmed by the club after the player himself confirmed the news on Twitter. The Republic of Ireland U21 international was out of contract with Shamrock Rovers and so moves to the Madejski on a free transfer.
Below the jump we'll be taking a quick look about what we know about Sheppard and what we can expect from him going forward.
Whenever we sign a relatively unknown player there's always a split among the Reading fans. some get excited that we could have unearthed another Doyle or Long, others fear another Dave Mooney, while the rest just slam the club for a lack of ambition and failure to spend the millions we have 'stashed away'. The truth is that either of the first two could happen while the third is just griping from people that will never agree with the club's financial management.
Meantime lets look a bit more at Sheppard shall we.
Sheppard was born near Dublin and turns 21 in February. He's listed at 181cm or 5ft 11' so he's not going to be a big tall target man. It's the same height as Simon Church and slightly taller than Adam Le Fondre. He is about 5kg heavier than Churchy though, coming in at 12 stone 5, with the Welshman 11st 12.
He started his schoolboy career with local team Portmarnock, who also helped develop Wolves man Stephen Ward and stayed with them till the age of 13 when he moved to Shelbourne. The youngster continued to develop while with the Shells and was called up to the ROI's Under 15 and Under 16 teams while scoring plenty of goals at youth level for his club, scoring more than 20 times .
During that time he also spent time training with Everton's academy before signing for Toffees for a reported £150,000 in 2007.
Sheppard played for the academy and the reserves while at Goodison, taking penalty duties for the reserves and scoring for them on his debut. He also played with Jack Rodwell saying he's the best player he's played with.
But unable to break into the first team frame, the striker returned to Galway in February and within weeks had scored this stunner against Sporting Fingal. (check out around 3.50.. wow)
The 19 year old was named the league's player of the month for April and enjoyed a fine debut season, scoring 8 goals in 35 league games in a struggling side that ended the season in 8th and involved in relegation play-offs.
But with Galway involved in financial strife (despite the presence of Nick Leeson at the club..) Sheppard was sold to Shamrock Rovers the in January of 2011.
Sheppard continued to score goals in the league, scoring 9 times in 18 league starts, as well as scoring 3 times in 5 games as Shamrock won the Setanta Cup. He helped Shamrock to win the Airtricity League in 2011 and also to help the side to become the first Irish side to reach the Europa League group stages.
Some of his goals can be found here, terrible song choice mind you...
He also managed a goal in the Europa League, scoring the equalising goal in Greece against PAOK(from 0.24)
He played against Spurs as well, though couldn't make much of an impact in his 74 minutes on the pitch as the home side went down 4-0.
He also continued to earn international honours, including winning his first Ireland U21 cap against Liechtenstein in November 2011. While he also played a training game for the youth team against a full senior team including Shane Long in the summer of 2010...
The striker was being tracked by several English clubs including Blackpool but eventually opted to sign for the Royals.
Brian McDermott has given his views on the Reading OS saying,
"He can hold it up, he can score, he can play up front on his own or in a two, he played wide right in a three as well so he's versatile.
"There was lots of interest in him as a youngster, he went to Everton for decent money. Sometimes at 16 coming over from Ireland it can be difficult to settle. I believe they're better off playing in Ireland for a while, llke Kevin and Shane did. There's others, Keith Fahey was at Villa early and is back now at Birmingham.
"Karl is young, hungry and wants to do well. That's the criteria we've had here for such a long time, it's why we've been successful. Nobody can doubt that over the last 10 or 11 years this has been a successful club.
"The signings have been pivotal in that and I hope Karl does well, I'm sure he will."
Looking at all of the above and his career record, it's clear Karl isn't just here to make up the numbers or be a long shot like Baseya or Brett Williams.
Despite being just 20 he's scored at every level he's been at, scoring in the Premier League reserve league, The League of Ireland and in the Europa League. He's also come from a winning team, with Shamrock enjoying great success over the past few months he won't be fond of losing. That being said he still manged to score 8 times as a 19 year old in a struggling side, so he's not just somebody who can only score when the going is good.
In terms of goals he's able to take a penalty which is something we've struggled at as a club so for a while, so that could be quite usefull. He's a bit like another Irish Royal, Noel Hunt, in that he's got a decent leap on him and good with his head, while as seen in the videos above, he can also score from outside the box.
The Irish season finished a few months ago now so it might take him a few weeks to get up to match fitness but this is a signing I'm quite excited about and we all wish the best of luck to Karl.