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Gunter & Mariappa Complete Reading FC's Summer Signings

Gunter will being going head-to-head again with England's finest...and James Milner, after joining Reading from Forest.
Gunter will being going head-to-head again with England's finest...and James Milner, after joining Reading from Forest.

Earlier in the week Reading manager Brian McDermott stated he wanted Mariappa and one other in the squad by the time they went to Portugal for their three-match tour and it seems as if the gaffer has got his wish.

Both Chris Gunter and Adrian Mariappa have been confirmed as Reading signings for fees beleived to be around£2-£2.5 million, but will they go straight into the first XI or have to bide their time? We take a look after the jump.

For those unfamiliar with Mariappa, the 5'10" centre-back is a Jamaican international who has spent his entire career with Watford. The 25 year old made over 200 appearances for the club since making his debut back in 2005.

Mariappa played 19 times for the Hornets as they were relegated from the Premier League in 2006/07, including 45 minutes at the Madejski Stadium in a 2-0 Watford win that severely dented our European ambitions in our final home game of the season. The defender followed that up with 30 games in the Championship and started 113 consecutive games for the club, a streak that ended with an 88th minute red card in a game at Sheffield United in January 2011.

While playing in over 100 games in a row was impressive, an even more pleasing fact was that the centre back had been booked just 9 times, with that red against the Blades the first of his career. Mariappa has only been dismissed once since, but outside of the two that saw him sent off last year against Hull, he was once again impressive, earning just five bookings. Mariappa has said he takes pride in his disciplinary record and as we saw last season, with neither Pearce or Gorkss banned, keeping your cool can make a big difference, especially when you've got a small squad to work with.

The only weakness that jumps out from Mariappa's career so far is that the defender doesn't have a particularly great goalscoring record, with four goals in six years a little low even for a centre-back.


On the plus side he already knows a few of the faces at the club, with Nigel Gibbs and a couple of other coaches at the club as Mariappa was coming through the ranks. He's also played with Brynjar Gunnarsson and Jobi McAnuff so knows a couple of guys in the dressing room as well.

Steve did a write up comparing him with both Pearce and Gorkss earlier this week and the former Watford man does offer something different in that he's a bit more mobile and has actually played in the top division, unlike either of our current pairing. He's not the tallest though at under 6 foot, but Noel Hunt has shown you don't need to be a giant to win a fair share of headers! Steve's done a great job of debating the likely pairing so please let us know your thoughts there, but for my own two pennies worth I'd like to see what him and Pearce could do together in the long run.

I asked Jason Bailey from Watford podcast From The Rookery End for his thoughts on our new centre-back.

I remember the first time I saw Adrian Mariappa play. It was an F.A. Youth Cup Quarter Final against Spurs at Vicarage Road. The club had bigged up the occasion, and a sizeable crowd for such a game was full of cup fever before kick off. Within seconds the excitement had been dampenend when Watford captain Mariappa made a mistake at the back allowing Spurs to seize possession from which they took an early lead.

That was back in 2005. A year later Watford were on the road to the Premier League under Aidy Boothroyd and the summer of 2006 was full of anticipation of what lay ahead. I made the trip to Goodison Park for the 06-07 opener and remember standing on the concourse looking at the TV screen displaying the Watford line-up. Whilst Adrian had made a handful of first team appearances since his FAYC blunder, it was something of a surprise to see his name in the starting eleven. I'll be honest, I was worried! Whilst the Hornets weren't completely outplayed, Adrian only lasted until half time.

My next memory of "Mapps"... F.A. Cup Semi Final, same season, Man U at Villa Park. Within the first 10 minutes, Adrian had backed off a certain Mr. Rooney and the ball was in the top corner before you could shout "Close him down!". I'm not making this sound good, am I?!! But that was sometime ago, particularly in the life of Watford FC.

Our troubles, whilst not as grave as other clubs, have been much documented. Young talent, be it home grown or plucked from the lower reaches of the Football League, was regularly sold to larger clubs. We went through a sequence of managerial appointments with no previous experience, all over-achieving with a diminishing squad. And in that time, with fans' expectations reducing by the season, Adrian became an essential part of the team, maturing from the teenager with a tendency to go missing in the big games, to someone who could be relied upon to don the captain's armband when John Eustace was unavailable. His stock rose with the arrival of Nyron Nosworthy last autumn. WFC fans had their concerns when big Nozzer turned up, but he quickly formed a solid centre back partnership with Adrian. Both able to cover for his colleague, should he come up short in a challenge or experience a mis-guided sudden urge to dash from the defensive line.

Premier League clubs came sniffing in January and we were resigned to losing Aidy, with Newcastle or Wigan looking most likely to capture his signature. It felt like a "victory for the little guy" when he was announced in the Watford line up prior to our away game with Millwall on deadline day. That quickly vanished when it was revealed that Marvin Sordell had been removed from the squad for the same game, but that's for another blog piece. We're a realistic bunch in the Rookery End and expectation was that Aidy would finally move to a Premier League club in the summer. And so he has. But not without picking up the fans' and players' player of the season awards. A somewhat fitting finale to his Hornets career. In these days of social media, it's easy to gauge the fans' reactions when players leave your club. Sometimes it's good riddance, sometimes loyalty is questioned, but it's clear that Adrian heads to Reading with the best wishes of the Hornets fans.

Good luck Aidy!

Gunter is another player who's been an ever present, playing all 50 matches for Forest last year and a total of over 130 games for Forest since arriving at the City Ground from Tottenham in the summer of 2009 for £1.6 million.

The full-back turns 23 on Saturday and came through the ranks at Cardiff, becoming a regular in the team at just 17, and also making his Wales debut two months before his 18th birthday. Tottenham to paid Cardiff £1.75 million to take him to White Hart Lane in January 2008 but unlike another young Welsh full-back, Gunter struggled to make a mark in London, appearing just 16 times for Spurs in his 18 months at the club. He made his Tottenham debut against Reading at the Madejski Stadium in the same game that Alex Pearce made his full debut for the Royals and made the majority of his appearances in cup games, gaining European experience in the UEFA Cup.

With games hard to come by at Spurs, Gunter moved to Nottingham Forest on-loan in March 2009, featuring eight times in the Championship and helping Forest avoid the drop. The arrivals of full-backs Kyle Walker and Kyle Naughton to White Hart Lane meant that Gunter was allowed to leave on a a permanent basis and he duly completed a move to Forest.

As mentioned, Gunter's been a regular at Forest and for Wales ever since, scoring two goals, one against Doncaster and the other at Plymouth. He's not quite as clean as Mariappa disciplinary wise, being booked at least 5 times in each of his three years at Forest. That's not too out of the ordinary though, Griffin and Cummings had 5 booking combined last year. Gunter has been sent-off just once in his career, receiving his marching orders for Wales against Bulgaira. However the defender also recieved a three-match ban for stamping on Leeds' Sanchez Watt, after the incident was missed by the referee.

Attacking wise and Gunter has provided 7 assists in the last 3 years, and made four goals last year to rank him third amongst all Forest players.

Despite his young age, Gunter brings a fair bit of experience, having already played 37 times for his country, and is closing in on 200 games at club level. He's played twice as many first team games as Shaun Cummings despite being 4 months younger and has played in the Premier League, in Europe and against some of the best teams in the world for Wales.

Like Mariappa, Gunter arrives at the Madejski already knowing a few players quite well, playing with Simon Church and Hal Robson-Kanu for Wales and spent last season at Forest with Garath McCleary so hopefully he'll have no problems settling in.

I'd imagine he comes straight in at right-back in place of Cummings, who has always struggled to hold down a regular place for Brian McDermott despite his improvement in the last 18 months. In the past McDermott has chosen Andy Griffin, Matthew Connolly and Hayden Mullins ahead of the former Chelsea defender and I've just always had the nagging feeling he doesn't quite rate Cummings. That's just a suspicion of mine and there's certainly evidence to suggest otherwise but I can't see us bringing in an experienced expensive full-back to sit on the bench.

I spoke to Forest fan Winnits who regularly helped us out with our Forest game previews last season and he had this to say on our new full-back.

Disappointed Chris has decided to move on - but I guess the lure of Premier League football and continuing playing with his mate Garath McCleary might be factors.

He's one of relatively few Forest players I actually liked. He's solid if not spectacular which unless you want an out and out wingback is what you want from a right-back really. He does have a turn of pace, and does get forward but seems limited in his attacking ability - with just two goals and only a handful of assists.

It was really when establishing a partnership with a winger that he seemed to flourish - initially with Paul Anderson and latterly with Garath McCleary - allowing him to have 'back up' when facing tricky wingers and the option to overlap going forward. Whilst I noted above I like him, I'm not entirely convinced - much like with Gaz - that he's ready for the step up to the top flight, but I don't begrudge him the shot at doing so.

Given that we paid around £1.6m for him and have (hopefully) enabled him to continue to develop (as well as his game time for Wales), I'm disappointed at the reported fee of £2.3-2.5m depending on where you read. He's got two years left on his contract, after all - but if a player wants to leave, and there's only one club bidding or that he's set his heart on, then it would seem you have us over the proverbial barrel.

Certainly I expect to see Gunts starting more games for you next season than McCleary - and I wish him well and thank him for his commitment whilst at Forest.

Crucially both men have already played in the Premier League and give us much needed depth at both positions. Before the moves we were looking at Brynjar Gunnarsson and Sean Morrison as our first choice backups and when you include Nicky Shorey, we've now added close to 200 Premier League appearances to the squad for under £5 million. Both men also fit the 'Reading mould' young hungry players with a point to prove who have decent disciplinary records and have been well liked by their respective fanbases.

If McDermott's public statements are to be believed than this is our incoming business sorted for the summer and if so we'll be going into the year with seven new signings, at a cost of just £5 million that gives us significant Premier League experiencce. Getting the players in early means they've got a month to get settle and i think we've now got genuine competition for every position in the team and I really beleive we've got a fantastic chance of staying up.

So what do you think about the moves? Who would you pick to start the Stoke game? Vote in the poll and let us know your thoughts below.