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Never The Same Again - Injury Ruined Royals

With Michael Owen calling it a day this week, I thought I'd take a quick look at five players who have seen their Reading careers derailed by injury. This list will be focusing on players that I've actually seen, so 1994/95 onwards but please feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments below. So in no particular order.....

Jamie McDonald

Chris Casper

Casper arrived on loan from Manchester United towards the start of the Madejski Stadium era when our defensive options consisted of the likes of Elroy Kromheer, an 87-year-old Keith McPherson and John Polston, so it was easy to see why fans immediately took to Casper who had played in the same FA Youth Cup winning side as Beckham, Scholes, Neville etc.

He soon ended up signing on a permanent basis and helped steer the club through the troubles of the Burns era and into the shiny promising future of the Pardew one.

He was classy on the ball and brought composure that we were sadly lacking throughout most of that painful couple of seasons, and I've no doubt he would have been a big part of Pardew's long-term plans.

Sadly Casper's career was ended in an instant as a horror tackle from Cardiff's Richard Carpenter on Boxing Day in 1999 broke the 24-year-old's leg.

He successfully sued Carpenter and Cardiff, reaching an out of court settlement over past and future loss of earnings.

Martin Butler

Former players are wheeled out to do the Golden Gamble on a regular basis but few get the sort of warm reception that Martin Butler got a few weeks ago upon his return to the Madejski.

Butler was signed for around £700,000 from Cambridge back in February 2000 and scored goals in his first two Reading games at Preston and Blackpool. Two further goals followed that campaign but it was his partnership with Jamie Cureton in the 2000/2001 season that will forever be remembered by Reading fans.

Butler managed 28 goals in all competitions that season including a goal in the play-off final at Cardiff as Reading narrowly missed out on promotion to Division One.

Butler started the following season in sluggish fashion, failing to find the net until October, but a run of two goals in two games suggested he might just have turned the corner. Sadly we'll never really know as Butler suffered ankle ligament damage after his foot got stuck in the pitch during a game with Wrexham, costing Butler five months of playing time.

Butler returned for the run-in in and continued to get sporadic game-time the following season but he never rediscovered his goalscoring form and was sold to Rotherham for £150,000 in August 2003.

Butler's patchy form just before his injury could suggest he was never going to hit the heights of 00/01 but he was certainly never the same after the injury and just 48 goals over the 7 years after leaving the club certainly backs that up.

Chris Armstrong

To go from player of the season to retirement in just two years is a sad tale for any player but Armstrong's battle with MS is a particularly sad one for a full-back who still had plenty to give to the game.

The fact he managed to play any Championship football, yet alone a spell in midfield, was stunning and it's a sign of the strength and character of the man that he never made his battle public until after his retirement.

There's more detail on Armstrong's career here if you care to read.

Ibrahima Sonko

As strong as Superman is, he's still susceptible to Kryptonite and just as the Man of Steel has been brought to his knees, it was a knee injury that really sent Reading's own Superman into a downward spiral in early 2007.

Before the knock Sonko had been one of best ever defenders. Strong, quick, a goal threat from set pieces, Sonks really was Superman for many Reading fans and was a key bedrock of the team that stormed to the Championship title with 106 points in 2005/06. The club was well on its way to securing its Premier League survival when Sonko suffered knee ligament damage during a game with Sheffield United in February 2007.

Sonko returned eight months later but was never the same defender, having lost a yard of pace and an ounce of confidence in his own ability.

He drifted in and out of the Reading side that were relegated that season before his Reading career was all but ended after refusing to play for Brian McDermott's reserves at the end of the campaign. He was sold to Stoke for £3.5m in the August but managed just 50 starts in English football over the next four years, missed out on a Royals return in 2011 and now plays in Turkey for Akhisar.

Glen Little

Blakey was another key cog in the 2005-2007 masterclass and his injury problems throughout the following season are one of the biggest reasons were lost our top flight status.

Although 32 going into the season, Little was still at the top of his game and without him Reading looked lost down the right hand side, with a cast that included John Oster, Liam Rosenior and Kevin Doyle all failing to replicate the impact of the former Burnley man.

Disappointingly he opted to move to Portsmouth for Premier League and European Football but injuries again took their toll on Little and even a loan return to the Madejski couldn't see him recapture his form.

Amazingly he's still going in the game, turning out for Wrexham where he's again built up a cult following.