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2012/13 Report Cards: Defenders

So after reviewing the goalkeepers last week it's time to take a look at the men designed to protect them, the defence. Needless to say this wasn't one of our strongest areas this season as Brian McDermott and Nigel Adkins got through more combinations than a forgetful safe owner.

Jamie McDonald

As mentioned in the previous article In terms of grades, the grading system will be be done from A+ to an F, where A+ is a magical one of a kind season and F is the type that makes you want to put the players in stocks and hurl rotten vegetables at them.

Also it's not just about performances but expectations, previous history etc. For example it would be unfair to give Stuart Taylor a low grade on the basis that he only played 4 games, nor totally slam Simon Church after he didn't even feature.

Stats used are Premier League ones only.

Shaun Cummings

Games: 9

You always felt that Brian McDermott never really trusted Cummings. Whether it was bringing in Griffin, Mullins, Gunter or Kelly, Cummings was always been one of the first players chopped by Brian whenever form dipped.

He played 9 games in all this year but wasn't part of a winning side in the league and while he was steady his performances never screamed 'YOU NEED TO PICK ME'. Still, Cummings is still just 24 years old and he's done more than enough to suggest he's capable at Championship level and could still prove himself in the Premier League.

Yet to make his debut under Nigel Adkins, it'll be interesting to see if he's retained especially with Kelly and Gunter clearly ahead of him in the pecking order.



Kaspars Gorkss

Games: 14 Goals: 1

With Gorkss so strong last season an often repeated muttering on the terraces was 'how stupid was Warnock to get rid of Gorkss?!' Sadly, we now know why as Kaspars struggled mightily in the Premier League and even back in the Championship he couldn't regain his form, as he suffered relegation while on-loan at Wolves.

He was still strong in the air and a calming influence, but he lacked pace, his distribution was poor and was just made to look so average by even decent Premier League strikers.

His surprise return for the final game at West Ham suggested he may have a future here but his performance in that game showed why he's a short-term option at best. We love you Kaspars but this wasn't your finest hour.



Chris Gunter

Games: 20

When you sign one of the Championship's top right-backs for over £2m you expect something good, however like our last expensive right-back, Greg Halford, Gunter never really established himself and his 20 games were spread out over three seperate spells in the team.

At times he looked the real deal, bombing down the flanks and working well with Kebe or McCleary. However he was prone to moments of madness, be it giving away a stupid penalty at Chelsea or just casually gifting the ball away more times than I can remember. It's clear he's got both potential and ability but his confidence levels just seemed to fluctuate a bit too wildly for somebody that hopes to make it at the top level. One to watch but not the impact we hoped for.



Ian Harte

Games: 16

The Jester has already written an in-depth piece on Harte who's now left the club after three seasons but it's safe to say we saw more of Harte than we should, or would have wanted too this season.

A stalwart in Brian McDermott's two previous successful sides, Harte just couldn't quite recapture his former glories and a ripping apart by Spurs early in the campaign seemed to signal an end to his time in Berkshire.

However, a few shaky performances by Nicky Shorey saw Harte return and as it always seems too, his introduction into the side coincided with a resurgence in form that had us briefly out of the drop zone. Sadly the team, and Harte's, form never lasted and Nigel Adkins played him just once, as a late sub in our 0-0 draw with QPR.

He still showed the occasional bit of magic like with his free-kick at Spurs but overall this was the season too far for Harte who has been linked with a return to Leeds with Brian McDermott.

If a grade doesn't sum up his season, maybe this will.





Stephen Kelly

Games: 16

Kelly was perhaps one of Brian's best Premier League signings but that in itself tells a story from this season.

The Republic of Ireland international was out of favour at Fulham and made his way over to the Madejski in January, providing a more solid and consistent option than either Cummings or Gunter. He went unbeaten in his first three Premier League games but after the team slumped and Brian was sacked, he found himself deployed at left-back for most of Nigel Adkins time in charge.

While he did OK in the position, his lack of a left-foot was noticable and he was never fully comfortable there against top quality opposition. He's a player thats a capable left-back but not somebody you want there for 46 Championship games. Whether he beats out Gunter for the right-back slot will be one of the more interesting positional battles this summer.



Adrian Mariappa

Games: 29 Goals: 1

Mariappa was voted fourth in the Player of the Season voting and only Jobi McAnuff (38) & Mikele Leigertwood (30!!!) played more than the Jamaican international who was our biggest signing this summer at around £2.5m.

Mariappa played well enough to justify the transfer fee but didn't set the world on fire either. He did look our most consistent centre-back and I'm sure the lack of a consistant partner, goalkeeper, manager didn't help him either.

Hopefully he remains a Royal next season but I wouldn't be surprised to see a side take a punt on him again in the Premier League.

Grade: B


Sean Morrison

Games: 16 Goals: 2

I don't think many of us expected to see much of Morrison this season but credit to the big centre-back for some good performances in a side under constant pressure.

He scored good goals at Wigan and against Manchester United and he certainly showed his potential to be a top quality defender for years to come, with some very brave performances.

Sadly we also saw the inexperience from the former Swindon man but at 22 it would be unfair to judge him too harshly, especially when this was his first experience above League One level.

Grade: B-


Alex Pearce

Games: 19

It's hard to remember a quicker fall from grace for a Player of the Season who went from future Reading captain and international defender, to having to watch Gorkss and a 21-year-old Morrison picked ahead of him despite leaking 7 against Arsenal.

We'll never fully know how much of his droppings were down to contract issues, or just who decided he should be dropped, but this wasn't the season Alex or Reading fans were hoping for from the centre-back.

When he was in the team he was good but not great, like Mariappa he struggled with the rest of the back five changing so often but consider that five of our six meaningful wins came with Pearce in the side and you can see why he may turn his back on a club that then dropped him repeatedly.

The latest news is that the club are still hoping to keep Pearce on and while I'd love that to happen I just can't see it. It seems his Royals career has ended with a wimper rather than a triumphant, Sidwell-esque departure.



Nicky Shorey

Games: 17

The last two seasons that Shorey has spent with Reading have ended in relegation, which is a shame considering how impressive his first six or so were.

Shorey initially started his second spell well, a quality free-kick up at QPR in the cup a real highlight from one of the few players who looked Premier League quality before Christmas. Sadly it was around Christmas that his form dropped dramatically, with Shorey looking particularly poor in the 5-2 demolition by Arsenal. Soon Harte was back in the team and the last we saw of Shorey was again in a demolition by Arsenal at the Emirates.

Rumours of off-field issues and contract clauses dogged him but his release suggests that for whatever reason Nigel Adkins just doesn't rate him. A decent shift from a free transfer but again a mere shadow of his 2002-07 pomp.

Grade: C



The defence which had served us so well in going up all underperformed upon promotion and while the holes were patched up at times, you never felt as if you knew our best back four and nobody seemed to be in-form at the same time.

Adrian Mariappa and Stephen Kelly were two of the bright spots but whether it was age, Gorkss, Harte or contract disputes, Pearce, Shorey you felt as if our managers were always scrambling rather than having a clear strategy in mind.

There are certainly the parts left at the football club to have a good Championship defence but work will need to be done to ensure that we've got a group that can develop and grow not just in the Championship but in the Premier League.

Overall Grade: C