The way we analyse modern football has its flaws. If you take a look at the statistics for Reading FC in 2014/15 you get an underwhelming package, with no one in particular standing out. In amongst the middle of the statistical leaderboards for both division and club, however, is one of the Premier League's future regular-starter centre-backs: Michael Hector.
Let's make that clear from the start, 'regular starter' is a big achievement, and while galactic stardom is a possibility, it feels wrong to place such a label on anyone wearing blue-and-white hoops this season. Michael Hector has the ability to be a first-on-the-teamsheet type dependable player for a mid-table Premier League side before he's 25. If that doesn't sound impressive you should re-think your own life goals.
He can achieve that because he has grown to be a stand-out defender with assets to his game that are suitably built for modern Premier League football. While his size is instantly noticeable, it is his skill when the ball is on the floor that is most impressive about the 22-year-old. His ability to pester attackers dribbling the ball, helped by his said 6'4" frame, is menacing and can be backed up by a knack of plucking the ball from even the tightest of grips. Looking back, he may well be the best tackler I've seen in a Royals shirt. Add to that a more-than-comfortable nous in possession of the ball - the Reading equivalent of the dark-arts - and he's quite the proposition.
Indeed, he has his flaws. He has been part of a side leaking silly goals for fun this season, and has more than played his part in such. For example, the recent 2-0 defeat to Brentford saw Big Hec go from a five-yard advantage on his marker to being two-yards away from where the cross - and his man- ended up going to concede the opener. His positioning and marking, particularly from wide areas, must be improvement. Furthermore, this goes to the other end of the pitch where he fails to be much of a threat in the opposition area. While these can be put down to a certain rawness, one fears that only the best of managers will be able to fine-tune this side of Hector's game.
And the best managers are the ones I expect to manage him. Finishing second in the official player of the season poll, earning the public respect of figures like Arsene Wenger, and putting himself in the proverbial shop-window with a storming Wembley performance will only ear-mark him for a visit from the top scouts in the country. No doubt they'll be impressed with his head-down attitude that saw him succeed across 11 (count'em) loan spells from Aberdeen to Dundalk - via Bracknell.
I fully expect him to be a Premier League defender before long. Perhaps this summer is a little too soon, and perhaps it may even be with Reading. Nevertheless, with the style of his game and on current progression, Michael Hector is built for the Premier League.