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Reading FC 2014/15 Report Card: Defenders

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After handling the goalkeepers, Marc tackles the Reading defence of 2014/15 in our latest report card of the campaign just passed.

Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Chris Gunter

Appearances: 45 Goals: 0

After being a candidate for player of the season in 2013/14, it felt like the Welsh right-back got off to a slow start this time round. The credit goes to Gunter because he was forced to play through any worrying patches by Nigel Adkins as Reading's lack of a balanced squad poured the focus onto the left-back region.

Further salutations can also go his way for being a consistently reliable, if admittedly less spectacular, performer. Never player of the month material, and more of a 6/10 than a 7/10 for the majority of the campaign, Gunter had the type of year that a good right-back can have. That is, enough to stay in the side and earn a new contract, but neither bad enough or good enough to be central to discussion.

Grade: B

*****

Michael Hector

Appearances: 49 Goals: 3

To think that Big Hec almost wasn't at the club this year, as he and Jake Taylor signed last minute deals at the Madejski. Unlike his academy-bred team-mate, Hector took time to fully integrate into being a first-team regular but that growth was continuous and exponential - finishing the season as a far better player than he had started as.

My thoughts on him are well known, really well known. Needless to say, Hector has surpassed expectation this term.

Grade: A

*****

Alex Pearce

Appearances: 49 Goals: 0

The fact that Pearce has been a mainstay in central defence bears two of the great conundrums of Reading FC in 2014/15. Firstly, that he is a good-quality Championship defender playing in a team that has performed staggeringly below-par. Secondly, that the very fact he has been able to remain a main-stay - with nigh-on 50 appearances - shows how thread-bare certain areas of the first-team squad are.

In general, Pearce has been okay but has been involved in some bad moments. Cardiff away, the own-goal red-card first-half wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am of a Friday night, immediately springs to mind. Indeed, even the good team performances of the season have rarely led to positive individual evaluations amongst the Royals faithful. That may be one of many reasons why, perhaps, he departs in the summer.

Grade: C+

*****

Jordan Obita

Appearances: 51 Goals: 0

After the break-through season, 2014/15 was always going to be one of evolution rather than revolution for young Englishman Obita. His calmness and composure has been progressing nicely, Obita has learned from the team's mistakes as well as his own - such as in the 3-3 draw with Wolves.

In fact, we have witnessed the left-back be pressed further up the pitch on occasion this season, with limited effect. That said, he has picked up seven assists - the club's highest - and at 21 continues to be a bright prospect for Reading.

Grade: B+

*****

Jake Cooper

Appearances: 19 Goals: 2

No one saw the rise of Jake Cooper this season. Indeed, many thought Pierce Sweeney may have been the break-through centre-back as the squad looked short in the department coming into the campaign.

Nevertheless, two goals at Norwich and some generally positive displays were good to see. However, there were bad moments. The 6-1 mauling at Birmingham cost Reading the manager that gave Cooper his chance, and his first outing under the new gaffer saw him concede a silly penalty against Brighton.

Grade: B

*****

Stephen Kelly

Appearances: 18 Goals: 0

Given the odd chance, often on his lesser-favoured left-side, Irishman Kelly had a season to forget in 2014/15. Dropped from the Republic Of Ireland international squad, given diminishing opportunity in the Reading side, and set for release from his contract. A victim of his own reputation, high-earner veteran Kelly saw out the season on Steve Clarke's bench.

Grade: D-

*****

Zat Knight

Apperances: 2 Goals: 0

And thus begins the ticking off of the journeymen. Brought in to add experience, Knight conceded four at Watford and gave away a penalty to help the worst team in the league take a point against us. Probably not that cheap, either, this sort of signing marks a big dent in our faith in the club's summer transfer dealings.

Grade: E

*****

Anton Ferdinand

Appearances: 2 Goals: 0

See above, but add in a two-year deal and a man with an incredibly dodgy knee/ankle/body.

Grade: E-

*****

Jure Travner

Appearances: 1 Goals: 0

Credit to Jure Travner, who confounded critics to have a real impact must have earned some money for being injured whenever he might have been needed - bar a 4-1 defeat to Watford.

Grade: E+

The Rest

Sarcasm aside, it's time to trot through those who either moved on, or weren't meant to make much of a contribution but got minor game time. Firstly, Shaun Cummings (C+) departed in January after seven appearances and having scored one of my favourite goals ever. Sean Morrison (B-), similarly, decided that things weren't going to get any better after scoring against Wigan and scarpered for a tidy £4 million.

Finally, two more youth players got on the pitch; Niall Keown (C+) and Sean Long (C) to remind us that the youth squad can provide first-teamers when called upon.

Summary

The very nature of this report card is the biggest indicator of how the season has gone for Readings' defenders. A solid and able back-four aside, the squad was riddled with over-paid journeymen, inexperienced youth, and the general inconsistency that comes with injuries and a revolving door, short-term transfer policy. Must do better.

Grade: C-

REPORT CARD GRADES

POSITION GRADE
Goalkeepers A
Defenders C-
Central Midfielders B-
Wingers C-
Forwards C-