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He Wasn't The Next John Terry, He Was Our Alex Pearce

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As Alex Pearce prepares to complete his move to Derby, Wimb looks back on the defender's time in Berkshire that will forever be linked to one comment from a former Reading boss.

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So it seems as if Alex Pearce's time at the Madejski Stadium has come to an end. After more than 200 games and well over a decade at Reading, the Oxford born defender will be making the move to Championship rivals Derby.

Judging by social media, a large portion of Reading fans aren't really bothered about his departure with a Get Reading poll hovering around the 50/50 mark as to whether fans are sad to see him go. However for me it's gutting that someone who had the potential to be a club legend is leaving with such a resigned whimper.

I've covered Pearce's history in detail here but the one quote that's followed him around was made by former Reading boss Brendan Rodgers who compared the then 20-year-old to Chelsea's John Terry. In many ways you could justify those comparisons. Both were young natural leaders who had a similar playing style but the talk from Rodgers was foolish in the context of trying to lower expectations for a player who'd barely played 50 games at Championship level.

Sure enough Reading struggled under Rodgers in 2009 with Pearce captaining a very young and inexperienced side that soon found themselves in a relegation battle. Brendan's sacking allowed Brian McDermott to come in and take the pressure off Pearce but the young defender also saw his place in the team slip away from him as well.

It wouldn't be until the 2011/12 season that Pearce would truly establish himself as a first choice defender and he took the responsibility well, being voted Player of the Season in a Championship winning campaign.

So how has Pearce gone from a Player of the Season in one of the club's best ever campaigns to having 50% of the fanbase not care if he's gone? For me it's down to one man....

Anton Zingarevich.

He may have only been in charge of the club for 18 months but the Russian's legacy is going to last a long, long time in Berkshire and not for the best of reasons. Anton's arrival saw the club's previously modest wage structure blown up as he sought to play Championship Manager with money that he never really had. As soon as he took over, big contracts were handed out to Jason Roberts, Jimmy Kebe, Adam Federici and Jem Karacan - not to mention a raft of free transfers like Pavel Pogrebnyak and Danny Guthrie. Yet despite all the spending, Pearce's contract was never addressed despite it having just 12 months to run. By the time they did come to talk the defender's stock had risen to the point where he expected to be offered similar money to the new arrivals and yet Reading were reluctant to pay it, or even sit down with him.

That all led to the farcical situation of Brian McDermott being told by the ownership to play a clearly past it Kaspars Gorkss or an inexperienced Sean Morrison ahead of Pearce in the Premier League and predictably results didn't go so well. With relegation becoming an almost certainty, Pearce was allowed back in from the cold and shockingly enough, results improved. Yet by the end of the season the Republic of Ireland international was once again riding the bench and seemingly on his way out of the club, with teams such as Liverpool being touted as landing points.

For whatever reason the purse strings did open that summer and Pearce re-signed but from that point on he was never really the same player and some fans never forgave him. He'd gone from club captain to being behind the likes of Danny Guthrie in the armband pecking order and he never looked fully comfortable alongside Sean Morrison at the back. Sure he had his moments, such as the stepover at Doncaster but if you ask Reading fans to name a memorable Pearce moment from the past two seasons, I don't think you'll have too many suggestions thrown at you.

So why are fans so happy to see him go? I'll admit he wasn't the quickest defender, with my TTE Podcast co-host Westy once describing him as having the 'turning circle of a planet' nor was he the most graceful on the ball. However Pearce was dependable at doing the simple things, good in the air, a decent threat from set pieces and genuinely seemed to love the club he'd been at for most of his lifetime. In fact if you looked at his statistics in terms of clean sheets, league finishes and goals he's up there with the club's most successful central defenders of the modern era alongside recognised legends such as Ivar Ingimarrson, Ady Williams and even Martin Hicks.

In the end I just think expectations have been too high for Pearce and his reputation never really recovered from the contract saga of 2012/13. Unfortunately the deal he did get 12 months later was on terms just not sustainable for a Championship side looking to rebuild and you can't fault a player for wanting to maximise his earnings as he enters his peak years.

While I don't think he'll ever reach the level of John Terry, I can certainly see him leading a team in the Premier League and having a very good career at that level. Sometimes a change of scenery is all a player needs to really find his feet again and I hope that Alex finds that at the iPro Stadium. So if this is the end Mr Pearce, you have my very best wishes and thanks for the memories, you'll be very welcome back at the Madejski any time.