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Where does Adam Le Fondre sit among the best Reading strikers? Part 3 (10-1)

Good things come to those who wait..... Would be the perfect excuse as to why this article has taken me a good five months to write but in all honesty I have no such excuses. Regardless, in our previous entry I ranked the bottom half of my top 20 Reading strikers over the past 20 seasons and here I'll conclude that list.

Ben Hoskins

As mentioned in part one, I sadly can't place some of the memorable names of yesteryear. Being just 28 I didn't see Ronnie Blackman, Kerry Dixon, Trevor Senior or Robin Friday so while they certainly are and should be in an all-time top 20, I'm keeping this list to my own viewing, which started around 20 years ago.

Also as I stated in part one and two, this isn't a list just based on ability but overall contribution and the memories that player has helped to create.

Stats are league games and goals only unless noted by ** where a breakdown is unavailable.


10. Martin Butler (2000-2003) - Games: 106 Goals: 34

I love you Butler.

The former Cambridge striker arrived at the club during a time that Alan Pardew was finally beginning to turn things around from the dark days of the Burns era. At £800,000 he was no cheap buy, equalling the club record at the time but he immediately began to repay that fee when he scored a second-half equaliser on debut at Preston. Butler soon formed a good partnership with Nicky Forster that helped lift the side from 20th to 10th by seasons end but after Forster got injured in the opening days of the following campaign, Alan Pardew brought in the man who Butler would enjoy his greatest success with, Jamie Cureton.

Together, Butler and Cureton plundered 50 goals in a side that was scoring goals for fun and a side that looked destined for promotion. Sadly the team collapsed in the final weeks and despite Butler notching at the Millennium Stadium in the play-off final, it was his old team Walsall that stole a 3-2 win and a place in Division One.

Sadly Butler couldn't replicate his form over the coming seasons, and a serious ankle injury kept him out for several months as Forster established himself as a lone striker for Pardew. The forward did at least get to taste promotion, playing 89 minutes at Brentford as Reading went up but just two goals followed in the second tier and he was soon sold on to Rotherham.

An honest hard working player who just got some bad luck at the wrong time and found himself frozen out under a system that proved very effective for Pardew.


9. Trevor Morley (1995-1998) - Games: 76 Goals: 31

Ooooo Trevor Morley

When Morley arrived at Reading he was approaching the end of a decent career that had seen him achieve good success at West Ham and Manchester City but even at 35 he still proved to be a very credible threat for a Reading team who had seen the guts of the side ripped out after the 1995 Play-Off final defeat.

When you think of our top goalscorers in a season in the second tier you'd probably think of Long, Kitson, Doyle and Forster but Morley's tally of 23 goals in the 96/97 season is a record for Reading in the top two tiers of English football and he did so while playing for a team that ended the season 19th!

Trev was fabulous in the air and took a good penalty as well, with my fondest memory of the forward coming as he scored a hat-trick to sink Bolton 3-2 at Elm Park and give us a small sense of revenge for that Wembley defeat.

He also battled back from a fractured skull to play for the club and while his goals dried up after that 96/97 campaign, he still chipped in with a few decent strikes including an 85th minute winner at Premiership Leeds in the Coca-Cola Cup.


8. Stuart Lovell (1990-98) - Games: 227  Goals: 58**

Archie, Archie, Archie.

Bring up Lovell's name and you'll sadly probably think of this.....

I still say McAteer should have been sent off....

Still, to base Archie's Reading career on that single kick would be cruel and would take away the fantastic run of form from Lovell that led us to that game in the first place.

After coming through the club's YTS scheme, Lovell had slowly replaced player-manager Mark McGhee in the side and by the time the 93/94 season rolled around, Archie had formed a deadly partnership with Jimmy Quinn that saw them slam home 55 goals as the Royals took the Division 2 title.

The following season saw Lovell continue his good form with 12 league goals including a hat-trick against Sw*ndon at Elm Park before also scoring at Tranmere in the play-off semi-final.

Unfortunately it was pretty much all downhill for the striker's Reading career after that fateful day at Wembley but like Morley he still provided some magic moments, not least two goals in injury time to stick two fingers up at former manager McGhee and Wolves to spark one of the last truly great celebrations at the famous old ground.


7. Jamie Cureton (2000-2003) -  Games: 111 Goals: 51

The man most like Le Fondre on this list is Jamie Cureton, who like Alfie was deadly in and around the box with a flair that would wind up plenty of opposition defenders.

Cureton first came to many fans' attention when he smashed home four for Bristol Rovers at the Madejski Stadium but less than a year later he'd return to the ground in Reading colours as Alan Pardew sought to replace the injured Forster with the £250,000 signing of Cureton. To get such a prolific striker for such a bargain price ranks up there with our best ever business and as referenced in my bit on Butler, Cureton soon helped fire the Royals to a play-off final.

As we know Reading failed that afternoon and Cureton soon found himself riding the bench as a fit again Forster became the first choice option. Still, Cureton would still pop up with an important goal and none more so than one afternoon at Griffin Park when the substitute scored the goal that would take us back into the second tier.

Despite his heroics that day, Pardew would still overlook Cureton for Forster and by the end of the 2002/03 season the former Norwich striker had moved on to pastures new as he turned down a contract extension in favour of an ill-fated move to South Korea.

While his goals were vital, his overall play was limited, especially in the second tier and that's what's keeping him from a higher placing on this countdown.


6. Shane Long  (2005-2011) - Games: 164  Goals: 44

Long might very well go on to be the most successful player on this list but as it's based on Reading appearances only, it's going to keep him just outside the top five.

When Long first turned up at the club he was seen as an afterthought in an already bargain deal to get Kevin Doyle over from Cork. A late convert to football from GAA activities, Long would soon force himself into Steve Coppell's squads and truly announced himself with a late equaliser to preserve our unbeaten run at Derby on New Year's Eve 2005.

The next few seasons would see Long primarily deployed as a super sub but he managed to find the net a fair few times in the Premier League, before Reading were relegated in 2008. The departure of Dave Kitson and the poor form of Leroy Lita gave Long more starting time but it would take the management of the man who scouted him at Cork and housed him in his early days, Brian McDermott, to truly bring out the best in Long. During McDermott's first 18 months in charge Shane would score 33 goals and help us reach Wembley, with his double in the second-leg of the play-off semi-final at Cardiff probably his finest hour.

At his best Long was everything we love from a Reading player. He would work tirelessly, be capable of beating a man, could finish well and also help create for others.

Unfortunately we only really glimpsed what a Long at his peak could do but four seasons of Premier League football later and he's still scoring regularly at the top level.


5. Adam Le Fondre (2011-2014) Games: 104  Goals: 39

Three seasons, three club golden boots, the only Reading player ever named the Premier League's player of the month and the record for most goals scored as a Premier League substitute... not a bad 3 years in Berkshire.

There's two schools of thought when it comes to Alfie.

Some will say he was simply a fox in the box and that his inability to do things outside the area was the primary reason half of his 100 odd games came from the substitutes bench. The rest will say he was never given the chance to form a regular partnership or given the service he needed to truly thrive.

For me the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Le Fondre was a quality finisher and that's why he was able to make the step up from League Two Rotherham to Championship Reading so quickly. Finishing a chance is the same in any division but sadly you have to work so much harder to create chances at the highest levels that sometimes Le Fondre was a passenger we couldn't afford to carry.

However when you strip away all of that you have to look at the accomplishments and memories that Alfie gave us and they really do stack up when you read the opening paragraph and then throw in the games like Southampton away, Newcastle away, Chelsea at home, Leeds at home, the back-to-back home hat-tricks against Bolton & Blackpool and I could go on.

So yes Le Fondre was limited and his failure to really make a big splash at Cardiff so far has gone some way to proving that but when your limitations still enable you to score double digit goals I think you just have to respect him for what he's done, rather than what he hasn't.


4. Nicky Forster (1999-2005) - Games: 189  Goals: 60

Like Long, Forster could do just about everything but while his skills may have been a slight notch below the Irishman, Forster's longevity as a starter gives him the edge over Shane for me.

Forster perfected the lone front-man role at the football club and one wonders whether we would have earned promotion to the Premier League sooner had he not been forced off injured at Wolves with Reading in control of the first-leg of the play-off semi-final.

Likewise, Tommy Burns may well have lasted a lot longer in Berkshire had Forster not picked up a serious injury weeks after signing for the club from Birmingham.

Capable of leading the line and creating goals for himself, you remember those magical strikes against Sheffield United and Wigan, with his play-off goal against the later a moment that will live on forever.

Faded in his final days but played a big role in helping lay the foundations for Coppell's 106 winning side the year after he left the football club.


3. Jimmy Quinn (1992-1997)  Games: 182  Goals: 71**

To think that Quinny racked up 71 goals and nearly 200 games all after joining the club as a 33 year old is quite an achievement and when you take into account his managerial responsibilities, it's even more impressive.

Easily the best header of a ball I've seen in my time watching the football club, the Northern Ireland international was also a great striker of the ball and his 35 goals in the 1993/94 season were vital as Reading won promotion into Division One.

Even into his mid to late 30's he was still popping up with big goals in the second tier and scored a fantastic if eventually meaningless goal in the play-off final at Wembley.

How Reading could do with a player like Quinn now. Glenn Murray maybe the closest thing we've had to the great man for a long while but as for Quinn himself, he just didn't quite get enough goals in the second tier to make my top two.


2. Kevin Doyle (2005-2009)  - Games: 154  Goals: 55

Another forward who could just do anything you asked from him. Doyle could lead the line on his own, play off the front man, play as the front man, cut in from wide, beat a man, hold the ball up - if you can name it, chances are Doyle could do it or die trying. Never lightening quick, the Irishman had an engine that would wear down an opposition backline and eventually provide chances for himself or for others.

Nobody expected the Irishman to make a huge impact when he joined the club but by the end of his first season in 2005/06 he'd scored our promotion winning goal and was regularly keeping out our first million pound man in Lita and the previous year's top scorer Dave Kitson. Oh and scoring the goal that finally took us into the Premier League wasn't a bad accomplishment either.

2006/07 was even better for Doyle who found the net regularly in the Premier League and even found himself nominated for the PFA's young player of the year award.

While 07/08 was a real struggle, the Irishman bounced back and top scored in our failed attempts to bounce back at the first attempt.

Hard working, dedicated, skilful, genuine and classy, Doyle is the striker you just dream of having at your club and the only sad thing is that he couldn't sustain his excellence once he left the Berkshire.


1. Dave Kitson (2003-2008 & 2009) - Games: 145 Goals: 56

What a bargain, what a bargain.

David Kitson is hardly a footballing secret....... Nor was he always an easy player to like. However what Dave Kitson also was, was a cultured goal scorer that would have been an England player had he not suffered a cruel injury minutes into his long awaited Premier League debut.

Kitson arrived for just £150,000 from Cambridge and immediately won the hearts of Reading fans by scoring two goals to beat Pardew's West Ham, a feat he's better a year later with a hat-trick on his way to a tally of 19 goals in his first full season at the club. The 2005/06 season saw Kitson help us to promotion with another 18 goals before that ill fated tackle in the Middlesbrough game on the opening day of the 06/07 season saw him sidelined for four months.

Kitson would return and slowly find his feet again but despite scoring 10 in the 2007/08 campaign he never quite returned to the heights of his Championship pomp and saw his career fall apart after a big money move to Stoke. Even a return to Reading couldn't spark the tall forward and he ended his career on the bench at Oxford in League Two at just 34.

It wasn't just the volume of goals that made Kitson so great but the variety of them and if he had that little bit extra desire who knows where his career could have taken him.


So that's how I've ranked them but now it's your turn. Please let me know your top 10's or top 20's below and if you fancy it vote in our poll to give your view as to who was the best Reading striker of the past 20 years.