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Goodbye to Gorkss

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Rob Langham joins us to remark on the Reading career of Kaspars Gorkss, who was released by Reading after 3 years as a Royal

Laurence Griffiths

In February 2011, after Neil Warnock's Queen's Park Rangers side came to the Mad Stad and earned a deserved but nevertheless intensely annoying 1-0 win thanks to a Wayne Routledge goal, I used the platform of a post for The Two Unfortunates to guess as to which Rangers' players would be good enough for a Premier League campaign - one which, even at that early stage, seemed assured.

At the time, I described Kaspars Gorkss as ‘as conventional a centre half as you'll see' and predicted that he would find his first team opportunities limited on the occasion of the west Londoners' ascension to the top flight. Six months on and Warnock proved to be in broad agreement with me. Although subsequent events proved that some of the Bushmen's most gnarled lower leaguers were worth far more of their salt than supposedly storied incomers, Gorkss failed to match the likes of Shaun Derry and Clint Hill in making an impact.

Meanwhile, at Reading, manager Brian McDermott was also in the mood for a change. A dreadful 1-0 defeat at eventually relegated Portsmouth had been notable for the lack of understanding between Alex Pearce and Bongani Khumalo and if at that stage there was a certain inevitability about Dave Kitson's winner and we weren't aware of how poor Pompey would be, a 2-1 defeat against Barnsley the following Saturday indicated the need for a defensive stiffener.

Hence, Brian McDermott swooped and the big Latvian was packaged off to Reading before the close of the transfer window - at first to little tangible impact. Royals lost disappointingly against Hull and Watford but it was clear amid the desperation of the latter match that we had at least signed a defender who knew the basics - one with a consistent record of finishing with teams in the upper reaches of the Championships at both Blackpool and QPR.

Perhaps the most pleasing aspect of the signing was that a round hole was plugged with a round plug - Gorkss is a left footer and hence, added a balance to proceedings that was to be sorely absent whenever he was missing - right up to his departure from the club after the recent 2-2 draw with Burnley. As the autumn wore on, his performances continued to be the kind of consistent ones you would expect of a seasoned campaigner even if the club continued to languish unexcitingly in mid table.

With Jason Roberts' arrival in the January transfer window, however, Reading began to experience the post-Christmas upswing in form that had characterised McDermott's previous season in charge - a spell of eight consecutive wins in the late winter was peppered with a series of 1-0s and important as Roberts' contribution was, the understanding between Pearce and Gorkss was developing into something special.

As the season reached its climax, two daunting away games at closest rivals West ham United and Southampton lay in wait. At Upton Park, Reading were largely second best throughout the first half, struggling to come to terms with the high ball on a bleak March day. Then, the key moment arrived - a scrappy corner was won and the Latvian rose magnificently to send us into raptures. Seconds later and Noel Hunt was left free in the box to complete the first half turn around. Reading went on to win 4-2 and then 3-1 at Southampton - unforgettable dramas which went a long way towards making up for the procession-like lack of drama at the end of the club's previous promotion season in 2005-6.

Come August however and Gorkss could be forgiven a sense of serious déjà vu. From the very first whistle of the unimpressive 1-1 draw with Stoke, Reading's defence never looked comfortable with a lack of pace on Gorkss' part one of the main reasons provided.

We certainly watched with horror as varied opponents took advantage of naïve defending and sheer lack of quality - although contract rebel Alex Pearce deserves more opprobrium than Gorkss who always tried his best. The sight, however, of him trailing the whippet like Theo Walcott in the apocalyptic 7-5 defeat against Arsenal in the league Cup recalled the hopelessness of a previous out of its depth Reading XI which lost 7-4 to Portsmouth back in 2007. Not even a header against his former club QPR in the League Cup and could convince Royals' fans that Gorkss was good enough for the level and Brian McDermott joined them by introducing the equally unconvincing Aidy Mariappa and Sean Morrison to the fray in a desperate attempt to stave off the inevitable.

The big man was finally packaged off to Wolves on loan - a terrible spell which ended in relegation and could have seen him end up on the scrap heap for good - so it's a credit that Gorkss returned to the club last Summer and can be considered to have had a mildly successful return to form. For sure, it was a patchy, deeply unconvincing campaign for the Royals but after making his first start in the abysmal 6-0 League Cup defeat at Peterborough, who would have expected Gorkss to feature at all in 2013-4?

That he did is a credit to his experience, professionalism and ability to knuckle down and he even enjoyed back to back goals in the club's best spell of the year - scoring in the 1-0 win at Watford and the zany 7-1 walloping of Bolton. That a new contract was not on offer has not come as a surprise - as Nigel Adkins never really seemed to fancy him - but for that moment of ecstasy at the Boleyn Ground alone and a major part in one of the club's greatest ever seasons, Kaspars Gorkss deserves to be seen as a Reading legend.