First of all here's the tweet that got this ball rolling in the first place.
For me Alfie will sit in the Lovell, Nogan, Butler bracket of #readingfc striker, not on the Doyle, Kitson, Forster, Quinn level.— The Tilehurst End (@TheTilehurstEnd) May 28, 2014
That tweet sparked a fair few conversations, with some agreeing, others disagreeing and others just asking where player X, Y or Z would fit in.
So that got my thinking, how do you rank the all-time greats and where would Alfie fit in?
One of the easiest ways you could rank Reading's strikers would be to use goals.
In that respect Alfie's 41 doesn't leap off the page, being some way behind our all-time record of 191 set by Trevor Senior and nowhere near the top ten that's rounded out by Pat Earles with 85.
More recently Jimmy Quinn (71), Nicky Forster (67), Dave Kitson (60), Stuart Lovell (58), Kevin Doyle (56), Jamie Cureton (55) & Shane Long (54) have all outscored the former Rotherham man.
Still, using those metrics he's going to finish pretty highly and ahead of other recent strikers like Noel Hunt (39), Martin Butler (32), Leroy Lita (32), Lee Nogan (26) and Pavel Pogrebnyak (21).
However, Alfie's goals per game puts him ahead of most in that list considering his 41 came in just 109 games compared to Lovell (227), Forster (214), Kitson (214) & Long (203). Only Jamie Cureton's 55 in 127 and Quinn's 71 in 182 comes close to Le Fondre's ratio and the majority of those came at a lower levels than Le Fondre's.
Time At The Club
Of course it's not just how many goals you score but how much time you've put into the club that also plays a part in how fans view a player.
In this context Alfie really doesn't exactly jump off the page.
Le Fondre completed less than three full seasons at the club, some way short of other well respected forwards like Senior & Lovell (8), Forster (6), Quinn (5) and Long (5)
In saying that Robin Friday is revered despite spending just three years in Berkshire. Jamie Cureton was gone after less than three, while Kevin Doyle also only managed four seasons at the Madejski.
Accomplishments & Awards
In terms of honours, Alfie is up there with anyone in the modern era. The striker played in Reading teams that achieved our 3rd, 4th and 9th highest league finishes of all time, collecting a Championship winners medal in the process.
Individually, Le Fondre was named the Premier League's player of the month in January 2013 and took the Championship's award in the same month a year later. While the former Stockport man was also voted Reading's Player of the Season in 2012/13.
Le Fondre also set a Premier League record for the most goals from the subs bench, not too shabby for someone signed for £350,000.
A much more intangible measurement is looking back on the stand out moments of a striker's career, either 'wow what a season' or 'wow what a moment'. Le Fondre certainly had plenty of the later, with memorable winners at Watford, Millwall and Southampton on the way to promotion not to mention those hugely satisfying late goals against Leeds in 2012 and 2013.
Le Fondre also had the WOW factor in January last year, highlighted by his stunning double against then European Champions Chelsea that went a long way to securing him he player of the month award.
Other strikers have had those wow moments, be it Doyle for the goal at Leicester, Cureton's promotion winning goal at Brentford, Quinny's 40 goals that took us to promotion or THAT goal by Robin Friday. Add in Butler & Cureton's dynamic season together in 2000/01, the Lovell/Quinn/Nogan trio that took us to Wembley or Kitson's constant sinking of West Ham, you get the picture......
The Non-WOW Moments
If you only look at the best bits of anyone's career they can be made to look amazing but what about when they weren't on song? Despite all of the accomplishments and amazing moments we've listed for Alfie's career he was still never a regular starter and some fans just never took to him.
I have to admit I'm one of those fans that just never really took to Le Fondre, simply because I didn't feel he added anything other than goals. That's not to accuse him of being lazy but he just couldn't compare to the all-round work rate of players like Forster, Long, Doyle or even Jason Roberts or Noel Hunt. All too often Alfie would go missing and even when given regular runs as a starter he still failed to find the net on a regular basis.
Admittedly that wasn't all his own fault. The Reading teams of the past three years haven't exactly been renowned for creating bucket loads of chances and when Alfie did get an opportunity, more often than not he'd take it. Even so, there was always the nagging feeling that we needed more of an all-round threat up front rather than a predator like Le Fondre.
In this regard Alfie probably fits into the middle of the pack. He kept his head down, did his fair share of charity work and interacted well with the fans but you can't say he was ever front and centre of community events like a Noel Hunt or really bonded with fans away from the stadium or with the local media either.
So Where To Rank Alfie?
When I started this article I didn't have the best of regard for Le Fondre but when you look at his accomplishments in black and white, he's certainly in the conversation as one of Reading's best in the modern era.
I can't really comment on the likes of Friday, Senior or Blackman as I never saw them play but later this week I'll be giving my own top 20 Reading strikers from the past 20 years.
In the mean time what factors for you are the most important when rating a striker? Years of service? Goals? All-round impact? Please let us know your thoughts below.