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The meaning behind the numbers

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With the Reading FC squad numbers announced days ago, Hoops has taken it upon himself to delve in between the lines to see exactly what the squad numbers tell us about the coming season.

Ben Hoskins

Squad numbers can tell us a lot about the squad. Back in the old days, squad numbers told us the first choice 11. Then they developed slightly to tell us their rough positions. Nowadays it's not considered all that important, but I reckon there's more to these numbers than meets the eye.

Adam Federici keeping the number one shirt means, quite obviously, that he's the first choice bench-warmer, content to sit on the sidelines and hang around until the actual first choice McCarthy goes clumsily colliding into the post again. Then Adkins will look to the bench, remember what a number one really means, sub on Federici and then sit behind his desk, repeatedly head-desking having realised his foolishness.

Meanwhile, Stephen Kelly bagging the number three shirt means that he's used the summer to develop his abilities as a left back; time spent wisely, fans would say, considering his best efforts to look like a Sunday League left back last season.

Pogrebnyak still fancies himself as a bit of a winger, so keeps the number seven shirt and spends his spare time dashing up and down the right touchline down at Hogwood; mean ol' Nige tells him every week that he is, in fact, playing as a striker for the next game. Poor Pog.

Mr Consolation Goal himself has snatched the number nine shirt whilst available, and has pledged to score as many consolation goals as possible for the next season. He's taken it a bit far, though, as he turns up to training sessions just as everyone is heading home for the day and nobody really cares that he's just scored a 20-yarder.

Young Player of the Year #BerkshireNeymar has let his nickname go to his head, as he bags the Brazilian trickster's favoured number 11 for the Royals. Inevitably, when Obita gets bashed in the back by a Leeds player at some point this season, Reading will capitulate and lose their following games, having no idea what to do without their talismanic academy product.

Fellow academy product Michael Hector couldn't persuade Pearcey to part with his favoured number five shirt, so has to settle for the number 15, which means he'll more than likely play as a back up midfielder than anything else. Expect him to head off to Scotland once they've gained independence so he can send rude letters to mean ol' Nige, knowing full well that his Scots kinsmen will defend him to the hilt.

Paul Pogb—whoops, sorry, Aaron Tshibola nabs shirt 18, which tells us only that he's likely to play a fair bit this season, but also that he's a fan of the number 18. Well, that, or his number eight shirt was being filled by the mohawk-donning repeatedly injured Guthrie, who certainly won't be playing more than 15 games next season, thank you very much.

Jem Karacan, another repeatedly injured midfielder, fancies himself as a bit of a #TurkishPirlo by taking on the twenty one shirt. He's trying too hard, and besides, #TurkishPirlo will never catch on. The twit.

Nick Blackman hopes to provide competition to Pavel "Really Want To Be A Winger" Pogrebnyak and Mr Consolation Goal, but with a number like 22, he's more likely to be an inverted right back than anything else. What is an inverted right back, you ask? I don't know, ask Nick.

Jake Taylor and Liam Kelly have to make do with adding their forename initials to their shirts; presumably because someone, somewhere, forgot that Stuart Taylor has gone to warm another bench somewhere and Stephen Kelly kicked up a fuss, saying that now he's a world class left back he doesn't want a stupid initial in front of HIS name.

Shane Griffin, on the other hand, thinks of himself as twice the left back Stephen Kelly is and so has donned the 33 shirt.

Let's not forget about Instagram madman Royston Drenthe, who was too busy taking screenshots of holiday website pictures and Instagramming them to pick a squad number. He's determined to steal the number 13 shirt from the fans before streaking onto the pitch, scoring an 80-yarder and then Instagramming a selfie of himself sticking the middle one up at mean ol' Nige. Classy.

So, what do you think? What else can we read into the shirt numbers?