The right side of defence is somewhere Reading have looked so very assured for many a season, and it has become second nature for fans to gather at the Mad Stad every other weekend and hear the words "number two, Chris Gunter" ring around the ground, followed by a hearty cheer and applause. It’s customary. A Reading without the reliable Welshman is a Reading I, and many others, can’t even possibly comprehend.
Gunter has been ever-present for the Royals since signing from fellow Championship side Nottingham Forest back in 2012. He has gone on to make over 150 appearances in just four full seasons, a quite incredible feat that has gone unnoticed by many. On top of this, The Welsh full-back has started every single game (cup and league) this season, and if it wasn’t for the head wound he picked up late in the day against an inform Hull City, forcing him off the pitch, he would have played every single minute of Reading’s unremarkable campaign thus far.
His contribution to the Royals has been somewhat neglected in my opinion, as it can't be stressed enough how much of a significant figure he has been in a Reading side that has changed considerably around him in the previous five years. He offers more than the bog-standard full-back, as he has displayed on several occasions this season. When getting forward he causes fellow full-backs nightmares with his tireless work rate up and down the flank, supporting the winger in front of him. This is exemplified almost perfectly in the 4-0 drubbing against the less-than-convincing Walsall, when Gunter overlapped Hal Robson-Kanu and put in a sublime cross, right onto the forehead of Matej Vydra who added gloss to the score-line by taking the tally to four. Yes, I know it was against a League One side that really didn’t trouble the Royals all that often, but take nothing away from the pin point accuracy of the cross to a 5"10 striker. This is just one example of many I could pick out throughout the years.
To have locked down a player of Gunter’s club level and international experience is a top notch bit of business by Brian, and allows us to concentrate on strengthening the team and/or developing the squad in other areas to allow us to mount a real challenge to become the team Championship opposition feared again.
Next on the check-list will most likely be to tie down Oliver Norwood to a long term contract, then Brian McDermott’s revival programme will be well and truly under way.