My TTE colleague Will has done an excellent job at exploring the ups and down's of Hal Robson-Kanu's time at Reading Football Club and why he seems to excel for Wales, so I'll try my best not to cover the same ground here. Instead I'm hoping to put across reasons why we should all just move on and let the issue rest for good.
Those of you who regularly listen to The Tilehurst End Podcast will be only too familiar with how I've had a love/hate relationship with Robson-Kanu over the course of his Reading career. While the bloke has driven me mad with frustration to the point where he's got the ‘Underachiever' award named after him, the fact he's got that gong named in his honour should give away how much I've always respected his talents. Simply put, if you're an awful player you're not underachieving, you're just a limited footballer, but that's never a tag you could put on Mr HRK.
As Will outlined in the article I've referenced above, Hal DID have great moments for Reading, and so few should be so shocked that he's put in some good performances on the biggest stage this summer. As much as we all like to joke about this ‘new' HRK, those of you who saw his performance at Fulham in the Premier League, watched those scorchers against Blackpool and Millwall, or who witnessed Hal play a massive part in our FA Cup run to Wembley shouldn't be surprised at all.
Yet the fact that Hal has delivered for Wales shouldn't cloud either the legacy he leaves behind at Reading or how Royals' fans should feel about Robson-Kanu going forward. The two are apples and oranges, Parkinsons and Pogrebnyaks, Reading and Swindon, they're totally different things.
Could Hal's career at Reading have been better and more Wales-like? Sure, but was it? No.
In 227 games for Reading he scored just 30 goals, giving him an average of a goal every seven/eight games and four of those were penalties, meaning in open play it was closer to a goal every 10 matches. You can make whatever excuse you like in terms of where he was played, the system, who was around him, but the bottom line was that his goal return for a forward player was awful.
Robson-Kanu's time as a regular starter saw the team finish 19th in the Premier League, 7th, 19th and 17th in the Championship. Was that his fault? Again, not entirely, but the problem was that for all three of those second tier seasons, he was being relied on to step up and make a difference, something he just didn't do.
In fact, if you break down how important Hal's goals were, his goals have directly influenced a win on just nine occasions in the seven years since his debut.
On international duty he's been asked to impress in a much stronger team over far fewer games. The man scored one goal in qualifying for Wales, who their own fans will readily admit relied heavily on the World's most expensive player in Gareth Bale to get them to France. That's no knock on Hal who did the job that the team needed, but my point here is that he wasn't THE man and in a team with Bale, Aaron Ramsey, Joe Ledley, Joe Allen and others, he really didn't NEED to be the man.
Yet Reading Football Club needed Hal to step up, they needed him to be their number nine and drag the team along, but when it came to the crunch, HRK didn't deliver time and time again.
Maybe too much was expected of him, maybe he didn't get the chances he needed, the coaching was wrong, they fed him the wrong food, his seat on the coach wasn't feng shui. Whatever the case, for the vast majority of his Reading career Hal wasn't a leader, wasn't an inspiration and didn't live up to his hefty wage packet. He's far from the only one of the past few years I could level those accusations at, but needless to say he didn't buck the trend.
Sometimes you just need a fresh environment to thrive and that's clearly what Hal has found on international duty. I'm happy that a Reading Academy graduate has gone on to show what he can really do, but that won't ever take away from the fact that on the whole his Reading career was disappointing, lack lustre and left you underwhelmed.
For all of the reasons above it wasn't in Reading's interest to re-sign him, not at least without a substantial paycut from wages widely thought to be above £20k a week. Hal was never going to take a discount to stay at a club where he was finding life tricky, even after probably his most successful campaign to date.
Instead he's used his right to become a free agent and will likely earn himself a big new contract at a club in a top division somewhere. Yet the test will come when Hal's got the pressure on him to succeed, not just in a do or die qualifier, cup tie or tournament, but in a long, grind of a season where expectations are far higher.
I wish him well, I want to see him succeed, but regardless of whether he does or doesn't, this was the right time for him to leave Reading Football Club and no matter what happens from this point on, I'll remain convinced that this was the best decision for all parties.