It feels slightly strange writing that Reading will be involved in a top of the table clash this weekend, but the visit of second placed Middlesbrough means that that is indeed the case, and the Football League have appointed one of their most experienced officials for the game.
Keith Stroud will be the man in the middle at the Madjeski, a ref who has taken charge of Premier League fixtures before, but it hasn’t been as plain sailing as it looks. The Hampshire born whistle-blower first officiated in the top flight in 2006 and hoped to go on to become one of this country’s most established refs like Messrs Webb or Atkinson. Unfortunately for Keith it wasn’t to be. After a run of errors, Stroud was removed from the Select Group in 2009.
But don’t start crying into your tissues just yet. The 46 year old has still taken charge of numerous high-profile Football League matches in his career including a couple of play-off finals. Then, in September 2014, he was given a Premier League fixture to take charge of for the first time since 2008, and everyone lived happily ever after. Umm…not quite. He wasn’t given another first division match until last month, meaning his struggle to get back to the top permanently continues.
In total so far in 2015-16, Stroud has officiated nine games, handing out 36 yellow cards and one red card in the process. He has also awarded two penalties which have come in his last three games.
Overall, Reading have won three, drawn one and lost three when Stroud has been the ref. Last season, he took charge of our 1-0 home loss to Bournemouth in April, resisting the urge to send off an already booked Michael Hector four days before the FA Cup Semi-Final. For that Keith, we, and I’m sure Hec, will be forever grateful.