I'm not sure what surprised me more at the end of August: Michael Hector's £4 million move to champions Chelsea or the fact that he was being kept out of the team by a fit again and impressive Anton Ferdinand. In the weeks since Anton duly got injured, Hector has shown glimpses of just why Jose Mourinho invested a seven figure sum in him but Ferdinand's return to training and Fulham's romp at Craven Cottage has suddenly opened up an interesting debate.
I'm not sure many would argue against Paul McShane being an automatic choice for one of the centre back slots. The Republic of Ireland defender has captained the side brilliantly and aside for some shaky moments at Fulham has been one of our most impressive performers. So that leaves the question of just who should play alongside him.
Form This Season
The simple way of comparing the two is to look at how the team have performed in the Championship with each in the defence.
|Starts||Won||Drawn||Lost||Team GPG||Team CPG|
On a purely results basis it's hard to look past Ferdinand's record, which if you extend to include his two brief appearances last season means that he's still yet to be part of a losing Reading team. Hector meanwhile has been part of the defence in all three of our defeats this season, starting the reverses against Birmingham, Derby and Fulham. While you could write off the Derby game as unfortunate, Hector didn't overly impress in either the Birmingham or Fulham games, yet the Jamaican was a part of big wins over Burnley and Middlesbrough.
So let's look beyond the team performances and try to break down their individual contributions across their total Championship appearances this season.
|TACKLES||INTERCEPTIONS||CLEAR||DUELS WON %||DEF ACTIONS||BLOCKS||PASS ACC %|
(Stats are per game unless stated)
Here things seem a lot more impressive for Hector who's been by far the busier player. The Reading academy graduate is making nearly three times the tackles and twice as many interceptions and blocks per game as Ferdinand, who only really has the edge in clearances and duels won.
Yet once again you have to caveat the stats with a closer look at who each player has faced.
|Leeds (H) 0-0||Birmingham (A) 1-2|
|Sheff Weds (A) 1-1||Derby (H) 0-1|
|MK Dons (H) 0-0||Bristol City (A) 2-0|
|Brentford (A) 3-1||Burnley (A) 2-1|
|Ipswich (H) 5-1||M'Boro (H) 2-0|
|Charlton (H) 1-0|
|Rotherham (A) 1-1|
|Fulham (A) 2-4|
Hector has had by far the tougher tests, facing four teams in the top six,while ninth placed Sheffield Wednesday has been Ferdinand's toughest test to date.
If Hector hadn't have been sold to Chelsea this debate might be an easier one on the basis that you play the man who not only had a better injury record but is likely to be here for a long time to come. Sadly Hector's fate is now out of the club's hands and he could be gone as soon as January if Jose Mourinho decides to make changes at Stamford Bridge.
As for Ferdinand, well he too is out of contract at the end of the season and given that he's featured in only 7 of 59 Championship games since coming to the club, there's plenty of justification in waving goodbye to a man who's probably not on the cheapest of contracts.
So with the long-term considerations cancelling each other out it all comes down to who is going to help Reading the most over the next six months and give them the best chance to get into the Premier League.
For me personally, that man is Anton Ferdinand.
Anton offers a calmness and level of experience that is vital in any promotion race. While Hector is a massive talent and should go on to be an established Premier League defender, he's still got a few too many errors in his game and perhaps lacks the experience to deal with times when everything seems to be going against us. Ferdinand meanwhile has been there and done it, has nothing really to prove and nothing to lose going forward. His composure and steady head are a massive asset to a team and sadly his biggest enemy is simply his fitness.
So that's how I see it but how do you feel folks? With both men available who gets the nod?
All stats are from Squawka and WhoScored.