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The Case For McCleary In The Hole

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The Royals are desperately lacking that sparkle in the middle of the field, and Hoops thinks it can come from a positional change for one of Reading's star players.

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Another home game, another defeat. It's a tough time to be a Reading fan at the moment, with away games more expensive to attend than ever before and home games the least inspiring and exciting they've been for a number of years. It's a blip, it has to be, but the time has come for Steve Clarke to pull something out from his sleeve: it's time for Garath McCleary to play in the hole.

Reading Football Club has not had a formidable number 10 (that of a 'hole' player) since the days of Gylfi Sigurdsson. In fact, you could argue that Sigurdsson was Reading's first ever truly exceptional number ten player. Reading were transformed from a typical British 4-4-2 formation to a high intensity 4-2-3-1 under Brian McDermott when he noticed the premier quality of the Icelandic international, and in doing so he brought about some of the best Reading performances in recent times.

I'm not saying McCleary is the same quality—he's obviously not—but he would offer the same presence. He would mean the Royals are less exposed in midfield (by featuring an additional midfield player), he would offer a direct, pacey threat through the middle of the park and he would most definitely frighten the opposition in the same manner a certain Raheem Sterling does in the upper echelons of English football.

It's long been known the best way to stop Reading is to stop their wingers. It happened under Coppell, it happened under McDermott, it happened under Adkins, it's happening under Clarke, it would have happened had Rodgers' team provided any threat at all (burn); so what happens when a winger is given the license to drift across the space in front of the opposition defence and exploit any gaps? Goals. Hopefully.

Before any of you say it's a position he'd have to get used to, thus wasting valued games where he could play in his natural position, you forget that it was a role that he fleetingly filled during his Nottingham Forest years, doing so with a fair amount of success. During those days he offered a goal threat, exactly the type the Royals are crying out for. We all know McCleary has screamers from distance in his locker, but he rarely gets the opportunity to unleash such efforts from the right wing.

We've spoken about how things have got very stale at the club, so how about freshening things up with some exciting wing play... through the centre?