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Reading FC 2014/15 Report Cards: Wingers

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Our 2014/15 season report card series continues, with Bucks taking a look at how the wingers fared.

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Garath McCleary

30 appearances. 3 goals.

On paper, Garath McCleary is one of our best players - something I talked about back in January. But, like several other players in the squad, injury hit him hard in the early stages of the season. I can't grade him at all for the first couple of months, with his first match coming in late November. Looked rusty and out of shape in the final weeks of Nigel Adkins' time at the club, but a long-term injury makes that fairly understandable.

Despite some promising early performances under Steve Clarke (Fulham being the main example), he didn't hit the heights this season that he did in 2013/14. Reading lacked creativity greatly this season - with McCleary seriously lacking the spark that so endeared him to the fans last year. His own goal-scoring record is poor, with just the one registered strike (a penalty against Derby on the last day of the season). A poor campaign, but he does at least have the excuse of an enforced slow start due to injury.

Grade: C+

*****

Hal Robson-Kanu

36 appearances. 4 goals.

A frustrating player to have to mark. Hal Robson-Kanu somehow, on a weekly basis, manages to demonstrate his potential without applying it. His season, like that of Garath McCleary, started late due to injury - but he's had plenty of time to try to get some form going. Watching him play, he doesn't seem to want to.

The consolation for him is a set of promising performances in the cup. He set up Nick Blackman for a finish at Huddersfield Town, before scoring a winner at Cardiff City, an equaliser at Derby County and providing a peach of an assist for Yakubu to slot home the winner in that same game. With that in mind, you could justifiably say that he was a big(ish) factor in us getting to Wembley.

Couple that with some good outings for his country (which can't get marked here), and it's solid evidence that, deep down, Hal Robson-Kanu is a good footballer. But that just doesn't come out regularly in his league appearances - and his cup exploits aren't heroic enough to bump up his grade significantly.

Grade: D+

*****

Nick Blackman

43 appearances. 5 goals.

Frustrating, but for a different reason. The expectations for Nick Blackman are much lower than for Robson-Kanu - having come up a level from Sheffield United to play in the Championship. And, to be fair to him, he'll often put in some decent enough shifts on either wing. His solo goal against Newport County in the League Cup was arguably one of our better ones this season and, unlike Robson-Kanu, he regularly shows enthusiasm to attack a full-back.

Unfortunately though, that enthusiasm isn't matched by quality. His 21 appearances from the subs' bench show that he's a good squad option but, even with better players out of form, both managers have tended to pick them ahead of him.

Grade: C-

*****

Jake Taylor

25 appearances. 3 goals.

One of the main beneficiaries of a vast number of injuries in the early part of the season, but didn't do enough to keep his place as the weeks went on. With Jobi McAnuff released last summer, Jake Taylor had the chance to make the left wing spot his own, but largely failed to impress. I see him as more of an attacking central midfielder, and being placed out wide didn't do him any favours.

To be fair to him, he was solid if not spectacular. But, apart from his three goals, he wasn't enough of an attacking threat. Got minimal game time under Steve Clarke before being sent out on loan to Leyton Orient, where he also had a small impact.

Grade: C-

*****

Best of the rest

Apart from the above, Reading also saw youngsters Ryan Edwards, Jack Stacey and Tarique Fosu play out wide in the 2014/15 campaign. Edwards (D+) had a strong pre-season, and earned himself a run in the first team in the early weeks with injuries sidelining more senior players. His only real contribution was an assist for Simon Cox's goal at Middlesbrough, and was shunted out of the picture as others returned.

It was a much brighter first season for academy graduates Jack Stacey and Tarique Fosu (both C). Despite not having many appearances, the duo showed a lot of promise for the future. The last game of the season was a telling one for both - Jack Stacey was picked to start, whereas Tarique Fosu earned plaudits for his bright display in the same game. Clearly, Steve Clarke sees plenty of potential in these two.

Closing thoughts

This was a very poor season from Reading's wingers. In previous years, we've been able to rely on the creativity of players like Jobi McAnuff, Jimmy Kebe and various others, but in 2014/15 we looked worryingly short in this department. Injuries to the senior two didn't help, but both should have impressed more as the season dragged on. Looking further down the list, there's not much quality to be had at this level. The likes of Taylor, Edwards and Blackman are all enthusiastic and committed, but do little to suggest they're natural Championship level players.

Overall grade: C-

REPORT CARD GRADES

POSITION GRADE
Goalkeepers A
Defenders C-
Central Midfielders B-
Wingers C-
Forwards C-