Sophie: Long has proved himself at every level
I really can't believe that 10 years ago, 18-year-old Shane Long joined Reading alongside his Cork teammate Kevin Doyle. Long, in my opinion, is one of the greatest signings Reading has ever made.
Of course, his first season at the club was our most successful, the 2005/06 Championship winning season and he deserved his winners medal. Considering he was behind the likes of Doyle, Dave Kitson and Leroy Lita, he always made an impression on games when he came on as a substitute. He scored three goals in his first season, his first, at Pride Park against Derby on New Years Eve when he equalised late on to gain us an important point. When the sides played each other later on in the season, Long scored twice to confirm the Championship title at the Madejski.
With important and memorable goals along the way at Liverpool and then Aston Villa in the Quarter-Final of the FA Cup, Long showed just how much of a crucial player he was to the club.
During the 2010/11 season, Long was in the scoring form of his life, scoring 21 goals and was also voted as Reading's player of the season. We all know that that season ended in heartbreak, but his two memorable goals at the Cardiff City Stadium during the second leg of the Play-Off Semi Final meant that we were going to Wembley. Those two goals turned out to be his last for the club.
Maybe Doyle scored one of the most important and memorable goals of Reading's history, but I do believe that in the long-term, Long has been a bigger success.
He's still successful playing for Ireland, recently scoring in their bid to reach Euro 2016. Last year, after spells at West Bromwich Albion and Hull, he secured a £12 million move to Southampton. He scored seven goals for the Saints in his first season making him third top goalscorer at the Club, helping to secure them a place in Europe next season.
He's proved himself at international, Premier League and Championship levels, yes so did Doyle, but Long has been able to maintain his form in all competitions and not slip away.
Marc: Doyle was Reading's best striker for three of his four seasons
Kevin Doyle did all he could for Reading FC. The bustling nature of his play, strength on the ball, commitment in the box and his adept ability to score headers combined to make for a cracking talent who gave it all on the pitch. When the County Wexford lad arrived at the Madejski most fans were fawning over the £1 million signing of Leroy Lita, and rightly so, which allowed the low-key arrival to acclimatise and begin his rapid development away from expectations.
Truth be told, it is a wonder of circumstance that Doyle also came into a side destined for glory. Whether the 2005/06 team would have been promoted without him is impossible to answer - I suggest it would have - but the way that Doyle (and Long) burst onto the scene was symbolic of one of our best ever campaigns. Indeed, 31 goals in his first two seasons is a staggering statistic.
The now-31-year-old's value to the team was evident throughout his stay, but this became of detriment to himself and the club as a whole when a lack of right winger meant Steve Coppell played him on the right flank for the majority of our 2007/08 relegation season. In his worst year at Reading, his willingness to run the lines had ended up nominating himself for a bad decision.
However, while his hamstring injury at Everton in 2007 curtailed his work rate, Doyle was again a top performer as the Coppell era came crashing down in the play-offs with Burnley four years after the Irishman signed. Plus, the cash earned from his sale to Wolves was used to sign Matt Mills and Jobi McAnuff, two of the best signings in the last ten years for differing reasons.
Why Doyle and not Long? The younger of the two spent too often promised much but delivered little, until Brian McDermott arrived on the scene. Admittedly both have the air of likeability, consistency, and graft, but as Reading's best striker for three of the four seasons he was in Berkshire, it is Doyle for me.