With the departure of previous captains of somewhat dubious honour in Jem Karacan and Alex Pearce, we're on the lookout for candidates to steer Reading FC into what we hope to be a much more stable and less unpredictable season.
Last season, at various junctures, we had different captains that often offered different things. This alone was such a mish-mash that it was no wonder that at times we appeared rudderless. Even in the capacity of captain, we never truly had a nailed on leader. Maybe we've not had a true well respected leader of men since the times of Graeme Murty or even Jason Roberts.
It could be said that several experienced captains on the field are required where motivation and drive was distinctly lacking last season. Steve Clarke has tried to address this in some of his signings this summer. But who, ultimately, will take the mantle of being the on the field leader with perhaps more than a few *ahem* fist pumps. Let's see who is in contention.
In the first game of pre-season, Gunter took the armband against the Thai All-Stars. We can all remember that he was captain last season for a fair chunk of the season. Unfortunately, this did seem to contribute to a dramatic drop in his form. Whether the responsibility was too much or that generally we were in such a horrific mess on the field it mattered not who the leader was was a huge debating point. Still, Gunter is one of the more senior players in the side in a squad that has seen plenty of flux.
Who'd have thunk it, but Obita was the captain for our second pre-season fixture against Bristol Rovers. Maybe this was more of a decision by Clarke to give Obita a shot in the arm and show extra responsibility in what was essentially a low key fixture. Maybe one for the future, but couldn't seriously be in the frame for 2015/16.
Clarke shuffled his captain for the third game in a row by handing Williams the captaincy for the neutral fixture against Premier League Swansea City. In contrast to Obita, this would be much more of an indicator of intention. Williams wears his heart on his sleeve on the field and often leads by example with his all action style and effort. Last season, when finally fit, he was often cajoling, encouraging and even getting into a spot of fisticuffs with fellow teammates (yes, you Garath McCleary!) If any of the existing players could take a claim then who could deny Danny? Difficult to say who else would exhibit more traits of a passionate leader.
Paul McShane or Stephen Quinn
Along with the arrival of Stephen Quinn from Hull City, both he and McShane were no doubt signed not only to replace (ironically) Karacan and Pearce, but for their Premier League experience also. Both have experience of the lower leagues, Quinn more so, but McShane appears to stand-out more as a natural leader with his do or die style of play.
Those that will have seen McShane head the ball at knee height to clear the ball will testify that he's as tough as they come and won't take any prisoners. Playing in the position where many captains are born, centre half, he is in the perfect place to dictate how the game is playing out. That said, McShane has not featured in pre-season as much as Clarke or he would like and may not be instantly ready come August 8th.
Some have mooted Michael Hector as a possibly future captain, but given that he is still very much learning his craft at centre half (and with the sudden riches we appear to have in that position, who's to say he will even start!) If we can keep Hector, then who's to say that he can't be a terrific leader. He often held his own in 'skirmishes' with Pearce after many a blamestorm last season!
Anton Ferdinand has a wealth of Premier League experience also and has shown the capability (albeit in a blink of an eye in the great scheme of things) to organise a defence. Again, for similar reasons to Hector, he needs to concentrate on other matters and getting more game time than captaincy.
Lastly, the joker wildcard shot-in-the dark, if you may, but given his cult status at the club, what about the big funded Russian, Pavel Pogrebnyak? If his fan club on Twitter are anything to go by he could probably part the River Kennet and throw the wind turbine with one hand! However, he probably needs to concentrate more on scoring goals than how the team is performing as a whole. Sorry about that, Pog-groupies!
Personally, I can't see much beyond Paul McShane. Fresh to the team and therefore unaffected by our previous failings, bags of experience and leads by example. Vice-captain, Danny Williams for very similar reasons to McShane. But who would you choose?