It's hard to believe but Dom Samuel is actually the fourth longest serving player at the club by order of first team debuts. Only Chris Gunter, Garath McCleary and Jordan Obita made their senior Reading bows before the forward yet as I explored just recently, he's only managed a total of 27 minutes of league football for the Royals in his entire career.
While some, including myself, questioned if he was ever going to be given a chance, injuries to Yann Kermorgant and niggling concerns with Yakou Meite and Joseph Mendes gave Samuel the chance to prove what he can do on Saturday. 60-odd minutes and one-goal later, he's almost certainly earned another opportunity.
So what about his performance in our 3-0 win over Burton gives cause for optimism or cause for concern?
(All gifs taken from official club highlights)
Let's start with the basics, and what was clear to see was the different option that Samuel's pace provides us in attack. Take his first chance, how often do you see Kermorgant running clear of an opposition defence like this?
While he didn't find the back of the net on that occasion, his goal shortly afterwards was something straight out of the Jamie Cureton, Adam Le Fondre playbook. Once again his pace allows him to sit on the defensive line and wait for an opportunity.
As you'll see below Samuel manages to drift away from his marker and while the Burton defence will be far from impressed with the marking that followed, Samuel's run had all the hallmarks of a good striker, being in the right place at the right time to notch a first league goal.
When we spoke to a Gillingham fan last spring about Samuel's loan spell, the one concern raised was with his ability to help out his defence. On Saturday, Dom didn't have a great deal to do but compare his heat map to that of Yann Kermorgant in our previous home game with Nottingham Forest.
As you can see, Samuel on the right barely had a touch in his own box, compared to a significant amount of action for Kermorgant. Yann's 25 extra minutes does have to be taken into consideration but Samuel's defensive endeavours seemed to come from out wide rather than then in his own area.
Likewise, in the air Samuel wasn't much of a threat, failing to win either of his two duels in the air, while Kermorgant won six out of 11. Stam has been open about how much he values Yann's defensive contributions, so Samuel might have to improve in that area if he wants to stick around long-term.
Likewise, while Samuel got himself into good areas, he didn't do much to bring others into the game. Below is a map of his passes on Saturday.
As you can see, Samuel made just 12 passes in his 67 minutes of play and not a single one of them was forward. Compare that to Kermorgant against Forest in the graphic below, who while not always on the mark, was more successful in giving others opportunities.
So Is He Any Good?
Ultimately it's far too early to draw any firm conclusion on Samuel's strengths or weaknesses. What does seem apparent is that he's not going to offer as much overall to the side as Kermorgant, however if he's getting into goal scoring positions and worrying defences with his pace he might be just as valuable as someone like Kermy who wins headers and can play others in.
The fact that he was playing against Burton limited his defensive responsibilities but against tougher opposition, Reading might not be able to carry him as much. That was ultimately the problem that cost players like Cureton and Le Fondre, because as much as they offered that goal scoring threat, they just couldn't contribute enough in games against an opposition who posed a serious threat.
So it's a promising start but Samuel has work to do to convince Stam he's the man.
What did you make of Samuel's performance? Let us know in the comments below