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OPINION: Hal Robson-Kanu And Other Long Serving Reading FC Players Deserve More Respect

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As he enjoys his moment in the headlines, @WilliamOwain looks back at Hal Robson-Kanu's time at Reading and what it says about the club.

Hal Robson-Kanu was around the Reading first team for so long that the first time I saw him play was in July 2007 in the Peace Cup in South Korea. Back then Reading were a big enough name to be invited to a tournament which included Olympique Lyonnais and River Plate. Reading were big and exciting enough that I managed to persuade the Oscar Wilde pub in Berlin to show their game against Japanese club Shimizu S-Pulse and that was the first time I saw Robson-Kanu play.

That he even travelled with the first team squad on that trip was an achievement. The 18 year old Robson-Kanu had overcome two serious cruciate ligament injuries to be awarded a two year contract that summer. Cruciate ligament injuries can derail any career, let alone successive ones during a time when you've just become a full time professional. It is a testament to Robson-Kanu's mentality that he would overcome them.

Over the next two seasons Robson-Kanu would enjoy successful loan spells at Southend United and Swindon Town. It is interesting to note that by 21 he had made 42 appearances (38 starts) and scored nine times in League One, which compares favourably to the youngsters currently coming through the club's academy.

His first three seasons as a Reading first team player were as a squad player behind the more senior Jimmy Kebe and Jobi McAnuff. When called upon he was a reliable if unspectacular team player. He showed his potential with some quality goals, a strike against Peterborough in 2011 being particularly memorable.

He would emerge from the shadows of Kebe and McAnuff in Reading's ill-fated 2012-13 season in the Premier League. Scoring seven times in just 13 starts saw him come third in the club's Player of the Season award. His goal against Manchester United was a rare example of quality from a Reading player that season.

On the back of a successful season it was considered something of a coup for the club when he resigned that summer. Instead the next 18 months would be one of disappointment. Often injured and inconsistent, like many players Robson-Kanu declined under Nigel Adkins. He often looked unsure what was being asked of him in a system that did not work for him.

There were already doubters among Reading fans, but it was this period when that minority would grow. He came to be labelled lazy, arrogant, rubbish, a donkey and I even saw some claims he was "stealing a living."

There were no doubts he was underachieving, but he was hardly the only player. Some of the claims and criticisms were just downright bizarre; some even disrespectful. Is a player who scored the goal above and the one below a donkey or useless? Of course not.

Despite the critics Robson-Kanu never refused to celebrate a goal like Nick Blackman, nor put his hands behind his ears in defiance of the fans like Kebe. It's clear that he's not short of confidence in himself to put it mildly, but you only have to look at his fellow Wales striker and Reading academy graduate Simon Church to see how a lack of self belief can hold you back.

It was during this difficult period that he started to make a name with Wales. His time away on international duty rescued his career. Amongst a talented and committed squad of players he found a role for himself. Craig Bellamy's retirement, Steve Morrison's strange decline and Sam Vokes' injuries gave Robson-Kanu a chance to be Wales' striker.

Reading fans would often be bewildered by the differences in his performances for club and country. Some of what was claimed was again a bit bizarre. Robson-Kanu didn't turn into a silky, skillful winger or a crafty, goal-scoring forward when playing for Wales. He did what he did when he was playing well for Reading.

He worked hard, he put the team first, used possession sensibly to bring team mates into the game. The difference was that his teammates were Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, and that Wales had a plan. Reading were directionless under Adkins and Robson-Kanu was one of the main victims.

That is not to say Robson-Kanu was not without blame. A player of his ability should have overcome some of the obstacles mentioned, and for all his claim to be a striker his goal scoring record isn't good enough.

However, under Steve Clarke his career at Reading was revitalised. He was the leading player as Reading reached the FA Cup semi final. He led the line and set up goals in wins over Burnley and Middlesbrough. His absence through injury and Reading's decline were not a coincidence.

His return from injury saw the only period of good form in Brian McDermott's second spell in charge, and he was again one of the main players in us enjoying a good run in the FA Cup. He finished the season the player with the highest Tilehurst End average rating and the player voted man of the match most times by the fans. He leaves this summer one of the few players to emerge from the last two seasons (though in his case last 18 months) with credit.

It was no surprise that he decided it was the right time to move on. And who would blame him? Why would he stay at Reading? The direction of the club is uncertain and as everyone knows he's one of the more unpopular players amongst the fans. It would have been strange for him to even consider staying.

His Reading career is one defined by injuries, inconsistency with moments of real quality. It is also sadly defined by fans' negativity towards him and that for me is sad. Growing up as a Reading fan we used to appreciate long serving players like Graeme Murty and Phil Parkinson. We were proud of homegrown players like Archie Lovell, Scott Taylor, Nathan Tyson and Ady Williams.

These days such things seem to count for little. Home grown and long serving figures like Simon Cox, Adam Federici, Brian McDermott, Alex Pearce, Robson-Kanu and Jake Taylor have all been mocked and targeted on social media. I'm not calling for them to be given an easy ride, I'm calling for them to be given respect. They've given every day of their lives for over a decade to our club.

If that counts for nothing then I'm not sure there's much to like about Reading FC. After all if you were Chris Gunter, Paul McShane or Danny Williams, and saw the way that Cox and Robson-Kanu were often ridiculed then what would you think? The fans will have hardly endeared themselves to the players by behaving in such a way. It's the same way any employee will react badly when long serving colleagues are mistreated.

Again this is not me saying these players should be given preferential treatment. I just think they deserve more respect than they have been given in the last few years. If Robson-Kanu was as bad as some fans made out why did Nigel Adkins, Steve Clarke, Chris Coleman, Steve Coppell, Brian Flynn, Brian McDermott, Brendan Rodgers, Gary Speed, Steve Tilson and Danny Wilson all keep picking him? They are all respected coaches who have enjoyed success. If they rated Robson-Kanu then he must have something about him.

And if you think this article has painted a far too positive picture of Robson-Kanu then I will finish with the reason why I can remember his performance against Shimizu S-Pulse. It isn't just because I look back with bewilderment that I would travel halfway across Berlin to watch a pre-season friendly. It is also because Robson-Kanu took the worst corner I have ever seen. He slipped and shanked it straight out of touch high into the stand. I've never seen him take a corner since.