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The Curious Case Of Deniss Rakels

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Why is a player that's had little tangible impact on the club as popular as he is?

Reading v West Bromwich Albion - The Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

On Friday, it was announced that Deniss Rakels would be leaving Reading to join Lech Poznan on a season-long loan deal. As I put in our original piece, the moves makes sense for Rakels, who endured an injury-ridden campaign, appearing in three matches in August.

By heading for the exit, at least temporarily, he gets game time in a country more familiar to him than England, and the club gets his wages off the books. It's clear that Jaap Stam wasn't going to play him anyway.

However, the social media reaction to the news... confused me.

An unlikely fans' favourite

Most fans, like me, seem to be in the 'he didn't get much of an opportunity, but probably wasn't that good anyway' category. Basically, this:

That said, some supporters do seem to be genuinely upset about Rakels leaving. Somehow, the 24 year-old became very popular with a small section of the Reading fan base in a short period of time, despite playing only 652 competitive minutes for the club (that's equivalent to just over seven full matches).

He got his own chant when Brian McDermott was in charge...

Deniss Rakels, Deniss Rakels

Deniss Rakels number ten

He plays for Reading FC

Found him down on Oxford Road at a Latvian deli.

...and also features in the "We're on our way back" song:

McShane at the back, Rakels in attack,

We're Reading FC, we're on our way back.

But why? It really confuses me as to why one player who - for the record, never proved he was a good player - is so popular with some fans.

He has one memorable moment to his name - a late, late winner in a 4-3 win at Charlton. Yes, the goal came right in front of a few thousand travelling away fans at the end of a crazy game, but it wasn't even an important game.

Apart from that, he scored in away games a few weeks later against Leeds United and QPR - again, neither were important goals in matches that meant anything.

On the whole, his record in competitive Reading games stands at three goals in 652 minutes, so just over one goal every 217 minutes.

Maybe, maybe he could have kicked on under Jaap Stam had he not picked up an ankle injury in a League Cup match against MK Dons. We don't know.

What we do know is that, when he was finally fit a few months before the end of the season, Stam didn't play him, and it dawned on Rakels a while ago that he wouldn't be getting any minutes in the first team.

All in all, it's a fairly bog-standard case of 'player comes in, does OK, gets injured, fades out of picture, sent out on loan'. And yet, you can still go onto Twitter and see he's a very popular chap.

I'm not belittling other supporters - everyone's got a right to their own opinion, of course - I just genuinely do not know why Rakels is so popular with some fans.

So, please, enlighten me.

Deniss Rakels' career stats come from Transfermarkt.