Reading finally made their first signing of the January window on Monday by bringing in centre half Tommy Elphick on loan till the end of the season. But what should we expect from him? Is he even any good? We talked to two people who know everything about him - Bournemouth fan Carey Paton, and editor of Aston Villa blog 7500 To Holte James Rushton.
What kind of defender is he? Will he fit into Reading’s possession-based style of play?
Carey Paton: Any player that plays for Bournemouth has to get involved in a possession-based, play out from the back philosophy. Not sure that was so much the case at Villa, but that way of playing is not only what he’s used to from his time on the with us, but the kind of football that he wants to be playing – I saw his interview on the club website yesterday and he’s excited to go back to playing like that.
James Rushton: He’s definitely a risk taker. He tries very hard to make up for any errors and obviously that can go wrong. Look for him to try and attack the ball. I think he will certainly feet in, but there are worries about the ball at his feet. He can panic when pressed.
What’s his character like?
CP: You lucky people are getting the most honest and committed player I’ve ever seen at my club. Probably in football. He’s a no-nonsense born leader who puts 100 per cent into everything he does, whether he’s leading a team out as captain or coming on as a late sub. He makes everyone feel like you’re all in this together. There’s no doubt that he was one of the major factors in us winning the Championship in 2015. He was one of us.
He’s just a genuinely lovely bloke who will always stop for a chat. I remember after one game in the Championship my nephew wanted to get his shirt signed by the players, and Tommy was outside with the fans for ages, until every single person that had waited got the autograph or photo they wanted. You don’t get many like Tommy.
JR: He’s a bit of a leader as well, and will tell people what to do, even if he’s wrong! A model professional who did a job for us after coming in as captain and then getting benched.
What are his biggest strengths?
CP: His strengths are his work ethic, organisation and leadership. And not in an arrogant way. He’s a grafter who will not only organise the back line, he’ll gee-up team-mates whether it’s in training, in the changing room, or on the pitch. He’ll get the team ready for battle at 3pm.
And he loves to get the crowd behind the team during matches. You’ll hear him on the pitch organising or encouraging team-mates until the last second, and rousing the crowd during breaks in play. We’ve missed all of that massively since he left.
Also, top tip, he’s quite handy if you stick him up top for corners.
JR: Big strength? His character. A lot of players would have sulked in his position. His desire is to be envied as well, and he’s an extremely brave player.
CP: His biggest weakness. Well, he’s not the quickest (but since when does a CB need to be Usain Bolt?!) and he’s suffered from a lack of game time, which is just down to terrible luck. He got a calf injury in Steve Bruce’s first game in charge of Villa, against Wolves, and was out for a few weeks but then couldn’t get back into the team as Bruce had by then established his own back line. And he was competing for a place with players like James Chester, who Bruce already knew and trusted, having managed him at Hull.
In the summer, Villa added John Terry, so Tommy struggled to get in Villa’s matchday squad at the start of this season. When JT was injured around Christmas time, he got a few starts and played brilliantly, but was (unfairly, in my opinion) dropped to the bench the moment JT was declared fit again. But he didn’t moan, he just got on with it and worked hard on the training ground (where he’ll often stay out long after everyone else has gone) to get himself back into contention.
JR: Weaknesses? He’s not the greatest player and when the going gets tough, he can go missing. Still, there are a lot of positives here.
Finally, the crunch question - is he a good signing for Reading?
CP: He’s the type of player that every club needs in my opinion, so you’ve got a diamond there. It’s usually sad when players leave my club but in the last decade there’s only really been two players whose departures absolutely devastated me and a lot of other Bournemouth fans because of the voids they would leave, which have never really been filled. And they’re both Royals now.
JR: Yes. He’s a good signing for Reading. Look, you’re in a real tough situation right now and Elphick is the type of character to snap you out of your catatonic state. He’ll do a job for you. Hopefully.