David Meyler isn’t your average footballer. He has a YouTube channel with over 376,000 subscribers where he showcases his skills on the video game FIFA, also regularly and openly interacting with fans on Twitter.
While they’re qualities that make him stand out, it also means he’s been criticised by many fans on social media, particularly during Saturday’s game with Rotherham. For me, this was a little unnecessary.
Firstly, the whole FIFA thing. BREAKING: Man has hobby. Some footballers play golf, some footballers enjoy horse racing. David Meyler plays FIFA 19 and uploads videos online. What is honestly so wrong with that? Perhaps it’s because it’s not a traditional thing to see a footballer do. Perhaps it’s because it is more visible and public. Perhaps it’s because Meyler, shock horror, has a passion outside of football.
Whatever the reason, the fact that Meyler plays video games has became a mundane stick to beat him with which is tiresome and repetitive. It’s unsurprising that the issue comes to the fore when he’s continually not appearing on the pitch, as has been the case in the last couple of months. The suggestion that he is choosing to play FIFA over playing for Reading is ludicrous, and Meyler has put that to bed himself. As he points out, what is he meant to do if he’s not playing? Sit and sulk?
The amount of abuse that footballers receive on social media, much of it from anonymous accounts, is absolutely horrific. It’s outrageous that, just because players have big salaries, some people deem it OK to hurl insults at them. In my book, fair play to David Meyler for having a response. If people freely call out footballers all the time, they’ve got to be prepared to have it thrown back at them.
Personally, I much prefer a player who interacts with supporters on social media and isn’t afraid of speaking their mind. There are too many pros who have their accounts controlled by PR companies and who just put out generic pre and post game tweets each week.
It’s been suggested that Meyler ‘doesn’t care’ about the football club because he’s so active on social media. This, to me, couldn’t be more wrong. If Meyler didn’t care, he wouldn’t be consistently answering fans’ questions and candidly putting his views out there; he’d be sitting at home, saying nothing and happily collecting his hefty pay packet every month.
You only need to look through Meyler’s tweets to see that he cares. He’s visibly frustrated with not playing (and seemingly not knowing why) and is desperate to prove himself. Anyone would be the same in his situation, having not played since the start of September despite the team being on a terrible run of form.
Saeid Ezatolahi was brought in on loan in August and instantly took Meyler’s place when he had reached full fitness, but even since the Iranian international got injured in mid October, Meyler has not been able to force his way back in.
Academy graduate Andy Rinomhota has worked his way ahead of him in the pecking order, impressing in the middle of the park and drawing comparisons to Danny Williams. Even Dave Edwards, who looked even more out in cold than Meyler after an injury in the summer, made the bench against Rotherham over the Irish international.
Why was Meyler brought in in the first place if he wasn’t going to play, and does he have a future at the club?
On paper, getting Meyler in in the summer was low risk, he arrived on a free and added character and experience to the squad. It might simply be a case that he’s not quite up to scratch ability wise. Recruitment was a key issue in Ron Gourlay’s time as CEO, and Meyler is hardly the only summer signing not to be a hit in Berkshire. Marc McNulty has only four league starts and one goal to his name, Josh Sims has failed to show his quality consistently and Sam Walker now finds himself as the third choice goalkeeper.
It’s no secret that Reading’s squad is far too big at the moment, and that’s unsurprising considering eight players were brought in the summer, whilst George Evans and Joey van den Berg were the only significant departures. January could well be a busy month, as the Royals will certainly want to sign some new faces to help them pull away from relegation danger, but for that to happen there will need to be a clear out.
Could Meyler be involved in this despite only being here six months? This is where the search for a new manager becomes key. Reading need to get a new man in the hotseat as soon as possible as he’ll need to evaluate the squad and make a judgement on which players to keep. He may give Meyler an opportunity to impress and resurrect his Royals career, and then the Irishman will need to back up all his social media talk.