Decades from now, when the historians of tomorrow come to look at Reading’s team of today, they will no doubt question the driving forces behind the club’s run to Wembley in 2016/17, and how it all went so wrong in the months after. Wherever the Royals end up this season, Roy Beerens’ role in it all bears many similarities with the team as a whole.
Last year, the Dutch winger was an under-the-radar signing having been on the fringes of a middling Bundesliga club. A familiar name to those of us who have plundered such scenes for hidden gems in FIFA and Football Manager, he wasn’t unknown enough to be incredibly cheap nor was he a costly, fallen giant.
Quickly Beerens became one of Jaap Stam’s favourites, the type of player he seemed to trust as he collected 40 league appearances en route to the fabled Wembley shootout - 37 of which were starts. During this time, he was rarely a man of the match. As far as I can tell, he’s never won the honour on the TTE player ratings polls.
And yet despite all this, he was a crucial player on plenty of occasions. A haul of seven goals came in tight victories over Huddersfield, Brentford, Sheffield Wednesday and Fulham, alongside the goal of the year as he rounded off a neat passing move versus Bristol City.
Much like Reading’s, his success was to be unsustainable. Fast forward to his January 2018 exit and Beerens’ contribution to the new campaign has been massively limited. Still with 16 appearances to his name - nine starts - the Dutchman has looked off the pace and, crucially, he’s lost that happy knack of arriving at the crucial moment.
Aside from an evidently random starring performance as the central striker away to Derby, he has struggled to impress even Stam and has failed to make an assist all season alongside his two goals. Even Joseph Mendes has made an assist this season. In fact, Beerens only has two assists in the Championship since joining, a paltry tally for a wide-man.
What Reading fans are left to remember then is a player who is the perfect embodiment of the team’s decline over the past six-eight months. Someone who was capable of delivering surprise moments of joy in his first season, reduced to a saleable outcast who lacked any real clue as to what his role in the team was, or how to refind the magic that helped take us to Wembley.