As Reading fans, we’ve been through a lot. The emotional highs and the heartbreaking lows. Right now, it feels like it won’t get better, and it probably won’t. I’m going to imagine a world in which we can go back in time and bring back some former Royals who I think could get the team out of the sticky situation it’s in right now.
Jason Roberts got us promoted. I don’t care about his injuries in his final years, I don’t care about any drop-off in form he may or may not have experienced. When he signed, he pushed the Reading team over the edge, from play-off contenders to champions. It’s what I think many fans hoped Yann Kermorgant would bring to the table, and whilst I love Yann - and he helped us get to the brink last season - he can’t come close to what Roberts achieved.
The big Grenadian was a vocal leader on and off the pitch - we haven’t got that now. This team needs someone with experience and knowledge on how to motivate others, and Jason Roberts would be that man. He scored important goals at important times - I’ll never forget his opening goal against Southampton back in 2012 which led to the team sealing promotion.
He’s a winner. Reading need winners.
So, I still have no idea what went on with the former Sporting captain. What a weird signing. He made few appearances, yet still won the hearts of the Madejski faithful, even if it was just out of a misguided sense of blind ‘maybe we can avoid relegation’ hope. Still, though, imagine having this tough-tackling Portugal international star and Europa League champion right now.
He can defend! No one on the team can defend right now. He’s a bit of a liability with regards to red cards, but he’d be perfectly suited to the tough nature of Championship football.
I know his list of Royals achievements is about as long as mine, but if only he was the long-term wall at the back that I thought he might be when he signed. I can’t see the team flirting with relegation with an imposing presence like him in the prime of his career. Hey, I can dream.
Okay, hear me out. Jay Tabb was never the lynchpin of any Reading side. He wasn’t the man to go to when we needed a goal late on, or the player who’ll deliver a killer through ball at crunch time. What Jay Tabb did do was care.
What I most fondly remember about Tabb’s time as a Royal is his non-stop hassling of the opposition midfield and causing his opposite numbers constant headaches and irritation. He’d run forever, making sure he was a right pain to play against, whether the opposition were Premier League giants or cup minnows. Also, he got sent off in the tunnel at half time of the Swansea play-off final for shouting at Phil Dowd; if that’s not passion then I don’t know what is.
I was royally miffed when he was released in spite of the #stayjay Twitter campaign that unfortunately never really kicked off, and it was hard to begrudge his wild celebrations when he scored against us for his first Madejski Stadium goal upon signing for Ipswich Town.
Jay Tabb would inject some much-needed steel into our frankly meek, docile midfield, making life uncomfortable for the opposing team. I’m certain he would inspire the rest of the players to a new level, and maybe give that kick in the backside that’s so sorely needed.
One of my favourite ever Reading players, Jimmy Kébé knew how to fire the crowd up. Probably one of the best examples of the ‘players whose careers collapse after leaving Reading’ trend, he was one of the most exciting players ever to grace the Madejski Stadium.
Whilst he may have been plagued with inconsistency and frustrated fans to no end, he got us on our feet. Seeing those toothpick-thick legs dance around the ball, up and down the wing and around confounded defenders was a joy, and that sock-pulling stunt against West Ham is unforgettable.
He was a guy who could single-handedly spark the whole team on his day. Granted, his ‘day’ may have been somewhat rare, but when he was on it, he had the ability to spark form in a jaded team. I feel like the management team tried to get this kind of player when Royston Drenthe was signed, but it never really panned out.
Kébé has and always will be the ultimate wildcard. Neither team knows what on earth he’s doing, and that’s at least something for fans to bother turning up for. Also, he’s taken up professional poker. That’s so Kébé.