Dai Yongge and Dai Xiu Li were far from novices when their takeover of Reading was confirmed in May 2017, with the pair already involved in the ownership of Beijing Renhe in their homeland of China as well as Belgian side KSV Roeselare. It was Xiu Li who took the lead with the latter, choosing to invest in the club in July 2016 after deciding against other teams in Belgium such as Lokeren and Sint-Truiden.
She helped clear Roeselare’s debts, allowing them to become stable not only financially, but on the pitch as well. A link between them and Reading was perhaps inevitable, and Royals outcasts Danzell Gravenberch and Sandro Wieser spent last season on loan in West Flanders. They contributed to a fifth place finish for Roeselare in the Belgian First Division B, meaning they fell into the relegation play-offs. However, survival was comfortable in the end for the club. If rumours are to be believed, Brian Tevreden may take on more of a role within Roeselare in the next year or so.
Chris Gunter is a player who divides opinion amongst Reading’s fanbase, but whatever your opinion on him, you have to respect the fact that he has been an ever-present for both club and country for years, with seemingly incredible stamina levels and immunity to injury. This is personified by the fact that the right-back has not missed a game for Wales since October 2010, a remarkable achievement.
In November of last year, Gunter played his 65th consecutive game for The Dragons against Group G’s Panama, earning his 85th cap in the process to draw level with the late Gary Speed. Since the fixture, which ended in a 1-1 draw, he has surpassed the former Wales skipper and manager, and now needs just five more caps to become his country’s most capped player of all time.
The Panama game was also the first time that Gunter had captained Wales, something that he described as “a huge honour” and “[meaning] the world”.
Remember Ahmed Akaichi? The Tunisian striker sparked rumours that he would become Reading’s latest signing in the summer of 2015 when he posted pictures of himself touring the Madejski Stadium, only for these to be dismissed as he was simply only on trial at the club. Akaichi, then playing for Esperance de Tunis in his homeland, shared images of himself with Nick Hammond, Orlando Sa and Paul McShane, but a move to Berkshire never materialised.
He would indeed move clubs that summer, but stayed in Tunisia to sign for Etoile du Sahel. A year later though Akaichi did move abroad, joining Saudi Arabian side Al-Ittihad. The 29-year-old netted 10 times in 23 league appearances last season, so the jury is still out on whether Reading missed a trick in not snapping him up.
To date, Akaichi has scored nine goals in 29 games for the Tunisian national team and was named in their provisional World Cup squad before being dropped when manager Nabil Maaloul named his final 23.
In total, 11 former Reading players have represented England at senior level in the modern era - six were capped before their time with the Royals (Chris Woods, John Salako, Martin Keown, Les Ferdinand, Wayne Bridge and Zat Knight), and four were capped after (Neil Webb, Kerry Dixon, Matthew Upson and Ryan Bertrand). But just the one had the Three Lions on their chests whilst contracted to the club. Mr Nicky Shorey.
The left-back won two caps, both in the summer of 2007 after a stellar first season in the Premier League, against none other than Brazil and Germany. The fixture against the Seleção was England’s first at the new Wembley and saw Shorey come up against the likes of Ronaldinho, Kaka and Robinho in a 1-1 draw.
Many would say that that was Shorey’s peak as a footballer, and it was certainly a magnificent journey for a man who had joined Reading in the Second Division as an 18-year-old in 2001 and helped the club to two promotions to reach the top flight in record-breaking style. #ShoreyForEngland