Now that Reading have their third signing of the summer - John O’Shea - who better to ask about him than the chaps at Roker Report? Damian, who tweets from @Rastrentish, was kind enough to give us the Sunderland view on what we should expect from the Irishman.
How would you sum up John O’Shea’s time at Sunderland?
It certainly wouldn’t be simple, but I’ll try to make it so. It’s difficult to look past the fact that O’Shea dominated the dressing room of a Sunderland in decline, and that under his stalwart captaincy we have experienced successive relegations after four years of dancing with it. Since O’Shea joined Sunderland in 2011, we’ve conceded more than 400 goals as the man himself featured (most often starting and playing the whole ninety minutes) in 250 games.
Of course we can’t blame one defender for every goal conceded - or for the financial plight that saw us dive-bomb into League One - but it’s a naive man indeed who can’t see the stark correlation between John O’Shea and poor results. In short, and with this in mind, I don’t think it would be unreasonable to sum up O’Shea’s time at Sunderland as ‘a failure’. That isn’t to say he never played well for us - I can distinctly recall at least three stand-out performances from him, but there aren’t many more and that’s just too poor a return to be considered success.
What are his main qualities on the pitch?
The younger and more capable John O’Shea had some of the typical attributes of a centre-back, and I would list those things for you if you had signed that person; the 37 year old John O’Shea lacks most of those things, and so I won’t waste your time lying to you. If I were inclined to be generous I’d state that he is very tall. Considering though that he can’t jump, run, see or tackle, I don’t see the use of him other than a body in the wall.
Defending. But really - it would be quicker to name his strengths. To elaborate on my above point: age has wearied him, and in my eyes he was little more than a utility player in his prime anyway. A good utility player, but no more than that really. I’ve read all kinds of ridiculous things about O’Shea recently; from his gazelle-like grace to his supposedly world-renowned versatility, but in over 200 games watching him I never saw any of those things, likely because my glasses weren’t rose-tinted.
What’s his character like?
This is where the man can’t seem to set a foot wrong. You might be asking yourself at this point why successive club and international managers have relied upon John O’Shea over the years if he’s truly as awful as I clearly think he is, and the answer is that he is, from all accounts, extremely loveable.
The man is quick to laugh, quick to forgive, and is an all-round good guy from everything I’ve heard. The sort of guy that goes to the children’s ward of a hospital on his day off not out of obligation, but out of kindness. I really can’t stress how much of a genuinely lovely man he apparently is, and it’s that warmth and charm that has ingratiated him wherever he’s gone through the years, and allowed all but the most critical to forgive his many, many failures as a footballer in recent times.
It’s been speculated that he’s set to become a coach at Reading when he retires - do you think he’s cut out for that?
Absolutely. If John O’Shea can’t teach young lads a thing or two about defending, all footballers should give up when they hang up their boots because there is no career path for any footballer after retirement. His misgivings at Sunderland were never a result of any lack of theory on his part - only that old bastard Father Time. This is still a man who learned at the feet of great footballers and tacticians, and coupled with his natural charisma it’s a no-brainer that you want someone like him coaching your academy products.
On the whole, is he a good signing for Reading?
Impossible to say. The change of scenery may galvanise him and put a spring in his step that hasn’t been seen for years, and without knowing too much about the state of your defence I can’t predict whether he’ll do harm or good on the pitch. If he isn’t relied upon to do anything more than sweep up and he’s on a low wage, you’ve got fair value and he’s got a decent amount of time to establish himself in the dressing room with his leap into coaching on the horizon.
If you’re going to put him under pressure in meaningful games you’re going to get relegated. I doubt there’ll be any real reliance on him though, I’m sure you’d agree it’s more likely that he’s there as an “old head”, to get the lay of the land before he joins the backroom staff.