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Danzell Gravenberch: A Tiny Part Of A Larger Problem

Danzell, we hardly knew thee (or any of the other signings like you).

Reading FC

It says a lot about Danzell Gravenberch’s contribution to Reading Football Club - or lack thereof - that, when I started putting together this piece on him, I could only find one photo of him wearing a Reading shirt in the Getty database. The Dutchman (of Surinamese descent, Wikipedia reliably informs me) arrived in Berkshire two years ago, but all Getty has on show is a picture of the back of his head.

Brighton & Hove Albion v Reading - EFL Cup Third Round
(He’s wearing no.28)
Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Gravenberch’s contributions to Reading have been borderline non-existent and, although he’s still got another year to run on his contract, I doubt he’ll be adding any more. Danzell has played five times for the Royals in the last 24 months - three appearances in the League Cup (including his solitary start) and two cameos off the bench in the Championship totalling a whopping eleven minutes.

After that, a loan spell at sister club KSV Roeselare followed in 2017/18 and, having been training there recently (Paul Clement hasn’t bothered to look at him in pre-season) it was announced on Monday that he’d be returning to the Belgian second tier.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that this is all water under the bridge, that Danzell Orlando Marcelino Gravenberch (yes, really) and his lack of contributions don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. That’s probably true financially, with his wages likely to have been a) pretty low in the first place and b) partially offset by KSV Roeselare, but signing him in the first place was part of a (perhaps worryingly) scatter-gun transfer policy.

As a commenter on our Facebook page aptly noted about Reading’s approach to recruitment under Brian Tevreden and Jaap Stam:

“More duds than stars I suspect: Mendes, Wieser, Gravenberch to name a few. I can’t think of anyone that came in from overseas that has been a clear success - there are different views on van den Berg - but some could still prove their worth - Clement, Meite, Popa? Will the apparent new approach of shopping at home be better?”

To look at the list of foreign recruits in the Tevreden/Stam era in full:

Danzell Gravenberch, Joey van den Berg, Joseph Mendes, Anssi Jaakkola, Roy Beerens, Yakou Meite, Sandro Wieser, Adrian Popa, Pelle Clement.

(We've included Gravenberch in there as, despite strictly speaking being signed under McDermott, he was very much part of the Tevreden/Stam recruitment era).

Three of those players have permanently left the club (Mendes, Beerens, Wieser), Gravenberch has departed on loan, Joey is likely to head for the exit soon, Jaakkola clings on as reserve ‘keeper, whilst Meite, Popa and Clement have fighting chances of getting into the first team next season, albeit against the odds. Reading are great at bringing in quantity, but quality? Not so much.

Are there any successes in that list? At a push, van den Berg and Beerens - who both played big parts in Reading’s play-off campaign, but that’s a mighty push. Side note: Meite has done very well to buck the general trend in that group by not only staying at the club for two years, but also in having the potential for a future beyond this summer if he can impress Paul Clement.

Which brings us to the closing question:

Will the apparent new approach of shopping at home be better?

It’s worth pointing out here that Reading’s record at domestic recruitment under Brian Tevreden and Jaap Stam wasn’t much better than its foreign recruitment. Although there have been some successes (Liam Moore and Modou Barrow) there have been some real misfires (Tyler Blackett, Jordon Mutch, Sone Aluko).

There is an importance distinction though - unlike when Reading sign players from abroad, when we bring them in from English sides we actually play them. Even Jordon Mutch got nine appearances for us in his four months or so at the club (a total of 596 minutes) so we can at least say the player got a chance to impress, and that the general opinion that he was awful is an informed one. What about Danzell? After two years he’s still stuck on 155 minutes for the first team - almost three times lower than his total minutes for the under-23s (431 in seven games).

All that’s important because, even if you can’t always predict how well a signing will turn out, you should always have a reasonable expectation that player will actually be properly involved in the team.

Tyler Blackett has had a rough time in Berkshire, but his 5,280 minutes in the blue and white compares very favourably to the combined minutes of Gravenberch, Wieser, Popa, Meite, Mendes, Jaakkola and Clement (4,632). Although the signing of Tyler Blackett will go down as a failure (sorry Tyler), there’s been a point to him being here. He’s played fairly regularly and made a contribution to the cause, even if it hasn’t worked out for him.

The same clearly can’t be said for Gravenberch, Wieser and others, and does indeed suggest that ‘shopping at home’ is better. Statistically, domestic signings like Andy Yiadom, David Meyler, John O’Shea and now Marc McNulty are far less likely to be the ‘duds’ we’ve seen far too often.

Now you’ve read this, here’s why Marc McNulty is the kind of signing that Reading should be going after: