When a 34-year-old Yann Kermorgant signed for Reading in January 2016, he was hoping to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Jimmy Quinn, Trevor Morley, Shaun Goater and Jason Roberts and become the latest ageing striker to be a hit in Berkshire.
Although his impact wasn’t instant (he netted just three goals in his first four months as a Royal), Kermorgant can walk away from the club today following the mutual cancellation of his contract knowing that he was most certainly a hit with the Madejski Stadium faithful.
Only three players - the aforementioned Morley, Shane Long and Dave Kitson - have scored more league goals in a second tier campaign for Reading than Kermorgant, who notched 18 in 2016/17 (his career personal best for a season). Even more impressively, these came from just 34 starts.
They were important goals too. Kermorgant scored winning strikes against Cardiff (twice), Bristol City, Leeds United and Wigan in the regular season, effectively earning Jaap Stam’s side 15 points with his goals. And that was BEFORE he netted the penalty that sent us to Wembley in the play-offs.
The tension could have been cut with a knife in the Madejski Stadium on that mid-May evening against Fulham, but Kermorgant must have been the coolest man in Berkshire as he drew on his experience and previous play-off misery to step up and smash his spot-kick past Marcus Bettinelli.
What followed against Huddersfield was heartbreaking for everyone connected with Reading, but I perhaps felt for Yann (who scored his penalty in the shoot-out) the most. Not only had he done virtually everything in his power to get us promoted, he had extended his contract in February to allow him to get a shot at the top flight before retirement. After not quite being given the opportunity with Bournemouth following promotion, it was hugely disappointing that we couldn’t let him fulfil his Premier League dream as a Royal.
Retirement was once again put off as he signed another new deal until 2019 last November, but the campaign didn’t pan out as anyone had hoped, least of all Kermorgant, who struggled with injury throughout and only hit the back of the net twice.
Carrying on throughout 2017/18 may not have proved to be the best decision for Yann, especially after hip and groin surgery last summer, but if nothing else it summed up his commitment and desire to help the club in whatever way he could. There was no way he was taking the easy option and just quitting.
Now though seems the right time for the parting of ways. Kermorgant will turn 37 in November and the Premier League is at least another year away for Reading, who are looking to inject some new, younger blood into their striking department this summer.
We might well replace the player, but it’s unlikely we’ll replace the man. Off the pitch, no one had a bad word to say about Kermorgant. Sitting with disabled fan Millie Eggleton to watch the home game against Aston Villa is just one example of how the Frenchman oozed class from head to toe. He is held in the highest regard by Charlton and Bournemouth fans, and Reading can now be added to that list.
We’ve certainly not had an awful lot to cheer about in the last five years or so, but Kermorgant brought a lot of joy to a lot of fans during his time as a Royal. Au revoir Yann, et merci.