As we say goodbye to Yann Kermorgant, the fondest memory will undoubtedly be the 19 goals that fired us to a surprise play-off final in the 2016/17 season. No player has scored more goals in a single league campaign for Reading since Shane Long in 2010/11, with 23 including play-off matches.
Yann’s effort that season was also more than any other Reading player from outside the UK or Ireland has managed in the club’s history in a single campaign. If anything, it goes to show how many of our foreign signings (especially strikers) have not delivered in a big way for the Royals, and is credit to the fact he did so at 35, an age where many Football League strikers have already slipped well below the second rung of England’s league system.
Moreover, the bulk of his goals that season came after his 35th birthday on 18th November: 14 to be precise – with an additional one in that Fulham semi-final. Therefore, it just goes to show how instrumental his goals were in that last half of the season, 13 in 2017 in the league, to the Royals surge towards third place and a playoff final.
Every one of Kermorgant’s 24 goals in his two and half seasons at the Madejski Stadium came in the league or play-offs. That just goes to show how much he was relied on at that age, where other veteran strikers might be carted out most of the time in cup matches to keep younger players fit and fresh.
Age is just a number, as Yann proved that season, becoming Reading’s oldest top scorer since Trevor Morley who managed 22 league goals in 1996/97 aged 35 to 36. It is important to remember Yann’s age in our play-off campaign. It’s something I think many of us and the wider footballing community very much took for granted on just how impressive a feat it was to finish with eighteen goals at that age, maybe because there were five goal scorers ahead of him in the final golden boot standings before the play-off games.
However, you have to go back a long way to find the last player to score eighteen goals in the regular Championship season and finish it aged 35. I turned to the most likely culprit, evergreen Kevin Phillips, but alas no, Yann outscored him. In 2007/08 Phillips scored 22 goals for West Brom and turned 35 that summer, but finished the season aged 34.
You have to go back further to a player who scored 18 goals aged 35 and that was Paul Furlong for QPR in 2004/05. He finished that season 49 days older than Kermorgant (of course we’re not counting Yann’s penalty in the play-offs vs Fulham, which means the mercurial Frenchman still comes out on top).
There are probably a whole range of other stats that I could delve into such as the number of headers he scored for us, his assists or his penalty record. However, I believe none are more relevant than the one outlined above. His record for us in Stam’s first season as a player - who was closer to 40 than 30 by its conclusion - is phenomenal, yet understated.
Just like the man himself.