Reading completed their fourth signing of the summer by bringing in Marc McNulty late on Friday evening. To get some detailed info about what we should expect from their new striker, we spoke to Coventry City fan Dominic Jerams, aka @SideSammy. You can find his site here, including a piece on Marc McNulty’s departure from the Ricoh.
How would you sum up Marc McNulty’s time at Coventry City?
It’s fair to say that he started off pretty poorly. Billed as the striker signing that would fire us out of League Two, it wasn’t just that he wasn’t scoring goals but he wasn’t finding himself in goalscoring positions often enough and was snatching at the few chances that fell his way. After his first three or so months at the club, he was looking like a flop.
When Marc McNulty came good though, he came very good. He scored 23 goals in his final 31 appearances for the club, after just two in his first 14. The growth in confidence was visible once the first few goals in that run started to come, he was getting in goalscoring positions much more often and taking on more difficult chances, which greatly increased his odds of getting onto the scoresheet.
There are few players who I’ve seen play for the club that have had as dramatic a turnaround in form and confidence over the space of just one season than I witnessed last year with Marc McNulty.
What style of striker is he - can he play up front on his own?
When Marc McNulty first signed for us, my impression was that he was an out-and-out finisher whose form would rely on the quality of service we could create for him. However, he is much more complete than your typical League Two penalty area striker.
As McNulty best showed in the play-off final victory over Exeter City, he’s also a hard worker off the ball, makes runs to create space for team-mates and can link play reasonably well, which saw him create two of the three goals we scored that day and earned him the Man of the Match award, despite failing to get on the scoresheet himself.
While McNulty has some of the attributes to play as a lone striker, his goalscoring form for us last season coincided with his pairing in attack with Maxime Biamou – who is a hard-working target-man style striker. The duo built up a good understanding, with Biamou’s link play creating the space and opportunities for McNulty to get shots on goal.
Our manager, Mark Robins, also played McNulty out wide as part of a front three a fair few times last season, to mixed results.
What are his main strengths and weaknesses?
McNulty’s work-rate is probably going to be his biggest strength heading into a season at a much higher-level of football. If he doesn’t make the step-up to Championship level, it won’t be for a lack of trying. He also seems to have good game awareness – as he showed in a game against Grimsby last August where he read a defensive mix-up at an opposition’s free-kick to score an incredibly opportunistic first goal for the club.
For someone who scored 28 goals for us last year, in all competitions, I would still say that he could do with being more clinical in front of goal. The technique behind many of his finishes was pretty impressive, however, he very much comes from the Harry Kane, take as many shots as possible, school of goalscoring. That being said, he became much less profligate as the season progressed.
What’s his character like?
McNulty seems to be something of a confidence player, one of the big reasons why he came so good for us last year was that Mark Robins backed him both in terms of continuing to pick him despite his lack of goals, as well as defending him in the press when questions were being asked about McNulty’s continued inclusion.
As McNulty showed in the play-off semi-final first leg against Notts County, with a penalty in the final five minutes of the game while we were 1-0 down, he is also someone who can shoulder the pressure of big games and big occasions.
There are very few players from recent Coventry City history that I would have backed to score a penalty in that kind of situation, but McNulty tucked it away in the same manner as he would have done during a run-of-the-mill 4-0 victory over a mid-table side. Many of McNulty’s best all-round performances came in the biggest games for us last year.
On the whole, is he a good signing for Reading?
It depends on what role in Reading’s squad McNulty is being signed for. However, if he is being signed as a squad option, I don’t think he is someone who can come in and out of a side and make an impact. If he is being signed to be your first-choice striker, I’m not sure he is quick enough or clinical enough to score at a similar rate in the Championship as he did in League Two. Finally, he isn’t a young prospect who has a lot of improvement left in his game.
McNulty seems to be someone who needs patience and the backing of his manager to feel in a comfortable enough environment to play at his best. Will Paul Clement, with the extra level of pressure that comes in the Championship and other decent attacking options be willing to persevere with McNulty in the same way Mark Robins did? It remains to be seen.
Now you’ve read this, here’s why Marc (Mayo of TTE) thinks McNulty is exactly the right signing for Reading.