Last season, goals from Reading’s strikers accounted for just 11 of our 48 goals, or 22.9%. So is it any surprise that the last time we scored fewer than that in a campaign was 1997/98? Yes, that season was the last time we were relegated from the second tier; I seem to be mentioning it every week. Last season was also the first time no strikers managed to hit double figures in the league since... drumroll... 1997/98 when Carl Asaba managed just eight goals to top score for the Royals in our last season at Elm Park.
So was it any surprise that this summer saw louder shouts than ever before for Brian Tevreden, Ron Gourlay and the owners to invest in a proven free-scoring forward like the good ol’ days?
However, the summer investment we’ve been treated to has left some fans a little sore, with both Sam Baldock and Marc McNulty struggling to hit the ground running with just one goal, and a penalty at that, between them. There are signs of promise in them though; they both look sharp and link up well. But at the end of the day, fans get restless if new signings up top aren’t hitting the back of the net.
So how justified are some supporters’ agitations? I’ll take a look at the goal-scoring starts from Reading’s last eleven striker signings who hit at least 10 league goals in a single campaign at some point in their Royals career.
First goal: 6th appearance (Charlton Athletic away)
Best goalscoring season for Reading: 18 goals in 2016/17
Reading record: 1 goal every 3.8 matches
It took a little while until his first goals, a brace at the Valley in a 4-3 win, but then he struggled. After that, it took a long while to kick on, managing just another three goals in his next 25 matches for us. That made his amazing form at the back end of the 2016/17 season at his age even more impressive, with him becoming something of a cult hero and the talisman of our play-off final season.
First goal: 12th appearance (Bolton Wanderers away)
Best goalscoring season for Reading: 11 goals in 2015/16
Overall Reading record: 1 goal every 5.1 matches
It’s hard to believe he makes this list, but he really was prolific in the first half of the 2015/16 season before his controversial sale to Derby County. He scored on his 12th appearance from the spot, but then just six more in his next 66 games!
All in all he scored just seven league goals in his first 78 for the Royals, an average of just 1 goal every 11.1 matches. This made his 2015/16 goal average of one goal every 2 games even more mind-boggling, and his subsequent £3.5 million sale and 0 goals for Derby even more hilarious.
First goal: 2nd appearance (Chelsea away)
Best goalscoring season for Reading: 13 goals in 2013/14
Overall Reading record: 1 goal every 3.9 matches
Oh Pog, you riddle wrapped in an enigma inside a shell. He came with promise and delivered almost instantly in just his second game - a superb header at Stamford Bridge. It tailed off dramatically really, and just two more followed before the New Year. However, his 13 goals the following season were invaluable and very much forgotten about, only two fewer than Alfie that campaign.
Adam Le Fondre
First goal: 2nd appearance (Doncaster home)
Best goalscoring season for Reading: 15 goals in 2013/14
Other seasons he scored more than 10: 12 goals in 2011/12 and 2012/13
Overall Reading record: 1 goal every 2.7 matches
It was a classic poacher’s header from Alfie to get his goalscoring underway at Reading. However, the following games were far less prolific and he managed just three more before the New Year. That shows it takes a while to adapt from League Two to the Championship - Marc McNulty take notice.
First goal: 1st appearance (Dagenham and Redbridge away)
Best goalscoring season for Reading: 11 goals in 2008/09
Overall Reading record: 1 goal every 4.1 matches
One who got his first in the League Cup on his debut, showing how valuable goals against low opposition can be. He then got his next one again in the second round against Luton Town, but goals in the league took a little longer. However, his first two came on his first league start in that 6-0 thumping v Sheffield Wednesday on his fifth league appearance overall. How long ago do those days seem? He also scored in each of his first four starts at the Madejski Stadium in all comps.
First goal: 2nd appearance (Derby County away)
Best goalscoring season for Reading: 21 goals in 2010/11
Overall Reading record: 1 goal every 3.7 matches
Who can forget the 88th-minute equaliser to keep our unbeaten streak in our 106-point season? He’d make a further 11 appearances in comps that season, netting three more goals, but it would be a while before he really cemented himself as a reliable goalscorer for the club.
First goal: 5th appearance (Burnley home)
Best goalscoring season for Reading: 18 goals in 2005/06 and 2008/09
Other seasons he scored more than 10: 13 goals in 2006/07
Overall Reading record: 1 goal every 2.9 matches
It took one start and four substitute appearances, but Kevin Doyle made his mark on August 29, coming on for the injured Leroy Lita, Reading’s marquee summer signing who’d already made an explosive start by netting three in his first four games. Doyle took his first team opportunity by the scruff of the neck, scoring in his next two games versus Coventry City and Crystal Palace. The rest, as they say, is history.
First goal: 1st appearance (Plymouth Argyle home)
Best goalscoring season for Reading: 11 goals in 2005/06
Overall Reading record: 1 goal every 3.1 matches
An instant impact from the Royals’ first ever seven figure signing. Two more goals followed before the end of August, but so did an injury which gave Kevin Doyle the chance to overtake him in the pecking order.
First goal: 7th appearance (Cardiff City away)
Best goalscoring season for Reading: 19 goals in 2004/05
Other seasons he scored more than 10: 18 goals in 2005/06, 10 goals in 2007/08
Overall Reading record: 1 goal every 2.5 matches
Signed on Boxing Day 2003, Dave Kitson scored five goals in his first 10 starts for Reading which sounds impressive but, in reality, it took a while for him to find his groove. Making six appearances off the bench with no return, the ginger-haired wonder opened his account on his first start away to Cardiff City in a 3-2 win in mid-March - one of the best, if not the best games of that season for the Royals. After that he scored four more until the end of the season, including THAT brace against West Ham United on Alan Pardew’s first return to the Madejski Stadium.
First goal: 3rd appearance (Nottingham Forest home)
Best goalscoring season for Reading: 12 goals in 2003/04
Overall Reading record: 1 goal every 2.4 matches
John Madejski described the Goat as Reading’s ‘greatest ever signing’ when we welcomed a Premier League ‘star’ to Berkshire - back in the day where we believed new signings in Goater and Scott Murray would fire us to the promised land. The Goat had an instant impact with four goals in his first six games, but fell away once Alan Pardew left later in the season, although he picked up a few towards the back end of the campaign.
First goal: 1st appearance (Leyton Orient away)
Best goalscoring season for Reading: 26 goals in 2000/01
Other seasons he scored more than 10: 15 goals in 2001/02
Overall Reading record: 1 goal every 2.3 matches
He didn’t make an appearance in our first two games of the 2000/01 season, but was given a run-out in the League Cup first round and bagged the only goal of the game. He then scored in his first league start two games later, a last-minute equaliser against Stoke City in a breathtaking 3-3 draw. Overall he netted eight times in his first ten games, making him the most instantly prolific signing I could find in the Madejski Stadium era.