Alex Pearce, Mr Passion, one half of the centre-back pairing in your Reading team of the decade.
In the end though, he snuck into the side by the narrowest of margins - literally, no one else got in by such a small gap. A total of 40.2% of you named him in your team, barely ahead of Kaspars Gorkss’ 39.1%. That’s some way behind Liam Moore on 74.5%, but comfortably ahead of Michael Hector (24.5%), Sean Morrison (19.6%) and Paul McShane (2.2%).
Despite really showing his best form at Reading in the 2010s, Pearce’s time at the club started well before. Having come through the academy, he made his debut all the way back in the 2006/07 season, playing against Burnley in the FA Cup. Four loan spells in the lower leagues followed, as did 16 appearances in 2008/09, before he stepped up more in the 2010s.
Matt Mills’ sale to Leicester City to 2011 after the playoff defeat to Swansea City, plus the departure of loanee Zurab Khizanishvili, gave Pearce a chance in the first team. He seized that opportunity with both hands, playing every minute of every league game in the 2011/12 title win, ultimately being named the club’s player of the season.
Pearce even popped up with five goals and two assists of his own from the back - perhaps the most memorable being a wildly celebrated strike against West Ham United in the 3-0 Mad Stad win. That ability to contribute from set pieces was important not only that season but also later on in his career too.
After a contract dispute that kept him out of contention for a while and rumbled on during Reading’s 2012/13 campaign - you can read more about it via Wimb’s piece from November 2012 here - he got back into the first team after relegation.
With 45 and 40 appearances in his final two campaigns, Pearce was a key player in Nigel Adkins’ near miss with the playoffs and Steve Clarke’s charge to the FA Cup semi-final. When he left in the summer of 2015, we lost a committed, experienced player with almost 250 appearances in the blue and white hoops.
Memorable moment: Doncaster 1-3 Reading
‘Alex Pearce’ and ‘footwork’ aren’t two things you’d usually associate together. As a strong, towering rock at the back and header of the ball there aren’t many better than him, but his ability on the ball? Not so much.
However, he proved us all wrong in late April 2014 on a big day in Doncaster. With Reading needing a win, and 2-1 up thanks to Pavel Pogrebnyak’s 86th-minute goal, Pearce turned on the flair with - as Nigel Adkins described it later - “the slowest step-over you’ll ever see”.
Lionel Messi learned his stuff from Pearcey.