One of only two men to captain Reading to promotion to the Premier League, there was no doubting that Jobi McAnuff would be included in our Team of the Decade. He may have finished just behind Jimmy Kebe in our wingers poll, but with 75% of your votes he still comfortably took his place in the XI ahead of Garath McCleary (32.1%), Mo Barrow (6%), Hal Robson-Kanu (4.3%) and Roy Beerens (1.1%).
McAnuff joined Reading just before the decade started, as he was signed by his former Watford manager Brendan Rodgers in the summer of 2009. Of course things did not work out for the Northern Irishman in the Madejski Stadium hotseat, so instead it was under Brian McDermott that McAnuff took his place in Royals folklore.
While many wingers tend to blow hot and cold and show flashes of skilful brilliance, the Jamaican international was more characterised by his work rate and consistency. Indeed, his 16 goals in 206 appearances isn’t the best of tallies for someone of his position (although he did move into central midfield on occasion), but his impact on the squad went far deeper than goal contribution. A calm, experienced head who had been playing regular Championship football for eight seasons upon his arrival in Berkshire, the influence McAnuff had while at Reading often goes understated.
It’s telling that McDermott made McAnuff captain in the summer of 2011 when perhaps more natural leaders such as Alex Pearce were available. But the winger’s commitment, desire and non-stop effort more than justified the decision and earned him the right to lift the Championship trophy following promotion in 2012.
That’s not to say the former Crystal Palace man was without his moments of wizardry. In the 2011/12 season, he and Jimmy Kebe were a constant threat to opposition defences down the wings, and McAnuff got 10 assists that year. In 2010, he nearly scored the goal of the decade against Liverpool in the FA Cup at Anfield - he picked up the ball in his own half and drove goal wards, weaving his way past several defenders and avoiding a number of challenges before shooting agonisingly wide of the post. Of course there was his goal against Cardiff in the play-offs too (more on that below).
Even in McAnuff’s final season in 2013-14, when his abilities started to wane, he was still having an impact and it was clear he was hugely beneficial to Jordan Obita’s development and emergence. It’s clear he is a hugely respected figure not just at Reading, but in the whole of English football. At 38 he’s still going strong in a player coach role at Leyton Orient, who he also captained to promotion last season, and is aiming to score in a remarkable 19th consecutive campaign in 2019/20.
Memorable moment: Scoring against Cardiff City in the play-offs
Reading’s 3-0 win away to Cardiff City in the second leg of the 2011 play-off semi-final will undoubtedly go down as one of the club’s best games of the decade, and McAnuff’s superb goal in the 84th minute wrapped up the result against one of his former clubs.
After a goalless first leg, Shane Long’s brace in South Wales had all but confirmed the Royals’ spot in the final, but the best was yet to come from Jobi. He picked the ball up 30 yards out, beautifully shimmied past Kevin McNaughton and Peter Whittingham, kept his balance as he made his way into the box and side-footed past Stephen Bywater. Magical.
The icing on top of the cake, it sparked wild scenes of celebrations on the pitch, in the dugout and in the away fans section. Although it was not to be against Swansea in the final, McAnuff would still impress at Wembley - registering two assists (both corners) as Reading looked to make an improbable comeback from 3-0 down.