Whereas most of the players in our Team of the Decade have enjoyed lengthy spells at Reading, Gylfi Sigurdsson makes the XI based on one stand-out season in which it was clear he was destined for greater things. But regardless of the reasoning, he comfortably won our central midfield poll with 84.2% of the vote - you can find out who partners him in the middle of the park tomorrow.
Born in the Icelandic capital of Reykjavík, Sigurdsson joined Reading’s academy as a 16-year-old, before being given his first professional contract two years later. He made his senior debut in the League Cup in August 2008, but it was the 2009-10 campaign that saw the midfielder really break through.
As this is the Team of the 2010s, I’ll try and focus just on the second half of that season as much as possible - from January onwards Sigurdsson scored 13 times in 24 games, giving him a total of 20 goals in 44 games at the end of the season. Unsurprisingly, he was voted the club’s Player of the Season, becoming the first academy graduate to win the award.
It’s easy to forget that Sigurdsson was just 20 years old as he set the Championship alight, and even at that age his raw ability was some of the best ever seen in a Reading shirt. March saw him win the division’s Player of the Month award as he scored five goals in six games as the team picked up 14 points from a possible 18. He was key to the Royals’ success in the FA Cup too, netting crucial goals against Liverpool, Burnley and West Brom on the way to the quarter-finals.
Interest was high in the young Icelander in the summer of 2010, but he signed a new contract in May to put minds temporarily at rest. However an electric start to the new campaign, as he scored a superb goal from outside of the box against Scunthorpe and a delightful chip against Leicester, saw him move to German side Hoffenheim on deadline day. Reading received a club-record £7 million for the sale.
Sigurdsson has arguably achieved more in his career since leaving Berkshire than any other former Royal, having made 238 Premier League appearances and scoring 53 goals for Swansea City, Tottenham Hotspur and Everton. He has become one of Iceland’s greatest ever players, netting 22 times in 74 games and helping his country qualify for their first two major tournaments - Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup.
Memorable moment: Scoring from the spot against Liverpool in the FA Cup
13 days into the new decade, Sigurdsson was at the heart of one of Reading’s best moments in recent history. The Royals travelled to Liverpool in an FA Cup third round replay, having drawn 1-1 with the Reds in the original fixture at the Mad Stad. They fell behind on the stroke of half-time as a helpless Ryan Bertrand deflected Steven Gerrard’s cross into his own net.
Reading deserved a goal throughout the second half but it looked as though it wasn’t to be their night until substitute Shane Long was brought down in the box by Yossi Benayoun in stoppage time. While a host of experienced players were on the pitch to take the penalty, it was 20-year-old Sigurdsson who stepped up. For someone so young, he handled the pressure admirably and showed a remarkable lack of nerves to calmly side foot the penalty past Diego Cavalieri and send the game to extra-time. Long would head home in the 100th minute to secure a historic Royals victory in the world’s greatest cup competition. It remains Reading’s only ever win at Anfield.
Sigurdsson’s heroics in the cup were not done for the season though as he scored the only goal against another Premier League side, Burnley, in the next round, before his 25-yard screamer knocked out West Brom in extra-time in the fifth round replay.