Reading have had their fair share of veteran footballers in their ranks over the years. Anton Ferdinand, Wayne Bridge and Jason Roberts are just a few of the wisened pros to turn out for the club in recent years - each of whom brought a wealth of experience to the Madejski Stadium.
But none of them could boast a CV comparable to that of John O’Shea, who joined on a free transfer in the summer of 2018. Across his more than 250 appearances for Manchester United, he won the Premier League five times, FA Cup once, League Cup twice, and even the Champions League in 2008.
Add in his 118 games for Ireland and 220+ for Sunderland, and it’s clear what Reading were trying to get when signing him in the summer of 2018: someone who’d been there, done it, and won the trophy.
O’Shea may not have played much in the subsequent 11 months - just 701 minutes in all competitions - but his influence off the pitch isn’t in doubt. Liam Moore said on his Instagram page after the Irishman announced his retirement that O’Shea’s “character and professionalism has been an example to us all”, while Jose Gomes was even more full of praise in this week’s press conference:
“First of all he is a great man, very humble and everybody respects. He has had a fantastic career. He is intelligent, he understands the game and knows how to talk with the young players.”
“I like him a lot and all the players like him a lot. If you look at his career, he won everything a player can win. He is so humble - the way he talks about football and the way he shares his ideas with everybody. I really respect him.”
For a manager that’s only been working with O’Shea for a matter of months, those comments are high praise indeed.
Reading should do all they can to keep him around
With O’Shea retiring after Sunday’s season finale against Birmingham City, his attention will of course turn to the next stage of his career - and Reading should do all they can to make sure that next stage is in Berkshire.
The possibility of O’Shea stepping into the world of coaching with the Royals is nothing new. In fact, it was floated by media reports just before the Irishman signed from Sunderland, although that could very well have been linked to Paul Clement staying in his post as manager.
Nonetheless, Gomes is open to making that move happen now. When asked by the media in his press conference about the possibility of O’Shea staying on as a coach, he said:
“We’ll see, I hope so. I don’t know if he will be interested but I hope so.”
It would certainly make sense from the club’s point of view. We won’t get many opportunities to recruit such a vastly experienced player to the coaching staff, let alone one that worked directly with Sir Alex Ferguson for so much of his career.
What’s more, coaching will be particularly important over the next few seasons. With Reading unable to spend a lot of money on established players due to Financial Fair Play, recruiting cheap young talent from elsewhere and bringing our own through from the academy will be the only cost-effective way of keeping this club competitive.
Having someone as knowledgeable as John O’Shea to guide those players would be ideal, especially in the case of the young defenders set to be increasingly involved with the first team next season: Tom McIntyre, Gabriel Osho, Tom Holmes, Teddy Howe and others. They’d all learn plenty from O’Shea.
Gomes shares that view himself and is confident the Irishman has the communication skills to do a good job. O’Shea “knows how to talk with the young players” after all, so he'd make a great mentor.
Reading should do all they can to make sure O'Shea's next stage of his career is in Berkshire.