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Reading's 25 Under 25: Part One

Who are some of the most interesting Reading players that weren’t here for that long?

Aston Villa v Reading - Premier League Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images

If I asked you to name Reading legends, I'm sure a few obvious names would pop up, like Robin Friday, Steve Death, Phil Parkinson and Graeme Murty. However, if you were restricted to players who appeared fewer than 25 times for the Royals, names would be harder to come by. As a bit of fun, we threw together a list of some of the most notable former Royals to fall into that category.

How does a player qualify? If they did something particularly notable before, during or after their time in Berkshire, and they made 25 or fewer senior appearances for Reading, they're probably on the list.

Ulises de la Cruz

24 appearances, now an Ecuadorian MP

The only player on this list who has retired and become a successful politician, de la Cruz’s personality always shone off the pitch. As a member of Reading’s first Premier League squad, the Ecuadorian international was mainly used as a back-up to stars Graeme Murty and Nicky Shorey.

In the 24 matches that he did play, his class and experience always showed. The standout moment of his Royals career was undoubtedly scoring his only Mad Stad goal during the 3-1 defeat of Sheffield United which saw Neil Warnock angered and sent to the stands. It was a marauding run and classy finish from a great player who finished with 101 caps for his country.

Ben Hamer

5 appearances, now plays for Huddersfield Town

After graduating from Reading's academy, Ben Hamer's time at the club was fairly unremarkable. A log-jam of goalkeeping talent, including Adam Federici, Alex McCarthy and Mikkel Andersen, prevented the Chard-born 'keeper from making more than five appearances, all of which came in cup competitions.

After moving on to League One Charlton Athletic, Hamer eventually joined Leicester City, where he played 11 times. Although he didn't play enough games to earn a Premier League winners' medal, he did make his Champions League bow against Porto in December 2016. However, it wasn't the best of nights, as the Somerset County Gazette explains:

"He is the first ever English goalkeeper to have conceded five goals on his Champions League debut."


Wayne Bridge

12 appearances, now retired

Having fallen out of the Premier League in 2013, new manager Nigel Adkins brought in the highly experienced Wayne Bridge to make up a shortage at left back. Beating off interest from also-relegated Queens Park Rangers, and Bridge's previous loan club Brighton and Hove Albion, the Royals tied him down to a 12 month deal.

What they got was a player with an impressive CV in the highest division of English football. Having graduated from Southampton's highly-regarded academy, Bridge would go on to play for the Saints (156), Chelsea (141), Manchester City (58) and others. He also enjoyed a seven year England career, racking up 36 caps and one goal in the process.

His time at Reading however was a disappointing one - despite a solid start, a knee injury ruled him out of most of the season. As the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining - and the same is true for Reading of Wayne Bridge's injury. In the former Chelsea man's absence, Nigel Adkins tried a few options at left back, eventually settling on... Jordan Obita.

The rest is history.

Omar Daley

6 appearances, now a club ambassador for Nevada Soccer Academy

He impressed on trial in a thumping 7-0 win and had some very flashy boots. In what we can only imagine is the only loan we've had from a Jamaican club, Alan Pardew rolled the dice on him for a season based on performances for Jamaica. He'd previously had trials at such auspicious clubs as Everton and Vasco de Gama. Unfortunately, despite some flashes, he failed to impress consistently in Berkshire.

After leaving Reading he went on to play over 100 times for Bradford among stints at Preston North End and Motherwell. Having returned to Jamaica, he eventually finished his career in 2015 with his first club: Portmore United.

His real high points though came at international level. He won over 70 caps for the Reggae Boyz (pinning down the exact number is slippery) and is in their top 20 of all-time caps. This included appearances at three Gold Cups, as well as playing in the 6-0 drubbing by England, with Daley deflecting in the first goal of Peter Crouch's hat-trick in the summer of the robot celebration.

Robert Fleck

9 appearances, now a teaching assistant

The Glaswegian forward was a goal-scoring hero for both Rangers and Norwich City before his brief spell at Reading. Having started out at Ibrox, he moved to second-tier Norwich City where he won Player of the Season in 1992. Also during that period, he played twice for Scotland at the 1990 World Cup.

Afterwards, he forced through a move to Chelsea for £2,100,000, then a club record for the West London side. His Reading highlight came on August 22 1998 - the first game at the Madejski Stadium. With the Royals 2-0 up against Luton Town, this happened:

Fleck now works as a teaching assistant at Parkside School in Norwich, which helps pupils with learning disabilities. He said:

“I really enjoy helping the children, whether it’s working with them in the classroom or with life skills out in the city. And I try to make things fun. Life doesn’t have to be too serious. I try and bring a bit of sunshine."