Would you rather have Liam Kelly or Charlie Adam? With one going and the other arriving, both on a free, this is pretty much the question Jose Gomes asked himself this summer.
One is a 33-year-old former Premier League playmaker who barely played last season and gets criticised for his portly physique. The other is a homegrown, energetic midfielder with plenty of time left in his career. So why is it ‘The Reading Way’ to opt for Adam?
Over the years, the Royals have enjoyed a huge amount of success when signing slightly older players whose primary purpose is to bulk out the squad. Glenn Little was 29 when he arrived to take swivel his way into the 106 team, which featured a 32-year-old freebie Chris Makin as an able back-up to Nicky Shorey.
Another off-the-bench option, Brynjar Gunnarsson, was 30 when he arrived as an unwanted off cut from Watford. The nutmeg-specialist left eight years later a Madejski Stadium hero. As did Ulisses de la Cruz, who rocked up at 32 and oozed class. Add in Michael Duberry, 32 on arrival, and a 34-year-old Jason Roberts and there’s more than enough evidence that the most fabled era of club history featured plenty of these deals.
What the club lost in more recent seasons was any kind of risk-reward balance. Roberts got an 18-month deal, de la Cruz and Makin just the single year. If it didn’t work out, no bother. We live and learn - as we will if Adam fails to impress, which wouldn’t be a surprise.
But it didn’t labour the club with their wages and general demoralising presence. At this moment in time, David Meyler is only halfway through the two-year deal, with the option for a third, he was handed. Garath McCleary was rewarded a two-and-a-half year renewal aged 29. Sone Aluko got a four-year deal at 28. It’s these deals that aren’t The Reading Way.
The other thing that Adam brings to the table is his style. It fits how Gomes wants to play and he can help the young players out (anyone who’s heard him on 5 Live will know he is a pretty switched-on guy). Surely he won’t be expected to play 46 games but there isn’t too much risk if he doesn’t even get 15. And, besides, it’s not like he’s ever been skinny anyway.