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Captain Moore: Back To His Best?

At the end of last season, it really didn't look like Liam Moore had much longer left in Berkshire - that was until Veljko Paunovic arrived at the club.

Derby County v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Jon Hobley/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Ever since his arrival from Leicester City back in the summer of 2016, it’s hard to argue against the fact that Liam Moore has been one of our most consistent performers - albeit among a very, very bad bunch for the majority of that time. However, it's also hard to argue against the notion that his performances, particularly towards the latter stages of last season, had started to deteriorate a bit.

So much so that I’m sure if you’d have asked Reading fans at the end of last season whether the club should’ve cashed in on the centre back, most of them would have probably have said yes.

Moore is believed to be one of the highest earners at the club. So when our financial situation was really brought to light during the break, Moore’s name was always going to be at the forefront of the conversation when it came to thinking about where we could possibly raise some funds.

Furthermore, whenever a team does badly, which we did at the end of last season, the highest earners and the ‘biggest names’ tend to become scapegoats and cut most of the flack. Now, I’m not saying that Moore didn't play badly - because I was also there for the 3-0 home defeat to Wigan - but I did feel he was hung out to dry a little bit.

Combine all of that with how well Michael Morrison performed last season, the emergence of Tom McIntyre and Moore’s rumoured falling out behind the scenes with then-manager Mark Bowen, it looked written in the stars that Moore’s time at Reading was about to come to an end. But then, along came Veljko Paunovic.

The Serbian has, evidently, given everybody at the club a lift. But none more so than Liam Moore. First and foremost, he has been handed back the captaincy which, whether you agree with it or not, was bound to give him a confidence boost. And whether you like it or not, Moore is one of the leaders at the club, and is a huge presence in the dressing room - so it more than likely gave the whole squad a lift that he was reinstated as skipper.

Cardiff City v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Cardiff City FC/Getty Images

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that getting the armband back has been met with an upturn in his performances. This season, Moore has been back to his warrior-like best. His displays have reminded me of his first two seasons at the club - the first being the play-off campaign, and the second being the season he won the club’s player of the year, and arguably should’ve got a move to a Premier League club.

It’s seems that, for a lot of Reading fans, it’s been easily forgetten just how good Liam Moore has been for us on the whole during his time here. Without him, I genuinely believe we would’ve been relegated to League One at some point - and God knows what situation we’d be right now if that had happened.

I’m really trying my best not to make excuses for him because I too admit that he was poor for a lot of last season, and I’m sure he’ll accept that too. However, he set himself ridiculously high standards in those first two seasons at the club - so any kind of drop below that level was always going to be noticeable.

There is no doubt in my mind that, when on form, Moore walks into our first XI and is our best all-round centre back. He’s our captain, our leader, and one of the players who truly loves playing for the club - and this season, he’s really showing that.

There really aren’t many footballers out there like Liam Moore in this day and age: ones that genuinely care about the badge on the front of the shirt more than the name on the back of it. And you might completely disagree with me on that. Hey, you might completely disagree with this entire piece, but I think the fact that Moore is still at the club and has stuck with us through the last couple of years shows that it’s clear we hold a place in his heart.

For the first time in a long while, our back four looks really settled - evidenced by our imperious defensive record in the league so far - and Liam Moore is a key figure in that. Long may both his individual form, and our collective team form, continue.