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Midweek Musings: International Royals, Lone-Striker Puscas, Away-Day Savings

The best Reading moments on the international stage, whether or not George Puscas can play up front on his own, and the financial benefits of not going to Middlesbrough.

Soccer - International Friendly - England v Brazil - Wembley Stadium Photo by John Walton - PA Images via Getty Images

In honor of international week, and England quietly slinking past “the best team in the world”, I thought now was the perfect time to take a look at some Reading international exploits, past and present. Don’t worry though, I’ve still got an eye on the trip, or lack thereof, to Boro on Saturday!

What’s your favorite Reading England/international moment?

I was 13 years old in 2007 when Nicky Shorey pulled on an England shirt for the first time. It was one of the most exciting moments of my Royals-watching youth to be able to wax lyrical to my Saints-supporting dad about the Reading player starting in a back four with Jamie Carragher, Ledley King and John Terry. Sure, Shorey only ended up putting together two caps for England, but if you can only pick two nations to play, Brazil and Germany would be high up that list!

The international break this week got me wondering what most Reading fans have as their favorite moment from a current or former Reading player on an international stage, so I thought I’d provide a few options to choose between.

I’ve always been fascinated by Reading’s minor obsession with players from three nations: Ireland, Iceland and Jamaica. Indeed, we’ve had five Icelandic internationals, six Jamaican internationals and a whopping 16 from the ROI pull on the blue and white.

We’ve had goals from them too: here Garath McCleary makes use of some slack defending to net at the Gold Cup.

Here’s Kevin Doyle scoring a wonder goal assisted by current first team coach John O’Shea!

And here’s a very young Gylfi Sigurdsson scoring seemingly the same goal twice against Scotland at youth level. Stay tuned for the lob from the halfway line!

If we’re thinking about the biggest career impact caused by their exploits at international level however, it’s impossible to overlook Hal Robson Kanu’s Cryuff turn and finish against Belgium at Euro 2016. Robson Kanu splits opinion with Royals fans, and I won’t be defending his record here. Still, you’ve got to respect a man who earned himself a few years of Premier League wages off the back of one goal at international level.

Any great ones I’ve missed? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments or on Twitter!

Can Puscas play as a lone striker?

It’s fair to say that fans’ feelings on George Puscas have meandered wildly since the Romanian arrived for a club record fee of €8 million. In streaks, we’ve seen seriously impressive touch and finishing.

We’ve also seen dry spells however, and frustration at his managers constantly trying to fit Puscas into the side as a lone striker whether in a 4-5-1 or the newer 4-2-3-1. He’s not exactly a small target at 6”2’, (just two inches shorter than Lucas Joao) but you’d be hard pressed to find a Reading fan who’d prefer him to Joao up front alone.

With much of the frustration with Puscas built around where he’s been played in the formation, I wondered how Puscas was used during his most productive spells so far. So when was that most productive spell?

If we’re judging that by what we want from him: goals, we’d probably have to go with his performances in the 2019 Euros with Romania. Puscas put up four goals in the tournament. Per Whoscored, Puscas also put up his best average performance rating at any stage in his career, and managed to get off 3.3 shots per game, 1 shot per game on average higher than at any other time in his career.

So what kind of formation did he play in? Well here’s something I didn’t expect: he played as the lone striker in a 4-2-3-1 in all four of the matches. Puscas picked up penalty goals against Croatia and England before another penalty and a well-taken headed goal against Germany. It’s worth noting that he also hit the post against Germany and had a great chance saved.

One tournament does not a complete body of work make, and there’s certainly more to a striker finding success than his position on the pitch. Service, support, and confidence all seem key to Puscas’ success as well. Still, it’s good to note that Puscas has before found success playing in Pauno’s preferred formation so far, and a goal against Watford can only have helped stir his confidence. Here’s hoping for a great season from the pricey Romanian in 2020/21.

Germany v Romania - 2019 UEFA European Under-21 Championship Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

How much money are you saving by not having to drive to Middlesbrough?

Let’s face it: none of us are enjoying being barred from stadiums. Even those of us who fully understand the need to stay away (for now) or the need to create a safe way to attend can’t truly say that we’re happy we can’t visit the Mad Stad at the moment. Trust me, I’ve been living in the northeast USA for the better part of six years now, and the sting of not being able to go to games regularly never really fades.

With the annual away trip to Middlesbrough looming though, I can see some silver linings to an afternoon on iFollow! Boro is a 534-mile round trip from the Madejski Stadium. According to petrolmap.co.uk, the average petrol price in Reading right now is 1.11. I drive a Nissan Rogue which gets about 30 mpg, so we’ll use 30 as the mpg for the calculation.

According to Fleetnews.co.uk’s fuel-price calculator, by not travelling to The Riverside for some of Neil Warnock’s joga bonito, we’ll be saving a whopping £93.14!

Please don’t take me too seriously: I’d pay £93.14 in a heartbeat to be able to go to the games. You’ve got to look on the bright side of life in 2020 or you’ll go crazy though, and there’s a small one. For that money you could buy yourself a nice new shirt in the club store and still have money left over for a takeaway. I’m sure that will also make for lighter financial loads when many are renewing season tickets in the hope that we’ll be able to pour into the Madejski at some point this campaign.

So, enjoy the game against Boro on iFollow this week. And if you’re sad that we’re not there ourselves, just remember that you’ll have a whole evening to relax afterward rather than a nighttime slog down the motorway!