It’s that time again: we want to know who you thought was Reading’s best performer across the course of the 2019/20 season. We’ve put together a shortlist of Royals for you to choose from, with five of our writers making a case for why their man should take the award.
Vote in the poll at the bottom of the article. In no particular order, here are your candidates...
In nominating John Swift you can look one of two ways. You can look at the fact he has enjoyed by far his most productive season since his debut, play-off final campaign at the club. That includes 11 assists and a wealth of chances created, among the Championship’s best in both departments.
Or, as I prefer, you can think of him as the most important player in this team. Not because of the numbers but because of the sense that, when he is on form, he is unplayable and makes an impact like no other in Reading’s squad.
This season, he has improved physically, in his decision making, his running on the ball and in his fitness. He has been decisive in more games and, as a result, Reading are higher up the table. Put simply, he has been our best player. And that is why he’s off to the Premier League...
By Marc Mayo
I always talk about Yakou Meite as a ‘marginal gain’. The threat he can provide in the attacking phase has enabled him to heavily contribute to the cause this season. He has scored 17 goals in this campaign - a very decent tally for the Ivorian winger who is understandably criticised at times.
As well as scoring, Meite has also played a part in many other goals this season. His cross for Lucas Joao against Stoke City at home was perfect - and this versatility of being able to play both out wide and up top is going to be important - especially with a mass clearout on the way in the summer.
His four goals away at Luton Town is the obvious highlight of his season - but he has also been able to find the net at a steady pace throughout the entirety of the season as well. To score against Cardiff City in the FA Cup shortly after his father passed away just shows his character and I am delighted he has settled down well in Berkshire.
He promises to be a key player again next season - and his goals have contributed to our season of stability in 2019/20.
By Adam Jones
The task of replacing Emi Martinez last summer was always going to be a difficult one, but it’s testament to Rafael that the Argentine has barely been missed in between the sticks. Picking the 30 year-old up on a free transfer is surely one of Reading’s best bits of business in recent years, as he has proven time and time again what a quality goalkeeper he is, keeping the team in several games this season.
Rafael stands out both in the stats - he has the second-highest save percentage in the Championship and his tally of 13 clean sheets is the best for a Reading goalkeeper in their debut season this century - and on the eye too. I could watch that triple save against Fulham again and again. You also have to consider what sort of position we would be in without Rafael - a whole season with Joao Virginia in goal makes me shudder.
You can only admire the Brazilian’s development off the pitch too. He has gone from not being able to speak a word of English in his first interview to chatting with detail and consideration almost fluently for five and a half minutes after the final game of the season. What a guy.
By Olly Allen
At times this season, Ovie Ejaria has been absolutely scintillating. Particularly in the first half of the season, the Liverpool loanee treated the majority of Championship grounds as school playgrounds as he consistently dazzled and bamboozled numerous defenders, much to the delight of the Reading fans - who have made the sheer joy and pleasure of watching him don the blue and white hoops this season.
Yes, there may be question marks about his end product and his form did seem to slip towards the end of the campaign, but Ovie has shown this season that he has the potential to become a seriously good player. He has won the joint most TTE player of the month awards (3) - along with his playmaking partner John Swift - and he is out on his own in front in terms of man-of-the-match awards (8).
If it’s meant to be that we won’t be seeing him again in a Reading shirt, then I’m sure the Reading fanbase will want to join me in thanking Ejaria for producing some absolutely spectacular moments - it’s been a delight to watch him this season. For that reason, I believe he more than deserves to be in the reckoning for player of the season.
Every team needs a commanding figure at the heart of defence, and that’s exactly what Reading have in Michael Morrison. The former Birmingham City captain may not be a modern ball-playing centre back in the mould of a Liam Moore or a Matt Miazga, but he’s more than made up for that this season with his leadership and organisation.
Plus, he’s been a key player across the entire campaign. He’s featured in all but two league games for Reading in 2019/20 - more than any other player in the squad - and racked up more minutes than everyone bar Rafael. It’s a testament to just how much faith both Jose Gomes and Mark Bowen have had in him.
It’s easy to take Morrison’s aerial prowess for granted too. He’s a dominant figure in the air at the back, having won more duels of that nature than anyone else in the squad, and even used his head for three goals: scoring against Huddersfield Town and Luton Town, also assisting George Puscas at Kenilworth Road.
He’s proven to be a steal on a free transfer and Reading would be wise to tie him down on a longer contract.
By Simeon Pickup
Who didn’t make the cut
George Puscas had a decent enough season on the numbers front, contributing a similar total number of goals and assists in all competitions (17) to John Swift (16) and Yakou Meite (18). However, a lack of consistency in his performances meant he wasn’t good enough for the shortlist.
Chris Gunter took a high TTE average score of 6.1/10, and only dipped below 6/10 in our ratings on three occasions, but didn’t really stand out enough in individual performances. Similarly, Pele came second for TTE man-of-the-match awards (7), but those displays were often a case of ‘best of a bad bunch’ in poor performances during the second half of the season.
Andy Yiadom and Lucas Joao may well have been contenders if they’d played for more of the season. However, both players were ruled out through injury for significant chunks of the campaign.
You’ve got your five candidates - we’d now like you to rank them from your first choice all the way down to your fifth choice. The poll should show up just below, but on some devices it won’t display, in which case please go to this link right here.
Thanks for voting!