Bittersweet news came down the Reading FC grapevine this weekend. Adam Federici, ever-present of Reading’s 2011/12 Championship-winning season, hung up his boots at 36. It was unfortunate news, as Feds had to retire due to injury, but it also allowed us to revisit happy memories of the Australian keeper’s long stay in Berkshire.
Federici managed an impressive 253 games for the Royals. Goalkeepers came and went during his time including Premier League keeper Alex McCarthy, but Feds provided a quality option for Reading no matter whether he was first choice or backup. His time at the club coincided with the most success in Reading’s history, and his attitude and ability fully embodied the fabled “Reading way”.
Adam was quite the player. His distribution understandably got him a lot of notice and praise with his signature side-kicking style. For a certain period of time, you could set your clock to Federici hitting Noel Hunt in the half space along the halfway line. Make no mistake though, he was also quite the shot stopper.
The first of Federici’s impressive performances was something of a baptism of fire: an FA Cup game at Old Trafford. Like an excited kangaroo though, Feds rose to the occasion, making a number of crucial saves as the Royals dragged the Red Devils back to Berkshire.
As Reading returned to the Championship in the 2008/09 season, Federici began to pick up occasional starts. His most famous of the year came on Boxing Day 2008 against Cardiff City. After a long, tight game, Federici conceded a goal to Michael Chopra in the 89th minute to seemingly give the Bluebirds the points. Potentially frustrated by his late loss of a clean sheet, Federici channeled said frustration into a famous equaliser, scrambling a ball over the line from a corner. From this moment on, regardless of Federici’s performance on the field, he’d always have a place in the hearts of Reading fans.
But Federici wouldn’t have to rely on that one moment. Taking over the number one jersey in 2009/10 permanently, he immediately made an impression, saving a penalty and a point against Swansea City in August 2009. Brendan Rodgers would make way for Brian McDermott after a disappointing start to the season, but Federici’s performances were hardly to blame and he kept his position in McDermott’s squad, starting every game that season.
As a result of his quality performances, Federici earned a call-up to Australia’s World Cup squad in 2010. And while he wouldn’t get a start (Mark Schwarzer’s Australia record was no joke), the experience of being in a World Cup squad was both thoroughly deserved and surely intensely exciting. It wouldn’t be his last chance in the larger World Cup tournament, but that’s a story for later.
The prime of Federici’s career neatly aligned with the rise of Reading back to the Premier League. Great teams are built from the back up, and in Federici Reading had a great foundation for their promotion-chasing years from 2010-2012. He made crucial saves in the 2011/12 run-in against both Southampton and West Ham, keeping Reading in games and providing the platform for Adam Le Fondre and co to seize promotion and the Championship title.
Later in his Reading career, long after promotion and relegation, Federici was still loyally and competently representing the Royals. In truth, Federici’s appearances in the season after promotion were limited, both by injury, poor form and the rise of Alex McCarthy. In 2014/15 though he came roaring back, playing in 40+ games. That he was able to return and produce great performances in that season speaks to the professionalism Federici displayed throughout his career, but also the genuine quality in his gloves.
The touchstone of the 2014/15 season was Reading’s run all the way to the FA Cup semi final against Arsenal at Wembley. Federici would play a starring role, starting in every round from the fourth onward, keeping a clean sheet against Bradford City to help ease the Royals into a first FA Cup semi final in 88 years. In that semi final, Federici made fantastic saves from Mertesacker, his replacement Gabriel, and Ramsey.
As you likely know, that game unfortunately ended with Federici spilling Sanchez’ tame shot, but not one Reading fan could have blamed this defeat on Feds. His contributions were recognised by Steve Clarke, who rightly said we wouldn’t have been in the game at that point if not for Federici. He kept us alive into extra time and helped us to put up a far greater defence than Aston Villa managed in their 4-0 loss in the final! For his contributions to the cup run and the season in general, Federici finally won a player of the year award in 2015: a fitting end to his Reading career as he left the club later that summer.
Federici would rack up a further nice career touchpoint after he left Reading. Shortly after his departure for Bournemouth, Federici was finally able to make a small but consistent run of starts for Australia in World Cup qualifying. Federici played five games in the second round of WCQ, earning four clean sheets and helping his nation to qualify for the final group stage of Asian World Cup qualifiers.
Stuck behind Mark Schwarzer for the majority of his international career, it was great to see Federici be rewarded for his consistent performances with a chance to really help out his national team: a reward that his career’s body of work certainly merited.
Federici’s career had a massive impact on the way in which I assess Reading keepers. It’s hard to imagine that the consistent goalkeeping presence of Federici’s tenure will be apparent any time soon, but our new academy kid is going in the right direction! Watching Southwood grow and develop into a number one currently is giving me huge Federici vibes.
Similarly, Southwood is a keeper who’s smaller in stature than the expected 6ft 5 monsters who dominate modern goalkeeping. His height isn’t worrying me though because we went through it with Federici at just 6ft 2 (small in the goalkeeping world!) Despite his size, Adam never seemed to have issues reaching crosses or corners into the box, and showed how athleticism and aggressiveness can make up for a shorter frame.
Federici is a certified Reading legend, and I’m sure he’ll forever be welcome at the Madejski Stadium. The adage that he’ll “never have to buy a drink in Reading’’ is a cliche, but it’s one that’s fitting for a man who gave 10 years of service to our club, and fully embodied the fighting spirit of a period of time for our club that we now look back on with reverent fondness.
Good luck in all of your endeavors moving forward Adam! You’ll always be a Royal.