Former Royals midfielder Dave Edwards talked about everything Reading FC to a cohort of sports journalism students at the University of Gloucestershire.
Thank you so much to @_DaveEdwards for speaking to us today @BASportsJourno— Danyal Khan (@DKMatchreports) March 10, 2021
Really interesting to hear what you had to say about your time at Reading FC, and what you make of this current crop of players under Veljko Paunovic ⚪️#SportsJournalism #readingfc https://t.co/15ws1auY6q
Edwards, 35, joined the club in the summer of 2017, and managed to make 35 appearances for the side from RG2 in all competitions. The Welsh international managed to conjure up seven goal involvements during his stay in Berkshire.
Having moved to the club with the disappointment of the play-off final defeat against Huddersfield Town still fresh in the minds of players and fans alike, Edwards joined the club with ambitions to go one better. That crushing defeat under the Wembley arch would however affect the squad going into Edwards’ first season at the club, as Jaap Stam’s side spiralled down the Championship table in the 2017/18 campaign.
Dutch manager Stam had signed the midfielder to add some extra experience and depth to a squad bereft of confidence following play-off heartache. Stam would eventually be replaced by Paul Clement towards the end of the season. The 35-year-old managed to play under both managers, and he opened up to fellow Reading fan Cam Wyper about his time playing under Stam and Clement.
Edwards reveals: “It was obviously two very different managers. Both excellent coaches I must say that. Jaap Stam really opened my eyes to the more European way of playing football. When I went there, it was very much possession based, and the way he wanted to build patterns of play out from the back - it was very refreshing. Something that I had never really experienced in all of my career.
“But ultimately, there came a time where it wasn’t really working, as you need to be very confident to play that way. As we were slipping down the league like we were at the time, players were really struggling. And to want to receive the ball in your own penalty box, which we needed to do if we wanted to be successful in playing that way.
“So it played against us a little bit, and then when Paul Clement came in, it was completely the opposite. It was more about defensive structure, being hard to break down and overall, just a lot more emphasis on the defensive side of things.
“And it took a big change. I think when you build a squad like Jaap Stam did, it was always going to be difficult for Paul Clement to come in and change the way we played. It was enough to keep us in the league, but he didn’t have enough of his type of players to then go and build in the following season.
“That obviously meant that he only lasted for half of the following season as well, so it was difficult, and as a player it always is as well. Especially if one manager has brought you In and then another manager comes in and you have to adapt.
“And at the time, a lot of the football club was up in the air, but it looks like now (touch wood) that they have got it right and they are moving in the right direction.
“But my time there was very up and down. It didn’t quite look like the owners and the hierarchy in the football club really had a real way of where they wanted to go. And it was sort of the approach of we will try this, and we will try that rather than having a definite plan. But it does seem like they have got it right now.”
Josh Laurent is ‘brilliant’
One current Reading player Edwards knows well from his tenure at Shrewsbury Town is midfielder Josh Laurent. Laurent, 25, signed for the Royals on a free transfer in the last summer window, and Edwards knows all about the qualities that Laurent possesses and what he can bring on a consistent basis to Veljko Paunovic’s side.
“He’s been brilliant”, Edwards states with no hesitation. “I always knew that Josh would suit Reading really well with the way he played, because Reading have always had very good technical players. And it’s great when you are bringing technical players in who are really nice on the ball, and who can create.
“But most football people know that you can’t have a team of 11 players like that. You need to have some balance in there, and I always thought that Josh could bring that to Reading.
The Welsh international adds: “He’s very dynamic and very physically good. He would be able to do a lot of the leg work to allow the players like John Swift, Ovie Ejaria and Michael Olise to go and express themselves. Having both Andy Rinomhota and Josh in the midfield two means that they are the glue that hold the team together.
“Josh has really got the potential to go on and be a top Premier League footballer because of his physical attributes and how quickly he can get around the football pitch, how athletic he is. Then he’s also got that quality where he can keep the ball moving, so he’s an excellent addition to Reading.
“He was a bit of a loss to Shrewsbury when he left, but we always knew that we were never going to be able to keep him. He was that good. And I expect him to hopefully play in the Premier League with Reading in the near future, but if not Reading then I’m sure he will have plenty of admirers in the Premier League.”
Paunovic’s squad good enough for ‘play-offs’
Reading were certainly written off at the start of the season by most outsiders, but it’s refreshing to see former players like Edwards recognise the quality that lies within Paunovic’s team. The Royals currently sit in fifth place in the Championship with 11 games to go, and the Edwards has high hopes for his former team.
“I think if they keep their main players fit, then I think then that they can definitely finish in the play-offs,” Edwards says. “I’ve spoken to a few lads there that I know, and they have nothing but a huge amount of praise for the manager. They have said that he (Veljko Paunovic) has instilled a lot of confidence in the team, and also tactically he is very good.
“The work they do on the opposition is incredible by the sound of things. They know every game they have a real distinctive game plan on how to hurt the opposition and how the opposition might hurt them. So it seems that they have got that all right and players wise, they have got an abundance of quality.”
The current Shrewsbury player adds: “The academy at Reading is very good. If you look at the players who they produce through the years - it’s refreshing to see. It doesn’t happen as much now in English football, but them tapping into their own resources and bringing lads through is special.
“It just seems to be a conveyor belt of player after player coming through that academy and into that first team. They have got some real gems in there, and then you add the likes of John Swift, who on is day if he stays fit is the best player in the Championship in my opinion - he’s that good.
“But then they have got so many options going forward, and more importantly leaders in the team. Liam Moore and Michael Morrison are two ones who stand out to me, so I think they have definitely got the squad to be competing at the top end of the league.
“And I really do think that they can get into the play-offs. And if they do manage that, then I back them to go the whole way and get back into the Premier League.”
The former Luton Town and Wolves midfielder, Edwards is currently plying his trade at Shrewsbury in League One. The Shrews are currently 17th in the table and look to be safe of any immediate threat of relegation, as we approach the run in to all the EFL 2020/21 league seasons.
At the age of 35, Edwards has already achieved so much in his playing career, both on the club and international stage. This includes being part of that special Wales squad who surprised everyone with how well they did at Euro 2016.
Sadly, all playing careers come to an end and Edwards has admitted in previous interviews that this season could be his last. Whether this campaign becomes his last or not, what a great warrior he has been to the game.
Edwards might not have made the impact some Royals fans would have expected on RG2, yet he still played his part in our story as a club, just like every other player who pulls on the famous Berkshire blue and white hoops in the past and present.