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The Loyal Royal’s Guide to Euro 2020

Get into the tournament spirit with this Reading-themed lowdown on the nations of Euro 2020.

A Euro 2020 banner seen next to Nelson’s Column at Trafalgar... Photo by Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Euro 2020, the tournament that never was, is back with a vengeance. All of the excitement about England’s first national tournament in three years is coming to a head nicely, and there’s still time to get even more excited before the inevitable disappointment! What better way to do that than by taking a look at the tournament and the represented countries from a Royal perspective?

You might be wondering how Reading FC can possibly be linked to the European Championship. So was I. Reading have boasted seasoned internationals with semi-regularity over the last few decades, but for the first time in at least two major tournaments, the Royals won’t be sending a representative. Without Ireland or Iceland in the mix too, there’s even limited opportunities to see former Reading players at the tourney. I suppose it just came a year too early for Michael Olise to represent Les Bleus…

If you’re like me, you’ll be watching as much football as physically possible during the tournament, and hoping to develop some affections for previously unknown players or nations. With that hope in mind, I’ve analysed every participating nation by the most important metric possible: the number of players they’ve provided to Reading.

Looking for a second team to support? Want to know which group can field the best five-a-side team of former Royals? Look no further!

With some of these nations, I’m really scraping the bottom of the barrel. With others, there are no Reading representatives. Would you believe that no players from Northern Macedonia have ever pulled on the blue and white hoops? Still, I was pleasantly surprised that 15 of the 24 nations have sent representatives to Berkshire.

The data for this piece was found at www.worldfootball.net. I can’t vouch for their full reliability, but their list of players to represent Reading found here does include players from 2020/21 including deep cuts like Jayden Onen and Oli Pendlebury, so it seems at a glance to be above board! The full table is at the bottom of the article if you want to see how the nations stack up, but without further ado, let’s assess the groups!

The Groups

Euro 2020 Groups

Group Number of countrymen to represent Reading Nation that supplied the most players to Reading FC Most Memorable Player to represent Reading from a represented country
Group Number of countrymen to represent Reading Nation that supplied the most players to Reading FC Most Memorable Player to represent Reading from a represented country
A 26 Wales, 23 Chris Gunter
B 3 Russia, 1 Pavel Pogrebnyak
C 9 Netherlands, 7 Royston Drenthe
D 354 England, 314 Robin Friday
E 4 Poland, 3 Alex Fernandez
F 13 Portugal, 7 Lucas Joao

To assess the groups, I won’t be picking winners. Unfortunately, I don’t think the Euro is yet decided on the number of players to represent Reading. If it was, we’d know for sure that it truly was coming home this summer.

Instead, we’ll build a five-a-side team made up of former and current Reading players from each of the nations in the group.

Group A - Italy, Switzerland, Turkey, Wales

Group A

Nation Number of countrymen to represent Reading Most Memorable Player to represent Reading
Nation Number of countrymen to represent Reading Most Memorable Player to represent Reading
Italy 2 Attilio Fresia
Switzerland 0 N/A
Turkey 1 Jem Karacan
Wales 23 Chris Gunter

Wales definitively lead Group A in terms of Reading representatives with 23 players. Their performance at Euro 2016 certainly had a Royal flavor to it. Top cap earner and captain Chris Gunter started every game as Wales enjoyed a remarkable run, and Hal Robson Kanu even won himself a lucrative Premier League contract with a turn and finish against the International Red Devils!

HRK is a controversial figure for Reading fans though, so we’ll leave him out of the three Group A five-a-side reps from Wales. Instead, John Oster from our first Premier League campaigns and Simon Church make the line-up.

Outside of Wales, it’s fairly slim pickings. The Swiss have never sent a representative to Reading, and from Turkey? Just one. But what a one. Quality not quantity is the name of the game here, with legendary Reading academy product and recent radio colour commentator Jem Karacan bringing his lung-busting steel to the middle of the park.

For Italy, you may have thought that I would pick the recent Royal Italian: Vito Mannone. Certainly the club themselves went in that direction recently on Twitter. For more on the mustachioed marvel Attilio Fresia, the first Italian player in English football history, check out Olly Allen’s 2017 piece.

Group B - Denmark, Finland, Belgium, Russia

Group B

Nation Number of countrymen to represent Reading Most Memorable Player to represent Reading
Nation Number of countrymen to represent Reading Most Memorable Player to represent Reading
Denmark 1 Mikkel Andersen
Finland 1 Anssi Jaakola
Belgium 0
Russia 1 Pavel Pogrebnyak

Oh boy. Luckily the other groups (barring one) provide far more quality (and numbers!) to choose from, because this one almost killed the concept before it started!

Pogrebnyak’s time at Reading FC was difficult to say the least. He’s still clearly the best player to represent Reading from one of these countries though, with both of the others being goalkeepers of little distinction. Did you know that Mikkel Andersen spent eight whole years at the Madejski? Me neither - likely why he played just three games.

The less said about Group B from a Reading perspective the better!

Group C - Netherlands, Ukraine, Austria, North Macedonia

Group C

Nation Number of countrymen to represent Reading Most Memorable Player to represent Reading
Nation Number of countrymen to represent Reading Most Memorable Player to represent Reading
Netherlands 9 Royston Drenthe
Ukraine 0
Austria 0
North Macedonia 0

Get ready for total football. Group C is a group of dichotomies from Reading FC’s perspective. Of all the teams at the tournament, the Netherlands has provided the most Royal representatives outside of the home nations, with nine Dutchmen pulling on the hoops. Outside of that though, we’ve seen no representatives from Ukraine, Austria or newly renamed North Macedonia. It’s a shame, but it’s not the biggest shock.

A team of Dutchmen then, and it may not shock you to learn that four of those nine from the Netherlands were signed during Jaap Stam’s tenure. Two of those make this five, but you’re not here to hear about those possession merchants though. You’re here to see some Royston Drenthe highlights.

For one afternoon shortly after he signed, and for one free kick a little later, it really seemed like Royston would be a world beater. Famously, a lot of teams said that about Drenthe. It wasn’t to be, but for the excitement his arrival caused, he makes our five. Outside of Drenthe, Ake’s recent transfer to Manchester City locks him into defence, even though he had just a cup of coffee in Reading.

Ola John, a fan favorite, has to lead the line. His loan spell was brief, but I see his highlights on Twitter enough to know that it’s lived long in the memory of some fans.

Group D - England, Croatia, Scotland, Czech Republic

Group D

Nation Number of countrymen to represent Reading Most Memorable Player to represent Reading
Nation Number of countrymen to represent Reading Most Memorable Player to represent Reading
England 318 Robin Friday
Croatia 0 N/A
Scotland 34 Graeme Murty
Czech Republic 2 Marek Matejovsky

Before you even scrolled to this group, you knew Robin Friday was the most memorable Reading player ever from England. If you were born after his career like I was, you likely have never seen him play: his highlights are next to nowhere to be found online or elsewhere. His memory though appears to be part of what made his legend, as beautifully summed up in this Tifo Football video. He of course makes the team here.

How to pick other Englishmen though? Especially when there have been over 300! For his 14 assists in the 106 year though, Glenn Little peers slightly above the rest. His jinking runs and sweet feet helped make the 106 team as exciting as it was effective. A player who wasn’t on the 106 team, Leroy Lita, gets my final nod here. Without a doubt, Reading have seen lots of powerful strikers over the years, but Leroy Lita took that to another level.

Speaking of that team, with Scotland also featuring in Group D, 106 team captain Graeme Murty has to make this side. A true gentleman and great servant to the club, Murty would provide defensive responsibility on the right side.

I’m eager to involve as many nations as possible in the 5 picked players, and there’s 2 good options from the Czech Republic: Marek Matejovsky and Matej Vydra. I never quite fancied Vydra, so almost for his goal against Liverpool alone, Matejovski gets the nod here.

Group E - Spain, Sweden, Poland, Slovakia

Group E

Nation Number of countrymen to represent Reading Most Memorable Player to represent Reading
Nation Number of countrymen to represent Reading Most Memorable Player to represent Reading
Spain 1 Alex
Sweden 0 N/A
Poland 3 Grzegorz Rasiak
Slovakia 0 N/A

Another tricky group to navigate for Reading fans. I certainly didn’t expect to mostly be met with Polish players when picking it! The lone Spaniard to play for Reading, Alex Fernandez, has to be my pick for my favorite player from any of these nations though, if only for his seemingly genuine affection for Reading FC, as often exhibited online. Plus, having graduated from Real Madrid’s academy and since carved out a decent career in Spain, helping Cadiz out of the Segunda Division, he’s undoubtedly the most skilled Reading player to come from a Group E nation!

Outside of that, we’re left with 3 previous Polish Royals. Grzegorz Rasiak is the sole player I have any memories of, featuring as he does in the first FA Cup game against Liverpool in 2010, so he can lead the line for the shorthanded Group E team. Tomas Cywka was ostensibly part of the Reading team that won in 2011/12, but his 4 appearances that year give you an idea of how fancied he was by Brian McDermott.

Finally Dariusz Wdowcyzk backstops this shorthanded team. His name may be just as unheard to younger Reading fans as it is difficult to pronounce, but his 50+ caps for Poland suggest he had serious consistent quality in the 80s and 90s!

Group F - Hungary, Portugal, France, Germany

Group F

Nation Number of countrymen to represent Reading Most Memorable Player to represent Reading
Nation Number of countrymen to represent Reading Most Memorable Player to represent Reading
Hungary 1 Peter Mate
Portugal 7 Lucas Joao
France 3 Yann Kermorgant
Germany 2 Max Seeburg

The group of death also happens to be one that offers numerous recent and effective Royals, especially up front! Ignoring the Home Nations, Portugal and France come in second and third respectively for most Reading players provided, and their number includes a glut of exciting goal-scoring options to slot into the five-a-side team.

To get us started, we’ve got a one-two Portuguese punch of Lucas Joao’s silky footwork and Nelson Oliveira’s striking instincts. There will be tricks! Those two are joined in a top-heavy team by 2016/17 top scorer Yann Kermorgant. Yann’s time in football was drawing to a close when he joined the Royals, but his attitude and goal-scoring ability helped him become a crucial member of Stam’s playoff team. He even delayed his retirement to give it another go after more Wembley disappointment. A top bloke, and worthy of a place.

You may be surprised to learn that just two Germans have represented Reading, and none since Uwe Hartenberger in the 90s. I won’t be picking Hartenberger for the team though, despite his affection for Shaka Hislop. No, that “honour” goes to Max Seeburg, who represented Reading in the 1910s. His career was short at just six years, but momentous. He became the first European-born foreign player to play in England, representing Chelsea and Tottenham among others before retiring while with the Royals. For that reason, and for living in Reading itself after his retirement, Seeburg gets the nod.

If you made it this far, you must be very... very excited about Euro 2020. Want to compare all countries to each other outside of their groups? Use the below table.

The full list of countries at Euro 2020 that have provided Reading with players

All Countries with a Current/Former Representative

Country # of Players to represent Reading Best Player to represent Reading
Country # of Players to represent Reading Best Player to represent Reading
England 314 Robin Friday
Scotland 34 Graeme Murty
Wales 23 Chris Gunter
The Netherlands 9 Royston Drenthe
Portugal 7 Lucas Joao
France 3 Yakou Meite
Poland 3 Grzegorz Rasiak
Italy 2 Attilio Fresia
Germany 2 Max Seeburg
Czech Republic 2 Marek Matejovsky
Denmark 1 Mikkel Andersen
Finland 1 Anssi Jaakola
Russia 1 Pavel Pogrebnyak
Turkey 1 Jem Karacan
Spain 1 Alex