Reading have been crying out for leadership and organisation at the back recently, and if you want those things you can’t go wrong with Scott Dann. A Premier League veteran in recent years, the 34 year-old became the Royals’ fifth summer signing this week, joining on a free transfer after being released by Crystal Palace.
To find out more about his time at Selhurst Park, we spoke to Matt Woosnam, who covers Crystal Palace for The Athletic. He gave a glowing view of Dann’s professionalism and leadership qualities.
How would you sum up his time at Crystal Palace?
The reaction to Scott Dann’s departure from Palace supporters tells you all you need to know about the esteem in which he is held. Over six and a half years at the club, he made an enormous contribution at the heart of defence, chipping in with a few goals at the other end of the pitch too. A slightly tongue-in-cheek chant of “Scott Dann is a goal machine” was testament to his knack of finding space in the penalty area from set pieces to head beyond the opposition goalkeeper.
Overall, Dann’s time at Palace was critical to keeping them in the Premier League and that steely resilience at the back. He was named Player of the Season in 2014/15 and Players’ Player of the Season the following season.
When he suffered a serious injury trying to stop Kevin de Bruyne in December 2017 some wrote him off, but he came back after a year out and a few games to find his feet and performed exceptionally all things considered.
Now 34, though, and with a transition to a more attacking style of play with defenders more comfortable on the ball, the time was probably right to part ways, even if it was with an element of sadness and a healthy dose of gratitude.
Dann hasn’t played that regularly in the last five years – why is that, and is he past his best?
Much of this was related to that injury sustained against Manchester City which kept him out for a year, but also the form of James Tomkins who was solid at the back when fit, and the arrivals of Mamadou Sakho and Gary Cahill.
Time catches up with everyone, and the Premier League is perhaps a step too far for Dann at his age, but he is still a capable centre-back who can offer plenty by way of defensive resilience.
Reading are in desperate need of some organisation at the back – is Dann the right player to help instil that?
That is something which Dann excels at. He was the club captain for two years after the departure of Mile Jedinak and his leadership qualities are unquestionable. An ultimate professional dedicated to making the most of his ability, he served Palace with distinction and determination on and off the pitch.
What are his main strengths and weaknesses?
He is primarily good with his positioning and strong in the tackle. It is probably that need to read the game well that will be crucial for him as he continues his career well into his mid-30s.
On the flip side, although not entirely uncomfortable with the ball at his feet, he could not be considered the type of player to progress you up the pitch rapidly and comfortably. The relative lack of pace is something that will hinder him, but his experience and awareness will help mitigate that, particularly in the Championship.
Do you think he’ll be a success at Reading?
There is no reason to believe he will let the team down, an ultimate professional who still has something to offer and who some Palace fans would have wanted to keep if it were not for the transition in style under Patrick Vieira, he still has plenty of attributes which will serve him well. How often he is used remains to be seen but this appears to be a good signing for Reading with his vast experience.