Search Reading FC’s social media channels right now and there’s no sign of Liam Moore. He’s a forgotten man and it was thought this summer we’d likely see our former captain depart, especially after last season’s antics whereby Moore was ostracised from RG2.
However, local journalists Jonathan Low and the BBC’s Tim Dellor haven’t forgotten the defender and reported on his status last week. Interviewing the Royals’ head of football operations Mark Bowen, the BBC got some interesting soundbites. Quizzed about Liam’s position, the Welshman sounded uneasy, and you can tell why.
In short, Liam’s out for “a few months” with a “problematic (knee) injury,” on a contract due to expire next June. A complicated mess that scuppers any plans in moving the player on. Nor will the centre back be in regular training anytime soon either.
Pressed if Bowen felt Moore “wanted to play again” for Reading, I may be over-analysing Bowen’s words, but I got the impression Moore’s future would be at his own discretion and not the club’s. If so, this is unnerving and is the tail wagging the proverbial dog.
But despite circumstances being less than ideal, Moore needs to go - now. Liam obviously has his side on this saga which we should duly hear. But there’s been nothing of context from him, nor even an apology for what’s happened, and given the state RFC is in, closure is required. Given the circus leading us here and that his departure is inevitable, why delay it? It’ll only create more speculation.
Injury aside, there’s a litany of issues to consider before selecting Liam Moore to play in my opinion.
Firstly, the club’s statement in January stripping Moore of the captaincy - do we pretend it never happened? Publicly he’s now persona non grata as far as Dai Yongge is concerned. So too with large sections of the fanbase, who will naturally back RFC over any player. To issue such a flagrant statement, only for said player to reappear, without further comment, damages Reading FC’s credibility.
Furthermore, what does it say about the Jamaican international in not issuing an evaluated response? To meekly say on Instagram a fortnight later he has “too much respect for the club to speak against it” is one thing, but Reading’s statement didn’t look good. A retort or opposition to points wouldn’t have been out of line. Thus, we ponder how much is true. Are the fans, who pay his wages, not worth an explanation? Silence implies a corroboration to Reading FC’s view and if so, no wonder he’s quiet.
Discussing RFC’s owner to the BBC, Bowen said Dai “doesn’t like selling players”, suggesting he’s an overbearingly proud man. Therefore, I doubt Moore will be allowed back into the fold easily. We all know the Royals boardroom thoroughly only has itself to blame for the restrictions Paul Ince is currently experiencing. Whilst contributing to Moore’s fall from grace, I’d argue the player and his representatives are culpable too.
This mess stemmed from Moore putting in a transfer request following rumoured Premier League interest in the summer of 2018. At another club, Moore would have been sold. Instead, he experienced the rare position of being richly renumerated to stay.
Wantaway players seeking “greener grass” is ubiquitous in football and signing an extension in favour of said grass is selling your own ambition for something else. Players not realising that representation are naïve or going along in bad faith. Last summer presented a perfect example in Harry Kane.
England’s and Spurs’ captain supposedly had a “gentlemen’s agreement” that would allow Kane to move to Manchester City – which obviously didn’t happen. Such agreements are for the birds and only occur if contractually bound. Moore’s team are to blame if he feels trapped in Berkshire. The club have merely attempted to secure an asset long-term.
Saying “Moore should never have been offered a five-year extension” is lazy use of hindsight. Yes, we know then-CEO Ron Gourlay issued silly deals, but Liam and his representatives were bigger fools in signing. Ignore what’s happened and look at it from a business sense. It was a bold commitment accounting for a third of the average playing career. His two seasons already spent in RG2 indicated how turbulent things could be. Not to mention the stuttering years Moore had at Leicester City before.
Therefore, believing five more years at Reading would pass without issue is naïve at best. Whilst RFC made their own pain, Moore’s side showed poor judgement and by signing put pressure on the player to find a route out. Football’s a short career, granted, but how many players sign such deals at EFL clubs? Few if any for good reason, so Moore’s entourage should have known better.
Opting for a longer stay looks stranger when noting the defender’s unique take when his boyhood Foxes lifted the Premier League trophy in 2016, dubbing it “a tough day in my career”. The Loughborough man acknowledged “decisions I had made in the past year had cost me the chance of being involved” so didn’t get a medal.
It’s impossible avoiding the centre back’s rumoured wages too - “one of the club’s most significant contracts” according to RFC’s January statement. Leaving the rumoured figure out there, let’s be hypothetical. Again, we know the club have been reckless but as I said earlier, Team Moore “put pressure on the player to find a route out”, meaning realistically another club had to gazump Reading’s now high valuation to trigger a move.
Didn’t anyone representing Liam consider this deal now priced their client out of a transfer? Shame on them, if not. It can only be argued Moore is too expensive or not good enough to warrant interest. Given Reading’s plight he should be long gone. Plus, Bowen implied to Dellor, Moore was told some time ago to find pastures new. Make of that what you will.
So, what happens when Moore is fit again, I hear you ask.
If Bowen’s right, Moore won’t likely be ready this side of the World Cup, by which time you could argue Reading’s fate could play a part. But realistically it won’t. I say this because the player will then enter a phase whereby he can start negotiating a move ready to take effect next summer.
Think about it this way: you’ve just come back from a bad injury which could relapse, you’re out of the team anyway and you know you’re off in the summer. Are you really going to risk playing when injury could scupper any future deal? Especially factoring in what Bowen said about Moore having a choice.
Imagine Reading FC in a similar league position as last year. The ex-captain who reportedly asked to leave the sinking ship he was handsomely paid to steer to safety but attempted to abandon is coming back onboard. How much of a PR exercise are the RFC media team going to have to pull off to make this work? It’s likely a losing battle before it’s already started.
Perhaps Liam should look up a predecessor to the RFC armband in Matt Mills - a player whose career and certainly his relationship with Loyal Royals was never the same after committing a similar crime. Mills didn’t enjoy return visits and Liam has a chance here to make sure his aren’t as arduous. True, he hasn’t literally “flipped us the bird” like Mills did back in 2010, but his actions haven’t been far off. Given the season we could have, adding any toxicity into the mix simply isn’t worth the risk.
Therefore, in my opinion Liam Moore has one option which is to go now. Walk away from the SCL and become a free agent. If club and player can agree, I can’t imagine any legal impediment that means we have to see this through to its inevitable end next June. There’s a real opportunity for the player to claw back some positivity from the fanbase in choosing to go and be the bigger person. His wages will help Paul Ince in signing players who will contribute. That would be a real act of a captain by making way.
The player could reply here that he doesn’t wish to put his family’s future at risk by becoming unattached. I’d argue however with all the above factored in against the backdrop of a cost-of-living crisis, any footballer pleading poverty or believing they’re only getting what they’re owed is delusional and won’t attract sympathy. If anything, it will backfire spectacularly.
Rafael Cabral fared well doing this last season to secure a move back to his native Brazil. Whilst he had a club in waiting, Liam will at least be free and, given the cloud hanging over him, he could find a new club quicker than he thinks.
Opinions are everything in football and Liam’s stock right now couldn’t be lower. There’s no need to make this worse and if he really has any respect for Reading FC, he should do the honourable thing and help it out the only way he realistically can.
Just go Liam, we all know you want to.