The fan favourite and late-night tweeter signed a second consecutive one-year loan deal with the Royals this week. His addition caps off what so far appears to be a fine transfer window from the newly installed recruitment team in their first window under Mark Bowen.
On the pitch, Baba had a good season with Reading last year. He started 29 matches, including a streak of 17 games towards the start of the season in which he made the left-back position his own. Reading’s win percentage during that streak was 41% - better than at any other comparable time in the season.
His individual talent level wasn’t perhaps as high as some standouts in the 2021/22 team, but his experience helped the team’s overall balance no end. Baba was steady, and Andy Yiadom will no doubt be very happy to see his countryman return across the pitch.
To further prove his steadiness, Baba was substituted just once all season before a crippling injury brought him off at the hour mark in Pauno’s last game in charge at Deepdale.
After he returned to the team, he was involved in the raucous scenes in Sheffield, delivering the set piece into the box that wound its way onto Tom McIntyre’s foot and into the back of the net.
Overall, Baba was capable of a mistake, but also exhibited a fantastic flight of foot that allowed him to clean up after his mistakes. Cultured both defensively and offensively, Rahman was undoubtedly Reading’s best left back last season. With his current competition, it would be tough to say his arrival shouldn’t immediately be followed by his reintroduction into the starting eleven.
Off the pitch, Baba was a joy to have in Berkshire. His infamous tweet “Any Royal still awake” instantly propelled him out of the phones and into the hearts of many a proud Reading fan.
Sometimes it can feel like social media is nothing but a firing range for footballers. Sure, they’re paid well and live comfortable lives, but we’re constantly reading about abuse that footballers receive all over Instagram and Twitter. It therefore makes it all the more special when positive engagement does happen. Here was a footballer happily interacting with fans and sharing his honest feelings.
Back to business though, Baba should be a player with no lack of motivation. Of course the World Cup is just months away, and he’ll be looking to secure his place in the squad. This is clearly on his mind, and he mentioned as much in his thoroughly endearing re-arrival video:
It’s nice to push our potential quota of World Cup players this year up to three with Rahman’s arrival. The last Royal representatives at the World Cup were Seol Ki-Hyeon for South Korea and Bobby Convey for the USA in 2006. After that many years without representation, it’s nice to be back with a possible triplet this time.
Moreover, Baba has a point to prove. Though he came back into the XI in the final matches of the season last year, it took him a while to find his way back under Paul Ince. Now, he’ll be in a new system that utilises a wing-back role which Baba should relish. His strengths last season were clearly his movement up and down the pitch and ability to support the attack and he should have more of a remit to do so now.
In fact, the potential sight of a motivated Baba marauding forward, or even providing another option at set plays with his quality of delivery, should be exciting to Reading fans. This is a player who has managed to pick up over 40 international starts, even in a period when his career has stalled at club level. And let’s consider the club at which his career has stalled. It’s not as though Baba is the only unneeded player bought by Chelsea and put on a high wage that made him impossible to move. He shouldn’t be blamed for that.
Baba coming back is more than Reading could have expected given their current circumstances, and I’m thrilled with his return.
And if it all goes wrong, at least we’ll always have this…
Any Royal still awake? Just wanted to say you guys are special and you give me so much love and support. I appreciate it all.— baba abdul-rahman (@babarahmangh) October 17, 2021
So Baba, almost a year after you tweeted it out the first time, let me say it back. I just want to say you’re special, we’re going to continue giving you love and support, and we appreciate you coming back!