Liam Moore’s last appearance in a Reading shirt came over a year ago on December 11 2021 - in a 1-0 away loss to West Bromwich, funnily enough. Since that day however, his career with us has been nothing short of drama without even stepping foot on the pitch.
The month after that game at the Hawthorns the club (well, Mr Dai) released that official statement. It said Moore had handed in a transfer request and told the club he no longer wanted to play for us. And it seemed Mr Dai took that to heart. Moore was stripped of the captaincy and essentially told he was no longer welcome at the club.
The statement was the final nail in the coffin of Moore’s time at the club, which was probably coming to a natural end anyway.
What that statement did do, what it was always going to do, was cue absolute outrage from the fans. The then-captain seemingly abandoning our club in one of the worst periods of the club’s 150-year history? That was always going to rile people up.
Combine the above turmoil with a clear decline in Moore’s performance levels, and being an obvious scapegoat due to how much money he is reportedly on (something we’ll get on to later), and it’s fair to say that his ties with the club and the fans looked well and truly severed.
But fast forward 12 months or so and the former skipper looks set to make his return to the team on Saturday in the FA Cup. How on earth has that happened? Well, a lot of things have occured to get us to this point: a slight upturn in form at Stoke City, a near career-ending injury, allegations of Moore faking that injury (seriously), operations to fix that injury and Moore not getting assigned a squad number at the start of the season.
There are still so many unanswered questions - some we’ll no doubt never get a proper answer to. But I’m going to have my say on the situation and my thoughts on him coming backing into the fray and the criticism he’s been on the end of.
First of all, in hindsight, that statement from Mr Dai back in January 2022 summed up the state our club was in at the time: shambolic. To throw the club captain under the bus like that was just ridiculous. We will never know what really happened behind the scenes for that to happen, but a well-run club with their ship in order doesn't do things like that.
The worst bit about it was it gave fans a huge stick to beat Moore with. At a time when the club was as toxic as it had ever been, releasing that statement did nothing to fix the disconnect between the club and fans. It did the opposite.
Moore may well have handed in a transfer request, but that’s not uncommon. He probably felt the same as all of us - that his time at the club was coming to a natural end and it was best for both parties to move on.
I’ve always been a huge fan of Moore’s and will keep saying that if it weren’t for him we’d probably be in League One now, or worse. But even I acknowledge that both the club and Moore would’ve been better off if he’d have left for good. I was gutted that it had to come to what it came to.
Moore was shipped off to Stoke on loan and quickly became a forgotten man for most of us. I mean, I didn’t even properly understand the extent of his injury until very recently. We all knew he got injured at Stoke and returned to us for rehab, but I don’t think any of us knew that it nearly ended his career. We were so out the loop with his situation that some fans accused Moore of faking the injury.
Some of the criticism Moore has received from fans is justified. His performances were on a downwards spiral and, ultimately, he was the captain of a club seriously underperforming on the pitch. However, a lot of the criticism, in my opinion, is completely unjustified.
Moore has always been a scapegoat because of the money he reportedly earns. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again: it’s the clubs fault he’s earning what he’s earning, not his. And then to accuse him of faking an injury, seriously?
Anyway, we’re here now and Moore looks set to play a part in the cup against Watford on Saturday. The big questions now are what kind of reception will he get and what kind of reception does he deserve?
Well, part of me fears that he’ll get a bit of stick from the fans. There is no doubt that what happened a year or so ago has left a sour taste in some mouths and some fans will feel he’s got a bit of making up to do.
However, I hope that he gets a fair reception. Everyone has moved on a lot since last January. The club is in a completely different place both on the pitch and off it. I’d like to think people have realised that we didn’t get anything like the full story of what actually happened, and I don’t think we’ll ever truly know the full ins and outs. All I’ll say is football is a murky business at the best of times, and what appears on the surface is very rarely what is actually going on.
I hope we’ve managed to move from last January. We’re a healthier club than we were, the fans and the club have a much better relationship and, whisper it quietly, but I actually quite enjoy watching Reading play football again now.
Moore deserves our support the same way any of our other players deserve it. He may have been painted to be the bad guy, but he’s had a pretty tortuous year. He got ostracised by the club, has hardly played any football and there were probably times when he never thought he’d play again. On a purely human level, it can’t have been a nice time for him.
I for one can’t wait to see him back in a Reading shirt, and I’m fully hoping he can show some of the form he showed in his first few seasons at the club. If he does, he'll play a big part for us in the second half of the season and will be an important player for us.
I like to look at footballers as humans before looking at them as footballers. He's had a torrid 12 months. I want him to be playing football and if that’s with us then great, because we all know there’s a good player in there somewhere.