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The 'Could Have Been Royals' XI

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It's transfer season so understandably there are plenty of rumours flying around, of which 95% won't happen. In that spirit we looked through the Reading team that might have been if speculation had come true....

Tony Duffy/Getty Images

How many times have you got yourself excited about a potential Reading FC transfer rumour that turned out to be complete BS? Even more agonisingly, how often has a player been seemingly destined for Elm Park or the Madejski only for the move to fall apart? Here we honour those near (or pretty far) misses to make a Reading XI that never was...

Goalkeeper

Wes Foderingham

We'll start with a recent one as goalkeeper hasn't been an area that the club have struggled with for most of its history. Foderingham was heavily linked with a move to Reading from Swindon last summer but ended up a Rangers player, where he's helped the club back into the Scottish Premiership and to a Scottish Cup Final.

Reading on the other hand ended up with a combination of Ali Al-Habsi and Jonathan Bond who have both showed promise but neither has really given you that safe snug goalkeeper feeling we've been used to.

One that got away?

Yes

Defenders

Joleon Lescott

Back in 2006, Reading were flying high after securing promotion to the Premier League in record setting fashion and were looking to bolster a defensive line that looked pretty thin beyond Ivar Ingimarsson & Ibrahima Sonko (sorry John Halls & Aaron Brown). With that in mind, Steve Coppell turned to then Wolves defender Lescott but the future England defender ended up snubbing the Royals for Everton before moving on to Manchester City for around £30m a few years down the road.

One that got away?

Yes

*****

Stoppila Sunzu

Zambia defender Stoppila Sunzu trained with Brian McDermott's team in early 2013. Sunzu was brought in during a period when Kaspars Gorkss was on his last legs, Alex Pearce was tied up in contract rows and Sean Morrison was still learning his way but he never made it past his trial and exited the club soon after. He soon moved on to China but did get a chance in a top European league with a brief loan spell at Lille in 2015.

One that got away?

No

*****

Robert Huth

While the seriousness of Reading's interest in Huth is questionable, there were reports floating around in January 2015 that Steve Clarke wanted to add the big German to his defence after the centre-back fell out of favour at Stoke under Mark Hughes.

At the time, we made the following assessment of the deal here on TTE...

'The German has played barely five minutes of league football since suffering a serious knee injury 14 months ago and with one injury prone veteran at the club in Anton Ferdinand, would Reading seriously consider adding another?'

Hey, we never said we got everything right! Huth would go on to join Leicester later that month, helping the Foxes to Premier League survival and then on to the Premier League title. Still, look at what we ended up with instead ZAT KNIGHT! So who really won that window eh?

One that got away?

Yes

*****

Midfielders

Neil Lennon

Lennon was one of a number of talented youngsters to come through Crewe's famed youth setup in the 90's and his talent was soon spotted by the Reading management team of Mick Gooding and Jimmy Quinn as they looked to rebuild the squad after the 1995 play-off final. According to Gooding, Sir John Madejski refused to stump up the money needed to finalise the deal and the Northern Ireland midfielder would go on to be snapped up by Leicester for a mere £750,000.

Lennon would go on to help Leicester win a pair of League Cups before making a switch to Celtic that saw him pick up 4 titles and numerous other honours. Reading meanwhile would end up signing Darren Caskey....

One that got away?

Yes

*****

Scott Brown

We head back to the Coppell era here to discuss one of the most frustrating transfer sagas of his six years in charge, the persuit of then Hibs midfielder Scott Brown. According to media reports, the 21-year-old turned down a move to Berkshire after fearing that Reading would fall victim to second season syndrome.... well at least he was right there. Still if Brown had made the move to the Madejski instead of Celtic, who knows how Reading would have fared but he'd certainly have performed better than Emerse Fae.

One that got away?

Yes

*****

James McClean

Back before McClean was making headlines for his political views, he was a highly exciting prospect tearing up the League of Ireland with Derry City.  The winger was watched by Brian McDermott and Nick Hammond in 2011 but he snubbed Reading in favour of a move to Premier League Sunderland for £350,000 that summer.

McClean has gone on to a pretty decent career since, spending most of his English career in the Premier League but as mentioned seems to be making more headlines for his views on poppys than his skills on the football pitch.

Would he have improved Reading? Well the club went on to win promotion, and soon had a group of wingers including Jobi McAnuff, Garath McCleary, Jimmy Kebe and Hal Robson-Kanu so they had plenty of depth anyway. Yet at £350,000 there was potential to make a decent profit

One that got away?

No

****

Gylfi Sigurdsson

Ok so Gylfi was a Royal but he could have been again in January 2013 as the club scrambled to find players to keep themselves in the Premier League. Sigurdsson had been a fringe player at Tottenham throughout that season but Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas didn't want to let the midfielder go until a replacement had been lined up. Reading still tried their luck with a bid reported to be in the range of £10m but the North London club wouldn't budge. Where Anton Zingarevich was going to get the money from for this deal I've got no idea but could he have kept us up? Gylfi would go on to rejoin Swansea where he's been a key part of the side ever since.

One that got away?

Yes

*****

Forwards

Daley Thompson

Yes the man who won a pair of Olympic gold medals could have been turning out in the blue and white hoops during the mid-nineties. At 36 and with his athletics career behind him, Thompson was given a trial by Mark McGhee in 1994 as his team prepared to make the step up to division one football. Whether McGhee seriously expected Thompson to make it is up for debate but he did turn out in several pre-season matches before eventually giving up on the dream.

In a curious reversal, Team GB sprinter Adam Gemili was a part of Reading's Academy between 2008 and 2009 before moving on to non-league football. Gemili would then switch his attention to athletics and went on to compete in the 2012 London Olympics.

One that got away?

No

*****

Tommy Smith

Few transfers have ever come so close to being completed before being called off. Brendan Rodgers had chased the Watford striker throughout the summer of 2009 and looked to have finally got his man when the media were called to a news conference at the Madejski Stadium. Yet with journalists waiting in the room, Portsmouth would hijack the move with a late bid of 1.8 imaginary pounds and Smith would opt to join the Premier League side over linking up with his former gaffer.

The move certainly didn't help Rodgers as Reading struggled during the early part of the season and his rather public and embarrassing failure to land his man didn't help the perception of Brendan in the eyes of many Royals fans.

Smith himself would hardly go on to much success, scoring just 11 goals in the final six seasons of his professional career, which included relegation with Portsmouth that season.

One that got away?

No

*****

Charlie Austin

Who would you rather have in your squad? Charlie Austin or Simon Church? Today the answer is obvious but a decade ago Reading's Academy decided that Church was a better long-term prospect than the smaller Austin and allowed him to walk away at 16.

At first, Reading's decision seem vindicated as Church would go on to impress at youth levels for both club & country while Austin would spend his younger years banging home the goals for Kintbury and Hungerford. When Church made his debut against Burnley in a play-off semi-final, Austin was still on the books of Poole Town in the Wessex Premier League, the ninth tier of English football.

Yet some mob down the M4 by the name of Swindon liked what they saw of Austin and gave him a chance to prove himself at League One level and the striker never looked back. Moves to Burnley, QPR and Southampton followed as did England honours, with Austin regarded as one of the top ten English strikers right now. Church meanwhile struggled to get regular starts at Reading, before moving on to Charlton and the MK Dons.

One that got away?

Yes