clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

OPINION: Who Is Reading FC's Worst Ever Signing?

New, comments

For every Doyle, Long, Quinn & Friday, there's a Brayson, Fae, Drenthe & Baseya. So just who is Reading's worst ever signing?

Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images

Just how do you rate Reading FC's worst ever signing? We've played across all four divisions in nearly 150 years of history, so singling out a particular awful signing isn't an easy task. More importantly, which criteria should you use to pick the bad from the good? Should you rate it on a financial level, for example how much we spent? Or is it a performance based question, looking at who was actually awful. On that note, is it a player who should have been good but turned out to be awful?

With no scientific or 'right' way of answering the above, I'm going to throw a few names out to fit each category and let you make your minds up. I'm only going to put forward names I've seen play, or who've been signed in the past 20 years, but please feel free to throw in your own suggestions in the comments section.

Financial Flops

Pavel Pogrebnyak

I loved the Pog. He gave us heart, passion and a bloody good song but for a reported £40k+ per week, shouldn't that have been the minimum?

Pogrebnyak managed a grand total of 24 league goals during just over three seasons at the club and even if you use a conservative weekly wage estimate of £30,000 that means each goal cost Reading £205,000. Remember, that's at a reasonably LOW estimate that doesn't take into account bonuses or signing on fees.

Of course it's not Pog's fault that he was on such gargantuan wage (thanks Anton!) but in terms of bang for our buck, Premier League relegation, followed by 7th and 19th placed finishes in the Championship don't look good on Pav.

Still, it could be worse, Dynamo Moscow signed the Big F'ing Russian last September and duly ended up relegated after a season when Pog managed just one league goal in 16 games....

Emerse Fae

A man that lives on in the minds of Reading fans simply because nine years later he remains our record signing. Fae was brought in during the summer of 2007 to replace Steve Sidwell who left to join Chelsea on a free transfer. £2.5m may not sound much in a summer when a Championship striker has gone for £15m but for little old Reading, that was a big chunk of change on a signing we just had to get right.

Sadly Fae was a flop, clocking up just eight Premier League appearances (at £312k per-game) as Reading were relegated at the end of a season that saw Fae refuse to turn out for the reserves. As for Fae, he was soon shipped out to Nantes on loan but the club did at least make its £2.5m back. The only problem was the £40m a season or we missed out on had we got an even semi-decent output from Fae.

Sean Evers

The late Tommy Burns had a rather hit & miss transfer record for Reading. While he signed future legends Nicky Forster & Graeme Murty, the former Celtic boss also signed players including Paul Brayson (more on him later...), Jimmy Crawford, Peter van der Kwaak & Keith Scott. Burns big reputation coupled with Sir John's desire to see second tier football brought to the newly opened Madejski Stadium saw the cheque book opened more frequently than Reading corners hit the first man. Yet the results of that spending are probably what led to Sir John keeping it pretty closed from then on in.

Chief among the expensive mistakes was Luton midfielder Sean Evers. Evers was a highly touted prospect and at 22 had the world at his feet when Reading parted with £500k to bring him to Berkshire. Yet while CM99/00 players found a wonderkid on their hands, Tommy Burns found a woeful dud. Injured on his arrival, Evers managed just a single game in his first three months at the club and would go on to clock up just 18 appearances before Alan Pardew gave him the heave-ho in March 2001.

Notable mentions

Greg Halford, Les Ferdinand, Martin Keown, Matej Vydra, Wayne Bridge

*****

Just Not Good Enough

Paul Brayson

Proof that being good at youth levels is no guarantee of future success, Burns brought Paul Brayson to Elm Park as one of his 'magnificent seven' signings on deadline day in March 1998. The striker had worked under Tommy at Newcastle's Youth Academy, where he'd broken the record for most goals in a single season. A £100,000 move to Reading followed but Brayson would go through one of the longest goal droughts of any striker in recent Royals' history.

Brayson went 49 games without a goal for Reading, leaving the Madejski Stadium with just a single goal to his name in more than two years at the club.

Cedric Baseya

When your greatest claim to fame is that you scored a hat-trick against Reading University, you know you've not had a great time of it. With money tight at the Madejski, Brian McDermott took a punt on the 23-year-old, who'd spent time with Southampton a few years previously before moving back to native France.

Baseya signed a 12-month contract with Reading but failed to make a single appearance before being sent out for a loan spell at Barnet where he managed just two games and was released on a free-transfer that summer. His career after leaving the club isn't comprehensive, aside from a few games in Bulgaria and it seems he's now dropped out of the professional game.

Bongani Khumalo

How can a man who's captained his country just be so awful?

South African defender Khumalo signed on loan from Tottenham at the start of the 2011/12 season to replace departing Captain Matt Mills but managed just four games before McDermott brought in Kaspars Gorkss to replace Alex Pearce. Poor in the air, mediocre on the ball and with no positional sense, Khumalo's short spell in the heart of the Reading defence was a woeful affair and if he'd stayed there, you can bet there would have been no promotion at the end of the campaign.

Honorable Mentions:

Marcus Williams, Karl Sheppard, Brett Williams, Jimmy Crawford, Paolo Hurtado

*****

Good On Paper, Flop In Result

Bobby Mikhailov

The Bulgarian keeper rose to prominence as part of the Bulgaria team that reached the semi-finals of the 1994 World Cup, so it was seen as quite a coup for Reading to land him just two years later to help replace Shaka Hislop.

Legend has it that the goalkeeper thought Reading played at Wembley after being shown a tape of our 1995 Play-Off final defeat, so his reaction upon turning up at Elm Park must have been priceless. I have very little memory of watching Bobby in goal, in fact his most famous Reading appearance might just have been in a game where he went off injured against league leaders Bolton and was replaced by Jimmy Quinn. He'd leave Reading after two injury hit seasons where he made just 24 appearances.

Nicky Shorey v2.0

Nicky Shorey's first spell at Reading was nothing but an absolute triumph. In eight years at the Mad Stad he saw two promotions, won England hours and gave us plenty of magical moments down the left-hand side.

Yet his departure to Aston Villa wasn't exactly smooth and so the decision from Brian McDermott to re-sign him for our Premier League season in 2012/13 was met with a few raised eyebrows.

Shorey was hardly a flop but losing your place to a 35-year-old Ian Harte is pretty poor stuff and his return to Berkshire saw him make just 17 appearances before drifting back down the leagues.

Carl Asaba

Asaba arrived at Elm Park in the summer of 1997 with a big reputation, having bagged 23 goals for Division Two Brentford the season before and at 24 seemingly was coming into his prime. Terry Bullivant spent a reported £800,000 to bring him to the club, which was roughly the club's transfer record at the time but Asaba made a slow start, scoring just once in his first eight games. A goal against local rivals Oxford seemed to spark the striker into form with that goal one of six in a seven game spell over the next month but like a certain Nick Blackman 20 years later, Asaba just couldn't keep that form going.

The former Brentford man managed just three league goals after October as Bullivant saw his side slump into the relegation zone. Burns couldn't half the slide and Asaba soon found himself exiled to the reserves, forced out by the likes of Robert Fleck and Paul Brayson.

Reading earned £590,000 from his sale to Gillingham but Royals fans would have to watch on as Asaba banged home 22 goals in 1998/99 while Burns watched his new recruits Jim McIntyre, Mass Sarr, Keith Scott, Fleck and Brayson score just ten goals between them.

Honorable Mentions

Alex Fernandez, Liam Rosenior, Khalifa Cisse, Keith Scott, Jason Bowen, Andy Legg

*****

My Nomination....

Royston Drenthe

From Real Madrid to training with Reading's reserves in just three years.

Drenthe was a last ditch vanity signing by Anton Zingarevich designed to help fire Reading straight back into the Premier League. What we got was as my Tilehurst End Podcast co-host Westy so aptly put it, 'an unprofessional joke of a footballer'.

The biggest frustration of all was that unlike some of the financial flops I've mentioned above, Drenthe clearly had the ability to back up his beefy wage packet. He earned SEVEN Man of the Match awards from Tilehurst End readers in 2013/14, despite only playing 23 games for the club. The problem was most of those MOTM calibre displays came in either August or February/March, with precious little between. When Royston was good, he was great but when he was bad, he was a total liability and a waste of money.

Worse still was his impact on the dressing room, which got so bad that despite having a paper thin squad, Nigel Adkins still banished the Dutchman to train with the reserves ahead of the 2014/15 season.

All the while, Royston's ridiculous wages, which one source close to the club put as high as £60k per week, were slowly helping to cripple the club. So needless to say, not a great bit of business....

*****

So that's how I see it but what about you? Vote in our poll below and let us know if there's someone I've missed who deserves the title.