A Revolving Door at Reading
Yesterday’s transfer extravaganza has been likened in some quarters to rooting around in a dustbin, and the flurry of deals makes you wonder what the assorted gaffers have been doing all summer. Of course the bloated, inelegant Premier League was the focus of the more tawdry barterings, but several clubs a notch down were also in desperate mood. Nowhere has this been more the case than at the Madejski Stadium, with the door set in a permanent swing. How do the incomers and outcomers promise to shape up in their new homes?
James Harper joined Reading back in 2001 and scored on his debut against a Rotherham United then rivalling his new side for promotion from Division Two. In time, he will be regarded as a pivotal figure in the club’s spectacular rise through the backwaters of English football, culminating in a thrilling fifty yard dash against Liverpool in December 2007. The thinking Reading fan will be sad to see Harps go, but too many now associate him with the club’s demise of recent months. A workhorse with an appetite for graft. he keeps the pot boiling in midfield and although some say he lacks penetration, at 28, he could prove a good loan acquisition for Blades.
Also departing Berkshire, and perhaps more surprisingly, is right back Liam Rosenior. After an unimpressive first year during Reading’s relegation season, the energetic and educated (well…at least by football standards) defender has been a near ever present since. The new passing ethos ushered in by Brendan Rodgers has signalled the end, however. Rosenior excels at defensive duties and his speed allows him to keep pace with tricky wingers, but his passing is as brittle as a cream cracker and the result has been a too frequent loss of possession. A determined player, he may be more suited to Roy Keane’s governance by fear.
Nicholas Bignall and Mikkel Andersen have also secured loan journeys. Bignall in particular, has started auspiciously this term, with two in the 5-1 Carling Cup win over Burton and a debut poach for new club Stockport on wednesday. Unlike the more fabled out of contract duo above, he will almost certainly be back at the Mad Stad in time.
Rosenior’s farewell has made space for Chelsea youngster Shaun Cummings. This blog has a zero tolerance for MK Dons policy, so it’s a shame that the kid was forced to ill advisedly cut his teeth in North Buckinghamshire last season, but he made 32 appearances in an attractive side and had started well in a truncated loan spell at the Hawthorns this summer. He provides symmetry to fellow Blues starlet Ryan Bertrand on the opposite flank. Rodgers describes him as “a modern day full back”. I should hope so.
I watched last week’s Champions League encounter between Arsenal and Celtic on ITV and it was the first time I had come across Darren O’Dea. The match was lost before his entry into the fray but the disquiet at his departure exhibited amongst the Bhoys’ hardcore support indicates he could do well in a different shade of hoops. Reading have done badly with SPL signings before, not least under the direction of the late Tommy Burns, but the Irishman will provide feisty competition to the improving Alex Pearce-Matts Mills axis.
Brian Howard, the fulcrum of Barnsley’s run to the FA Cup semi final in 2008 looks likely to have been the third to join Reading just before the cut off point, although the paperwork has taken a long time to arrange. A driving midfielder who can be either snappy or creative as it suits, he will provide yearned for experience to a young centre line and might provide a smidgeon more in the way of thrust than the departing Harper. The talk on Blades’ message boards is that Howard was cast against type at Bramall Lane, ever forced to watch the ball pumped skywards. Rodgers may allow him to recapture his favoured role as a playmaker.
To supplement all this, last week, Royals added two Championship journeymen to their ranks. Grzegorz Rasiak and Jobi McAnuff weren’t perhaps the most scintillating of acquisitions on first glance, but the former once scored hatfuls for Derby and Southampton, and the latter is a tricky problem provider if he gets his head right. The injured captain Ivar Ingimarsson now stands alone as a remnant of that great 2005-6 starting line up and although these moves have all come rather late, the Biscuitmen should propel themselves into the table’s middle reaches.