By Steven Woodgate
I was flicking back, reminiscing about our championship year, and looking at those that has left us and feel none of them has made major strides into the progress of their own ‘supposed’ prodigious careers.
Dave Kitson, Nicky Shorey, Steve Sidwell, Glen Little, John Oster, Jon Halls, Ibrahima Sonko, Chris Makin and Graham Stack were somewhat major players in our memorable championship winning season and has time progressed I do not feel that any of these has stretched and made big inroad for their careers.
Dave Kitson transferred to Stoke City this summer as we managed to receive a huge fee for an aging striker. Moving for £5.5 million after leaving us with scoring 54 league goals in 135 appearances is very impressive but his general all round play would be sorely missed. At Stoke, they like to use his height and ability to hold up the ball; unfortunately, he has not scored nor made the sufficient impact that his £5.5 million tag required. He is often taken off for Ricardo Fuller as his effectiveness has dropped sufficiently. If he had stayed, he would be on at least ten goals and be playing full of confidence. Maybe the shrewd Steve Coppell saw what was going on and managed to get rid of him when he had the chance. He is a confidence player and he does need to be scoring goals to be playing well, we all remember the fantastic strikes for us, a hat trick against Gillingham, West Ham, and Brighton. A memorable winner against Newcastle ruining Michael Owen’s return was a yet another amazing win in a truly remarkable season.
I must admit I am a bit smug seeing Kitson not doing as well as he should, as I would have loved him in a Reading shirt still. He may even been regretting the decision as he has already confessed that he hates travelling up north already and it has only been a matter months, we forget he cannot drive at the moment.
Then we arrive at his fellow teammate and the new profoundly named ‘donkey’ Ibrahima Sonko. The Championship season he was amazing, without question then it went sharply down hill when he was injured in our Premiership 3-1 win against Sheffield United. The cries of ‘Sonko is Superman’ were hugely popular and were promptly needed. It almost became as a 1970’s deprived excuse for fashion as some smart arse decided to print those t-shirts that went around the fans quicker than the plague.
His two goals against Plymouth this season gave some indication that his presences maybe needed but after seeing his shambolic performance against a woeful Charlton team, it was obvious that he was not needed. At Stoke, he is achieving minimal success and as Tony Pulis likes his big men, Sonko adds to that representation. He may be in the Premiership but he is no way a Premiership player. Many lessons have been learnt and he was exploited too easily and that will come apparent again as the season draws on.
Glen Little has annoyed me severely since his tail between the legs ‘Bosman’ transfer to Portsmouth. He left a deep cold bitter taste in my explicit mouth as the club looked after him for a year out injured and he packed his packs, got up, and left to play reserve team football. Can I add that those players who play reserve team football are those considered not good enough for the actual first team squad or those who are too young to break into that squad?
As Portsmouth suffers an uncertain start to their prevailing European season, Little does not appear regularly nor even mentioned amongst the Pompey faithful. He was always the one player that sent the crowd into a wave of mad impulses as his 14 assists (highest in the league 05/06) and five goals contributed massively to our 106 points and 99 goals season. The first Premiership season he sent many of the world’s best left backs into remission and leaving for Portsmouth has done him no favours at all. Jimmy Kebe has fortunately stepped up and been performing beautifully this current season, and that is down to Little departing. We were all exciting for Little to return at the end of last season and motions through the press even classed him as a saviour. There was a brief 25-minute cameo against our defeat to Fulham and that proved to be uninspired. Being 33 years of age, surely he would have wanted to be playing first team football but hey, ‘Blakey’ may be on the buses sooner rather than later as a loan spell beckons.
Arguably, our best player, Nicky Shorey, departed for Aston Villa and has struggled to hold down a first team place even with their normal left back Wilfred Bouma out injured. Under Coppell’s guidance, he managed to achieve two England caps against Brazil and Germany, impressive I must say. You have not even heard his name in reckoning for any of the current England squad as Fabio Capello has overlooked Shorey and preferred Wayne Bridge who’s keeping the Chelsea bench warm. Fair enough, Storey is playing European football and gaining a fatter pay packet but technically, he has gotten worse.
Villa are not using his ability for set pieces and as Shorey is a not a run-of-the-mill attacking full back he needs to be involved with the passing aspect of any counter attack and that is not Villa’s style. A team full of pace and energy, Shorey do not fill the huge criteria that is needed of him. You can tell at the end of last season his head was not for Reading and that extremely woeful performance against Tottenham sealed his faint.
Steve Sidwell has left us over a year ago and all he has achieved is to earn a huge pay packet from the comfortable place of Chelsea’s reserves. His move to Aston Villa, along with Shorey, seemed to be a blessing until injuries have set him back ridiculously. The thing that ponders my mind is that will he be able to get into the team as Nigel Reo-Coker, Stilian Petrov, and Gareth Barry have their places pretty much secured. I will see it difficult for him to break into that team. He was the player full of Reading’s desire and it pains me to see him suffering on the fringes of the squad. Even for Sidwell, a call up for the England squad beckoned but now he would have no chance. He needs to be playing decent first team football, just think that James Milner has only been a fringe player for Villa so far and has not justified his massive transfer fee. I hope Sidwell do make it as he was one of my favourites.
John Oster is embarrassingly playing for Crystal Palace and hopelessly contributed to their dire start to the season.
Chris Makin left straight after our promotion season and spent two years wasting away in the Southampton reserves.
John Halls has now dropped to League Two and playing his trade for Brentford after spending most of his Reading career on loan to other Championship clubs.
Graham Stack is now covering goal for Plymouth Argyle as he took over from jail bound Luke McCormick as the number one spot, again after spending numerous amounts of time on loan to other Championship clubs.
Other remaining squad members from our championship winning season has not been doing particularly well as Darren Campbell plays for Fleet Town, Jonathan Hayes went to Leicester City but now makes cameo appearances for lesser League One clubs. Dean Morgan is on loan at Leyton Orient from Luton Town, Jamie Young still remains a reserve figure at Wycombe Wanderers, Johnny Mullins went to Mansfield before moving on to Stockport County, and Curtis Osano is now plying his trade for Rushden and Diamonds.
Simieon Howell and Peter Castle have giving up on playing professional football altogether it seems.
It just shows you that leaving Reading Football Club does not do your career any wonders. What player is the present has achieved better motions than they did playing for Reading?
The only one I can think of is Matthew Upson and he joined us only on loan.
Therefore, Stephen Hunt, Kevin Doyle, and James Harper it is never a good omen leaving Reading, as no one has ever seemed to fulfil their ‘so-called’ massive potential.