So that time of year has come around once more. Reading fans have the responsibility of choosing their “Player Of The Season”, which will be announced prior to the last game at the Madejski against Brentford. Despite having a squad that was capable of challenging for promotion on paper, in reality the season has been a disappointing one for Reading. There have, however, been some individual outstanding performances which have arguably saved Reading this year. These are the individuals I feel will be challenging for the title of Reading “Player Of The Season”.
Since the departure of Alex McCarthy last summer, Federici has cemented his place in the starting lineup this season with his outstanding performances in the Reading goal. Having been at Reading for nearly ten years, the goalkeeper has become part of the furniture at the club and a real fan favourite. On several occasions this year, Reading have had the Australian international to thank for any points they have taken from games.
During the first half of the season, Federici almost single handedly prevented some of the scorelines becoming embarrassing. The current league table shows that Reading have a goal difference of -20, having conceded 64 goals this season. From a neutral perspective, this would suggest that Reading have had a poor season defensively. If not for Federici, however, it would have been a whole lot worse.
His commitment to the club was particularly highlighted back in January, when he turned down the potential opportunity to represent his country at the Asian Cup. The Reading number one was given the “Player of the Month” for November, December and January by Reading fans following a string of positive performances. The clean sheet against Middlesbrough at home in January, was a high point for the keeper, where a number of stunning saves earned him man of the match against tough opposition.
With his contract ending in the summer, fans will be keen to see Clarke offering him an extension to keep him at the club for years to come. Based on his performance for the Royals throughout the season, and with the title of “Player Of The Season” potentially coming his way, it would be madness to let him go in the summer.
Despite a poor start to the season under Nigel Adkins, Hector is arguably the most improved amongst the Reading players. At 22, and rapidly approaching his 50th game for the Royals, the central defender is still young but is beginning to play with a maturity beyond his years. Hector is one of the more vocal members of the team, a quality that is particularly important at the back.
At six foot four, his height is a definite advantage both defensively and offensively. The youngster has scored twice this season, once with a header against Wolves and once with a drive against Cardiff. Hector is also becoming increasingly known for his calm nature at the back, taking time to pick out a pass or going for a run through central midfield if given the space. His strength allows him to effectively limit the opposition’s attacking threats, and he has often come to Reading’s rescue.
The centre-back is one of the players in the side who consistently plays with passion, and you can always see the disappointment on his face when the Royals take anything less than three points. Based on the impact Steve Clarke has had on his progress already, Hector most certainly has the potential to become one of Reading’s best over the next season or two.
Arguably Reading’s standout player of the latter stages of the season, Mackie has provided Reading fans with a glimmer of hope in front of goal when there was little optimism. The Scotland international, who is on loan from Nottingham Forest for the season, has scored six goals for the Royals in all competitions. His first goal back in November helped Reading to victory against Rotherham. His goals against Ipswich, Bolton and Brighton single handedly helped Reading to secure seven vital points in the Championship, while his goal in the FA Cup Quarter-Final against Bradford helped secure a place in the Semi-Final against Arsenal.
Mackie has a multitude of positive attributes, one of which is his sheer work rate. The one thing fans appreciate more than anything is seeing a player working hard for the side. Mackie puts everything he has into each match he plays, chasing down opponents when they have the ball and pressuring them into making a poor decision. He is also very good at getting the crowd on side, and we all know the difference a positive atmosphere can make. Mackie has already been rewarded for his performances this season with numerous “Player of the Month” accolades, including two back to back in February and March.
With Mackie only on loan at the Madejski for this year, it is unlikely that Reading will be able to secure his services next season on a permanent basis due to his hefty pay packet at Forest. If he were to return to Reading, however, Royals fans would welcome him with open arms.
And a special mention for:
Nathaniel Chalobah and Nathan Ake
While they have not been at the club long enough to be deserving of the “Player Of The Season” title, the two Chelsea loanees do deserve a special mention for their contributions.
The two youngsters have boosted the Reading ranks significantly with their work rate and tenacity. In only a short space of time, they have become important members of the squad who will be missed next season if Clarke cannot get them back.
Ake, whose recent performances at left-back have impressed the Reading fans, consistently shows a confidence beyond his 20 years. His pace has provided Reading with an increased sense of security at the back and he is surely one to look out for wherever he plays next season.
Chalobah’s performances in central midfield, together with Danny Williams, have also impressed. His strength when both defending and attacking is admirable and he has even found himself on the scoresheet for the Royals this season. Having filled in at centre-back as well, the 20-year-old is versatile; a trait that Reading have benefited from.