Little, to Start or Not to Start?
I have to admit, since Reading gained promotion to the Premier League I was sceptical at the role that Glen Little would have in the Royals` first ever Premiership campaign.
Against faster, harder and meaner competition would Little be the man for the job? It was a question on the lips of a lot of loyal Royals, would Little make the grade now that Reading were playing in the best domestic league in the world?
In the 2005/06 campaign Glen Little was a man on tremendous form, scoring breathtaking goals and having the most assists in the entire league, Little was a player at the top of his game. Team-mate and fellow right winger John Oster barely got a look in all season.
But towards the end of the season, after suffering from injury, Little sat and watched the Royals finish off their winning Championship season from the sidelines.
In the summer period, while Little was still on the mend he lost his starting place to new signing Seol Ki Hyeon. The position on the right seemed to belong to Seol after he won over the Reading faithful making fools of the Feyenoord defence in a pre-season friendly and showboating his tricks and turns. The Korean has continued to shine as the season progresses, and has adapted incredibly well considering he prefers a striker`s role or that of an attacking midfielder.
But the long shot specialist rarely completes 90minutes, finding the pace of the wing a little too much and as he is the club`s second highest goal scorer in the league (two, behind Kevin Doyle`s four.) perhaps it is time he was tried up front - where he can play- and concedes the wing to Mr Little.
Blakey, as Little is affectionately known by members of the club and fans alike, took Seol`s place on the right after 55minutes against Portsmouth on Saturday, while Seol moved further upfield to partner Doyle upfront - at Shane Long`s expense.
The addition of Little vastly helped improve Reading`s game, the veteran winger splashed up the water on the right while Seol had hardly made ripples in the game, although this was not entirely his fault.
Meanwhile the Korean international gave something the Reading frontline has lacked since losing Dave Kitson to injury in the first game of the season, height.
It`s not that Seol is a Peter Crouch beanpole, at only 6ft, but compared with Leroy Lita at 5`7, he can be slightly more competitive in the air.
And with the man between the sticks, Marcus Hahnemann often opting to play long balls up field the 5`11 Kevin Doyle and Seol could have a little more luck then Shane Long and Leroy Lita who have only scored one league goal between them.
This formula could work for Reading, if only on a short term basis, or as an alternative, before Arsenal and Portsmouth the Royals had only won or lost games by a one goal deficit, making for nail biting heart in mouth finishes; good entertainment but terrible for the old ticker.
Perhaps I have digressed slightly, back to our man Blakey, with Seol high in the air in attack that leaves the place on the right open. Glenn Little`s outstanding performance against Liverpool in the cup and the super sub role against Pompey must make him the number one contender; but John Oster also lay in waiting for a call to duty. The Welsh winger and Little linked up incredibly well in the cup game and against Pompey and both showed flair and talent that Reading have lacked in their recent defeats.
Speaking to the club`s website Little said:
'You just come on, do your best and play your own game, try to bring others into it,'
'It's no consolation to me, it's another sub appearance and all you can do is hope for the chance to get a start.
Stephen Hunt`s exemplary performance against Chelsea showed that fringe players will try their hardest to hold down a place in the team when given the chance. Hunt gave 110% and although the Cech incident did not make it the perfect Premier League debut, the feisty left footed winger ran his socks off for the entirety of the match.
There is no doubt that Little would play his heart out but how would he cope without captain and wing back support Graeme Murty?
Murty`s injury has left a hole that needs filling in the defence and so far nobody has been able to plug it. De La Cruz looks promising going forward and supporting the winger, but he has disappointed in his defensive duties. Gunnarsson is a little more solid defensively but he lacks the pace and speed to overlap with a winger. That leaves loanee Andre Bikey or John Halls and again it is position that neither play naturally.
Whatever choice Steve Coppell makes ahead of Saturday`s game he had better hope it is the right one, for Reading to concede early at Anfield could turn the game into a bloodbath.
'We've had a tough run of games, we're not used to losing, we only lost two last season so it's hard to take."
'We knew we had those 13 points early on and maybe some got carried away with the expectations and thought we'd cracked it."
'We want to be a good side in the Premiership.'
Come on Stevie Coppell give the guy a chance, give the guy a start!