Player of the Season quandary for Loyal Royals

Posted by Jon Keen

Scott Heavey/Getty ImagesAdam Le Fondre is in with a shout of winning Reading's POTY award

One of the sure signs that the end of the league campaign is getting closer and closer is the player of the season vote, and Loyal Royals will be voting for their choice at the home match with Liverpool. But in such a disappointing season for Reading there's no clear candidate for this award, no outstanding performer, and so the voting is likely to be very close.

Below, I discuss of leading players' chances of picking up this award, and I predict a surprise when the results are announced.

Adam Federici & Alex McCarthy: An on-going debate rages amongst supporters on who is the better of Reading's two first-choice goalkeepers and who should be first on the team-sheet. But Fererici's poor early-season form, and the "is he/isn't he injured" Twitter furore when replaced by McCarthy, is likely to colour many against voting for him. And whilst McCarthy impressed in his eight games before incurring a serious shoulder injury, that's just too few matches to win him enough votes.

Alex Pearce: Last year's Player of the Season is always a fans' favourite and so must be in with a good shout of winning this award again. But although he was ever-present last year, he has been in and out of the team this term, making only 19 Premier League appearances. This, together with on-going uncertainty over his future, with a new contract still unsigned, must make him an outsider this year.

Adrian Mariappa: Mariappa must be another of the favourites for this award, as his combative performances have made him a permanent fixture in the team and the pick of the centre-backs. But in the middle of a defence that's conceded 63 goals in 32 games, many may be reluctant to vote for a player who could be regarded as "less-bad", rather than "better than" the other contenders.

Jobi McAnuff & Mikele Leigertwood: In most seasons two such virtual ever-presents would be in with a good shout of picking up this award. But instead, these two players are much more in contention for a "Scapegoat of the Season" award, as many see their performances in midfield as one of the reasons behind Reading's poor season. And, truth be told, their performances have blown hot and cold, so I can't see either being in line for this award.

Garath McCleary: Another inconsistent performer, McCleary has won many admirers amongst Loyal Royals, but although he looks good on the wing, he has produced results too infrequently. And with only nine league starts I don't think he's done enough to be in real contention for this award.

Jimmy Kebe: There are few finer sights in football than Kebe's pace and trickery terrorising an opposing defence, so this perennial fans' favourite has to be another potential recipient of this gong. But Kebe has been out injured for six weeks, and even before then was having an inconsistent season, so although he'll gain a decent share of the votes I don't think he'll quite make the top three this year.

Pavel Pogrebnyak: With eight Premier League goals from twenty starts, statistics would suggest the big Russian striker would be in with a good shout. But, in truth, many supporters haven't warmed to him and there are persistent mutterings about lack of effort and commitment. This, together with the rashness of his red-card challenge in the crucial defeat to Wigan, effectively rules him out of the likely running.

Adam Le Fondre: Probably one of the two most likely winners, Le Fondre grabbed headlines - and the Barclays Player of the Month award - in January. His run of late goals from the bench sparked a series of remarkable comebacks which briefly revived the season and the hopes of Loyal Royals. And as awards like this are typically biased towards strikers - especially amongst younger voters - the publicity and Le Fondre's ten Premier League goals must stand him in good stead. But despite that, he's by no means a shoe-in, his performances when starting games have failed to impress, and for many he's not much more than a "super-sub".

Brynjar Gunnarsson: Very much the dark horse in the running, Gunnarsson is no longer with the club and hasn't played a match all season. But despite that, he's still likely to be the player of choice for many Loyal Royals, and may well gain enough to snatch the award. There's massive affection for the Icelander, who left Reading last month to become player-coach at Reykjavik FC. Not only was he always a superb professional, but he was the last link to the much-loved 2006 "Record-Breaking Royals."

- Blog: Loyal Royals sad at two severed links with past

So for many Loyal Royals, Gunnarsson is the ideal candidate. Many don't feel that any players have done enough in a season of insipid performances to deserve their votes, and a vote for Gunnarsson not only makes this protest-point beautifully, it allows them to show their appreciation one last time for a Royals legend who always gave the team everything he had.

For this reason, my prediction for the Player of the Season vote is :

1st place Adam Le Fondre
2nd place Adrian Mariappa
3rd placeBrynjar Gunnarsson

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