Adam le Fondre goals no guarantee of starting place

He now holds the record for number of goals scored as a substitute in a single season, but this is no assurance of a starting place for Reading’s Adam le Fondre.

5 league goals in 5 substitute appearances in January have led to calls that the front man who made his name in the lower leagues should be a part of the Reading starting XI, something manager Brian McDermott seems unwilling to do to the detriment of the overall shape of the team.

Reading started this season with an attacking 442 formation, using tricky wingers on both flanks and two out and out front men.  However, this made the Berkshire side venerable defensively during their formative months in the Premier League, leading them to have one of the leakiest back lines in the league.  As a result, Reading found themselves residing in the bottom three and in danger of being cast adrift of the teams above them.  It was at the turn of the year that McDermott sacrificed a striker for an extra midfield player in an attempt to shore things up.

The main reason for this change in strategy was that Reading’s open style meant that some teams were able to pick them off easily, and as a result The Royals would find themselves out of games against better teams very early on.  The switch to 451 has meant that Reading’s games have remained tighter for longer, allowing Reading to forge a reputation for scoring important late goals, many of which by le Fondre.

It is unlikely that le Fondre is to be preferred to Pavel Pogrebnyak as the lone central striker, the Russian’s ability to hold the ball and bring others into play is beneficial to the teams new more compact style.  However, it is during the closing stages of games where McDermott unleashes his ‘supersub’, a tag that le Fondre would rather do without, although it is worth noting that the striker lists prolific substitute Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as one of his footballing heroes.

The points that Reading have accumulated over the past month as a result of the goals of le Fondre gives McDermott a difficult selection headache, as many fans would understandably be calling for the player to started in games, after all recent results have given Reading a far greater chance of avoiding relegation come May.  However, it is because of Reading’s more compact style during the first 70 minutes of games that still leaves them in the game for a player like le Fondre to come on and do the business as he has recently.

McDermott seems reluctant to revert to the 442 formation of the early season simply to accommodate an in form striker and le Fondre himself is making the noises of a man that understands that Premier League football is a squad game and that the need for the club to remain in the division is far greater than his need for regular starts.  It would appear that despite his lack of minutes on the pitch, the working relationship between player and manager is healthy and professional and one which gives Reading a far greater chance of being a Premier League club next season.

Aaron Sharp