Reading’s summer recruitment drive showed no signs of letting up after the club announced the capture of Chris Gunter from Nottingham Forest in a deal rumoured to be in the region of £2.5m. The 22-year-old arrived at the Madejski Stadium on a three-year contract, with the option of a further year, and is the sixth player to join Brian McDermott’s side since the Royals clinched the npower Championship title last season.
Snapped up on the same day as Adrian Mariappa from Watford, Gunter’s arrival boosts McDermott’s backline options and perhaps puts him in the driving seat to nail down the right-back role ahead of Shaun Cummings for the upcoming campaign. Cummings was the Royals’ first-choice option last time round but failed to impress from an attacking perspective, with no goals or assists to his name; Gunter’s speed and attacking sensibilities should add a key ingredient to the Royals play from deep and affords Fantasy managers an intriguing option in the cut-price bracket.
Upon completion of his move, the new boy revealed McDermott played a major part in persuading him to leave the City Ground after three full seasons as a Forest regular:
You only have to look at what Reading have achieved in the last couple of years to realise what a good manager Brian McDermott is. I also spoke to Garath McCleary when he joined Reading from Nottingham Forest and the first thing he mentioned was the manager too. So when I met Brian myself he was exactly what I expected. He played a massive part in my decision to join this club. I’m yet to meet anyone who has anything but massively positive things to say about him and the club.
A prodigious talent, Gunter signed for Cardiff City’s youth academy at the age of eight and penned his first professional contract less than two weeks after his 17th birthday in August 2006. The full-back featured 15 times, returning one assist in his debut campaign and, after a further 13 appearances in his second season for the Welsh outfit, was snapped up by Spurs midway through 2007-08 in a deal thought to be worth £2m.
After so much early promise, Gunter’s career came to an abrupt halt at White Hart Lane, however; he made just five league appearances during his time at the club before moving to Forest on loan in March 2009 – the brief loan spell saw Gunter appear eight times and his impressive performances were enough to convince the club to fork out £1.75m for his services in July 2009. From then on, he quickly established himself as a vital first-team member; Gunter has missed just five games in the past three seasons, appearing 133 times for the City Ground side and returning two goals and 13 assists.
There’s no doubt Gunter looks an intriguing option for Fantasy managers eyeing up the Reading defence. Ian Harte initially looked the best bet; with set-piece duties and spot-kicks in the bag, the former Leeds man returned four goals and eight assists in just 32 appearances last term but the subsequent acquisition of Nicky Shorey clearly places plenty doubt around both players’ game time at left-back.
In the middle, it’s a similar scenario. Alex Pearce and Kaspars Gorkss appeared to be nailed-on but Mariappa’s arrival means there is uncertainty over McDermott’s preferred central defensive partnership right now, suggesting Gunter, at right-back, could be the most secure. Last season he returned a goal and five assists; a significant improvement on Cummings’ attacking output, though it should be noted that Mariappa is versatile enough to play at right-back, affording the Royals boss further options in defence.
Priced at 4.0 in both Fantasy Premier League (FPL) and the Sky Sports game, the former Forest man will pick up plenty interest if he manages to cement a role as a regular at the Madejski. The fact that Reading were relatively reliable in terms of home/away defensive returns last term is likely to make it easier for Fantasy managers to bench Gunter when the Royals head out on the road; 12 clean sheets and 18 goals conceded at home compared to eight and 23 respectively away illustrates the fact that McDermott’s men were defensively superior in front of their own fans.
Early interest in Gunter could be tempered by an ankle injury suffered in training that has kept him out of the pre-season reckoning. The latest reports suggest that a scan on the injury revealed no serious damage, indicating that the full-back will be in the equation for the season kick-off.
With a double Gameweek to start off the season as Reading host Stoke before a tricky trip to Chelsea, we should quickly get an idea of McDermott’s thinking for the season ahead. As mentioned above, the home games are likely to be targeted as potential for points but with only Spurs and Newcastle visiting by the end of Gameweek 8, it may well be that we take a step back from Reading’s defensive assets, with their Madejski schedule taking a turn for the better from Gameweek 9 onwards.
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For Gameweek 38
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|No Change||Hart||MCI||B, Vs|
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“I am happy with the way I’ve started, but on the other hand, I should have scored four or five more, so that’s something for me to work on.”Robin Van Persie talks about his early form at United ahead of his first Manchester derby