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Nick Blackman

I don't think I've ever been as heartbroken about a player leaving as Nick Blackman. Sure, we've sold key players before - Gylfi, Shane, Kevin to name but three - but those players have, on the whole, moved out of the division and progressed their careers rather than go to serial-bottlers Derby. To make things worse, Blackman will make his league debut for Derby against us assuming he plays.

Perhaps my disappointment stems from the fact that I can, rather smugly, say "I was right." Almost nobody had faith after his, admittedly poor, first couple of seasons but I stayed resolute. I am firmly of the opinion that, had he been managed better, he would have shown this sort of form far earlier in his Reading career.

You should see a couple of the replies to that particular tweet back in June. Still, Reading have so far scored 30 times in the Championship this season, and Blackman has been involved in almost forty-five percent of those. It's no coincidence that, while he was going through a barren spell Reading have been underperforming as a whole.

The reason for his dip in form can partially be attributed to teams starting to understand they need to keep him on his right foot; eleven of his thirteen goals have been scored with his left, while the other two can be attributed to headers. Equally he had much more success in a 4-3-3, rather than a 4-2-3-1. The latter pushed him further out wide, where his lack of a right foot - combined with the tighter marking - sucked all the life out of our key player.

£3m is obviously a terrific amount to get for a player out of contract in the summer, and from a solely business decision it's perfectly understandable, but there's the sense that this is 'classic Reading'; selling our best player instead of building for the future. One of Nick's first comments on arriving at Derby was that "everything is geared up for the Premier League", it's hard to have that same feeling with our own team - even with the considerable investment over the summer.

It would be difficult to blame him for wanting to leave; Royals fans have hardly endeared themselves, and it's not as if the team has set the world alight. Even this season after a quite miserable 3-1 defeat away to Nottingham Forest, for which he was at fault for none of the goals, fans were having a go at him personally, while he was the only player to come all the way over to the fans rather than a half-hearted clap from the centre circle. Yes, sometimes he's too selfish, and sometimes he's dispossessed too easily, and his attitude appears from the outside to be poor, but he's still the club's top goalscorer this season and he didn't deserve the flak that was given to him.

He may not have played at his best in his first two years, but when you consider that he's already played more minutes this year than in either of the entire previous two seasons it's clear that it was difficult for him to find any rhythm. He's also seen far more of the ball this year when he has played; allowing him to run more, shoot more, score more. 

Losing him may not be the end of the world - McCleary is a perfect replacement on the right wing, and we have plenty of talent up front. So much of Reading's success in the past decade has been built around teamwork, and hopefully McDermott can find a way to make the team gel as effectively as it was at the beginning of the season.

Thanks for everything, Nick. Please don't score too many on the 12th.


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