It’s the 5th of June 2018. The footballing world’s attention is a little preoccupied. In two days’ time, Marcus Rashford will bang in a screamer at Elland Road in England’s final pre-tournament friendly. In just shy of a month, England will win a World Cup penalty shootout for the first time ever. Beers will be sunk, songs will be sung, Southgate will become the one. An unbelievable summer of heat and football awaits. In West Berkshire, David Meyler’s car quietly rolls into the Madjeski Stadium car park.
He arrived as an ideal candidate; a mainstay in Hull’s squad through some of the best years of their history, including two Championship promotions; a steely midfield presence to replace the brutish Joey van den Berg; an Irishman to fit in with a large core of Reading’s current squad as well as its illustrious history of Irish players (see Shane Long, Kevin Doyle, the Hunt brothers etc.); he also arrived as a player in his prime, for free, at the age of 29.
What happened next? Since I’ve only seen Meyler play for Reading once I feel slightly unqualified in writing this article.
The thing is, few others have much more experience. Since his arrival Meyler has appeared in only five of Reading’s twenty-eight league games, and none since September 1st. His stats read: Goals 0, Assists 0, Yellow cards 1. Frozen out of the team by Paul Clement (to little benefit on results), Meyler has now reportedly been placed on a list of six players (three of whom are already out of the door) who have been forbidden from training and even eating with the first team until they get a transfer.
The real question is how bad can he be? At the time of writing, Reading lie 22nd in the Championship table.
They are playing their worst football for two decades and face the serious prospect of relegation to League One for the first time in 14 years. Back in December, Meyler responded to fan criticism on Twitter, determined to prove his talent to a largely talentless team:
“Trust me I’m desperate to play for Reading and to win games. People think I’d rather sit on Fifa which is nonsense. I’m doing everything I can to get back into the team but for some reason or another I’m not getting a look in.”
“I came here excited to play for Reading and I’ve not been able to do that. I’m working hard to change it so fingers crossed.”
“I know I can add something to the team but I haven’t been given a chance in months.”
“I get hammered [by] fans every weekend when I haven’t played since September. You’d swear it was all my fault.”
These comments were swiftly followed by the sacking of Paul Clement and hiring of Portuguese Jose Gomes, a change which likely instilled in Meyler hope that he might be given a chance under a new manager. Zero appearances and one transfer listing later however, Meyler seems disillusioned with the club and seemingly can’t wait to leave:
As quickly as it arrived, England’s perfect summer was gone. Almost immediately after being knocked out of the World Cup by Croatia clouds were seen in the sky for the first time in months, people stopped being nice to each other and everyone remembered about Brexit.
Barely three weeks went by before David Meyler made his Reading debut, a thrilling and unjust defeat to Derby County. Anything was possible with a new manager, new signings and a new season. Four weeks later, it was all over for Meyler, and the skies over Reading look cloudier than ever before.