Back-to-back wins for our stopper!We are delighted to today reveal Ali Al-Habsi as our Player of the Season 2016/17, as voted for by our supporters.
It has been another quite remarkable campaign for our Omani stopper. He faced stiff competition in particular from Liam Moore and Yann Kermorgant – a defender who has made an invaluable impact since arriving at the Madejski at the start of the campaign, a striker who may still have a 20-goal target set in his sights!
Mention could be made of so many more; as our latest Academy graduate to make his mark Liam Kelly has impressed all who have seen him spray crossfield passes left, right and centre, Chris Gunter has taken his Euro 2016 momentum into the season and has started every one of our league games so far, Danny Williams’ lung-busting runs through midfield, Paul McShane’s last gasp tackles, John Swift’s swerving strikes from range, Garath McCleary tops our assist table and has weighed in with goals of his own… there are so many who could have made the top three and remained in contention for the end of season gong today!
A better ambassador for the club and the sport itself would probably be impossible to find. And putting his positive, proactive, engaging demeanour to one side, Ali Al-Habsi is also an incredible goalkeeper who is enjoying some of the best form of his career in a Reading jersey!
Anyone who needs any explanation as to why our Omani is in the running for the Player of the Season accolade once more, simply should watch the dying embers of our mid-March win at Wednesday. The Owls’ threat was not dying – Reading deservedly led through Yann Kermorgant’s first half strike, but our promotion-chasing rivals threw everything at Jaap Stam’s side. And somehow… somehow… the gallant Al-Habsi repelled every shot that flew towards his goal.
He has already astounded Jordan Rhodes with an unbelievable clawed save denying the striker’s instinctive first half header. But in a frenetic finale, Ali wiped the hope from the faces of Will Buckley, Steven Fletcher and Callum McManaman among others – all thought they’d scored the equaliser they were desperate for, but not one of them had accounted for Ali!
Al-Habsi won the Player of the Season award last season, following in fellow stopper Adam Federici’s footsteps to etch his name into Royals history. In retaining the title, he joins a small group of players who have won back-to-back Player of the Season accolades at the club. Steve Death, Robin Friday, Mick Gooding, Phil Parkinson… Ali finds himself amongst esteemed company!