We’re into the second half of our 10-part feature, as we profile each of the men to have taken to the Madejski Stadium turf to represent Reading as senior footballers.
It’s all part of our build-up to our 20-year anniversary since the opening of our new ground… we’ve made some amazing memories here.
Academy products, experienced campaigners, sharp-shooters and rugged defenders – they’re all involved in our latest article.
(And if you want to see all 245 profiled in full, just click here!)
Vito Mannone (19 Madejski Stadium appearances)
Only one goalkeeper in this particular tranche – and it’s our current number 1! Stopper Vito Mannone became the very first Italian to represent the Royals when he made the move to Madejski Stadium last summer, linking up with the team during their time on their pre-season trip to Oosterbeek.
The stopper grew up in Italy and played youth football with Atalanta, but turned pro in England with Arsenal – he was brought to the Gunners after impressing on trial. He made 23 competitive appearances for the North London club in total, as well as spending loan stints with Barnsley and Hull City, before completing a permanent switch to Sunderland – where he would represent the Black Cats in the League Cup final in 2014.
Mannone played a majority of our games last term, 19 which came at Madejski Stadium, and those games included clean-sheets against Sheffield Wednesday, Barnsley, QPR and Preston.
Zurab Khizanishvili (17+1 Madejski Stadium appearances)
One of Georgia’s more famous footballing exports, centre-half Khizanishvili racked up a total of 18 appearances on our home patch during two separate loan stints. The first of those spells was the end of the 2009/10 campaign (after spending the first half of the season at Newcastle, on loan from Blackburn), before penning a season-long switch the next year.
He had a ‘second debut’ to forget when he returned for the 2010/11 season; he was sent for an early bath on his returning appearance against Barnsley… although Reading’s ten men would go on to score three and win 3-0! He would go on to become a regular starter for the Royals as we earned a place in the Championship play-off final, based largely on a stern defence; only three teams had better defensive records. We lost at Wembley to Swansea, however; it was Khizanishvili’s mistimed tackle on Nathan Dyer that allowed the Swans to score from the spot, setting them on the way to the Premier League.
The centre-half retired from competitive football last year, with 93 international caps to his name. He is now assistant manager to Georgia’s Under-21 side.
Mikele Leigertwood (53+3 Madejski Stadium appearances)
There are some special bits of history during the past 20 years… and Mikele Leigertwood has one all to himself! Anyone who was there on that night when we met Nottingham Forest in 2012 will remember the rangy midfielder hooking in the game’s only goal, and sparking wild celebrations at the final whistle as we booked a spot in the Premier League.
That only tells a small story of his contribution to the Royal cause; he racked up well in excess of 100 appearances in our colours during three and a half seasons, 56 of which were played at Madejski Stadium. Previously he had represented Wimbledon, Leyton Orient, Crystal Palace, Sheffield United and QPR.
He returned to Reading in 2016; he currently works for our Academy, where he takes overseas loan moves for our youngsters and their ongoing development.
Adam Le Fondre (29+28 Madejski Stadium appearances)
There is an absolutely stellar list of names to choose from in the striking department this week… it feels tough to not feature the likes of Shane Long, Dave Kitson, and even current Royal Yann Kermorgant, who netted the spot-kick against Fulham which sent us to Wembley! But we’ve gone with a man whose contribution you could count on regardless of whether he was named in the starting XI or amongst the substitutes!
Indeed, Le Fondre made almost as many appearances from the bench at Madejski Stadium as he did as a starter. A goal in his first sub appearance for Reading – at home against Doncaster – set a trend. He netted seven goals at home in his maiden season… five of which came from the bench! And indeed his goals helped earn the Royals a place in the Premier League.
And in his Premier League season with Reading, he netted a stoppage-time spot kick on the opening weekend against Stoke on home turf, as well as scoring in RG2 against Manchester United, Arsenal, and two late, late goals to nick a point from Chelsea! The next season saw back-to-back home hat-tricks against Bolton and Blackpool… there aren’t many with such a keen eye for goal as Alfie!
Yann Kermorgant (35+11 apps)
David Kitson (64+16 apps)
Rowan Liburd (0+1 apps)
Kevin Lisbie (1 app)
Leroy Lita (34+16 apps)
Danny Loader (0+1 apps)
Shane Long (59+44 apps)
Jamie Mackie (14+5 apps)
Mathieu Manset (3+13 apps)
Chris Martin (2+2 apps)
Stay tuned every Wednesday for the next batch of Madejski Men!