It was only last week that Reading’s Director of Football Brian Tevreden said that the Berkshire outfit were looking to sign a fast and physical striker to bolster the club’s striking options in January. However, a goal on his first ever league start for Reading would have certainly left Dominic Samuel as a front-runner for the starting position.
Samuel has spent the last couple of seasons away from Reading on loan slowly building a reputation for himself in the lower leagues. During loan spells at Gillingham and Coventry, the Reading man had decent goal-scoring records and showed himself to be a promising talent. At 22 years of age, Samuel has shown great patience in waiting for his opportunity – especially when you consider that he made his first appearance during the 2012-13 Premier League season.
The Reading academy product is fast, strong and has shown himself on numerous occasions to have an eye for goal. There have been calls from fans throughout the season so far for Samuel to see an increase in his playing time and it is clear to see that he offers a much different option than Yann Kermorgant or the currently sidelined Deniss Rakels. He opened the scoring against Burton Albion on the weekend and his pace caused the Brewers problems for the entire time he was on the pitch.
One reason why Samuel might well be the preferred option over a new signing in the New Year is due to funds. While Reading are definitely in a much better place financially than they were a year or two ago; no owner would cough up on signing a new player when they have a perfectly valid solution in the squad already. The owners at Reading have also stressed the importance of incorporating youth into the senior squad and adding Samuel into the mix would definitely add to the club’s already impressive record of using academy products in first team affairs.
One massive advantage that Dominic Samuel has is that he fits into Reading system very well. A lot of clubs are looking for a striker capable of playing by himself, getting in behind teams with pace and holding the ball up in order to bring other players into attacks. However, the hard work has only just begun for Dominic Samuel who having waited patiently for his opportunity under Jaap Stam; finds himself leading the line for a club that are third in the Championship. It will be a steep learning curve and the Royals academy product is by no means the finished article but at 22; has to be ready to seize his chance.
However, one of the main reasons that Samuel has had to wait so long for his opportunity in the first team set-up at Reading is that he is fairly injury prone. During his time away on loan he was routinely injured and returning to Reading for treatment. However, if the Royals academy product can get over the worst of his injury trouble he could finally be the position to really stake a claim for a first team spot at Reading. Despite his time in the treatment room, Samuel has remained with Reading while other young, promising strikers have been released or sold. Dominic Samuel now has the chance to repay the faith shown in him by the staff at Reading and a chance to really show the Royals faithful what he is capable of.
It remains to be seen as to whether Dominic Samuel can be a long-term solution for Reading. The academy product would have impressed Jaap Stam with his patience, hunger and a few decent performances when called upon so far this season. Samuel certainly makes more sense from a monetary perspective and also fits in well with the youth philosophy that the owners laid out at the start of the season. The combination of injuries and a shortage of other striking options have opened the door for Dominic Samuel – it is now up to him to make sure that he grabs his opportunity with both hands. A goal on his first league start for the Royals would have helped, but in a season where the expectation at the Madejski is growing; it will be interesting to see whether Samuel will be a long-term solution for Reading.