Nicky Shorey, Ian Harte, Dylan Kerr, over the years Reading FC have been blessed with high-quality left-backs.

In a difficult period for the Royals on the field, now is the perfect time for a player to make himself a hero.

One player who has emerged to become a fan-favourite over the last few seasons in Reading-born Tom McIntyre.

Often seen ‘drinking the vodka, and drinking the jaeger’, the youngster has played 12 times so far this season, and is approaching 70 appearances in total for his boyhood club.

The Scotland youth international is a Royals fan through-and-through, even having a season ticket at the then-Madejski Stadium while progressing through the Academy ranks in Berkshire.

Reading Chronicle:

A centre-half by trade, the Winnersh-raised prospect has been forced to play on the left over the last few matches as Ghana international Baba Rahman recovers from a hamstring injury on the touchline.

Arriving on loan from Chelsea in summer 2021, the former Schalke and Augsburg defender quickly endeared himself to the supporters with his attack-minded nature and his social media interactions but has been missing since the middle of February with injury in Veljko Paunovic’s final game in charge, as well as missing three matches in January while away at the African Cup of Nations.

After missing five months of the season himself after fracturing his foot in a 2-1 defeat to Coventry City in August, McIntyre returned to the squad for Paunovic’s final four matches, only stepping foot on the pitch for the final half hour against Preston North End, in place of injured Rahman.

His big chance, his first start in six months, came in Paul Ince’s first match in charge.

Strikes from Lucas Joao and John Swift put the Royals into a comfortable 2-0 lead, and all was looking well for the 23-year-old defender on his return to the side until the final 10 minutes as the youngster put the ball into his own net to make it a nervy end.

A first home win since October was secured and everything was looking rosy, however as with most of the positives this season it did not last.

A three-game losing streak in which the side conceded nine goals followed as the club hovered dangerously close to the relegation zone.

When conceding an average of three goals a game, and averaging more than 10 shots faced per game, the back line is always to come under scrutiny, and McIntyre was no different.

Reading Chronicle:

Earlier in the month, after a 1-0 home defeat to Millwall, the defender faced the media and said that he had been struggling to adapt to life at left-back but insisted that he was gaining more and more confidence by the week.

He said: “The more I’m playing it the more I'm understanding my role as a left back. I think at the start of the season I was really disappointed with how I'd played left back and didn't fully understand the positions I needed to take up but since the new managers come in, he's really explained that to me with his staff and feel a bit more comfortable with that now. In my opinion, I think it's easier on the ball as a centre back because you have the whole pitch rather than left back you received the ball and you're a bit more cut off at times and often teams will wait to press the fullback. I think hopefully at left back I'll be further up the pitch so I can take more risk in that final third rather than obviously centre you have got to be careful of where you play your passes, but yeah, I think, hopefully that's something I can bring into my game.”

Immediately after this discussion McIntyre was given his hardest battle yet, and most definitely came out worse as Nottingham Forest battered Reading, and McIntyre’s left-hand side 4-0, including scoring within the opening 17 seconds with play coming from their attacking right, Reading’s defensive left.

However, it is safe to say that this was a nadir, as the club have well and truly bounced back from East Midland ‘embarrassment’ to pick up four points from a possible six against two sides in the top six.

At the City Ground, McIntyre won just one ariel duel and averaged a 5.85 rating on WhoScored, but on the south-coast the full-back won two ariel duels and averaged 6.54.

In comparison, central defender Tom Holmes received a 6.45 rating and Junior Hoilett, the winger on the same flank as McIntyre, received a six.

With week-on-week improvement the aim, McIntyre had his best game of the season against Blackburn on Saturday, earning himself the WhoScored Man of the Match with a rating of 7.94.

The win over Tony Mowbray’s out-of-sorts Rovers was a game in which the youngster really came into his own, providing perfect crosses for the likes of Tom Ince and even having a shot on goal himself, which needed to be saved low by Thomas Kaminski.

With three tackles, only Danny Drinkwater had more tackles to make in the game, as well as five interceptions- meaning nobody had more defensive work to do than McIntyre.

The vital role McIntyre played on Saturday is illustrated with the flow diagrams below, showing that 52 per cent of Reading’s play came down his flank, compared to just 22 per cent with the attack-minded Andy Yiadom and Tom Ince.

The visitors played 33 per cent of their actions down that flank too, ensuring McIntyre saw lots of the ball but dealt with everything that was thrown at him.

Being such a fan favourite, it was hard for many to visibly see him struggle so much over recent weeks but after Saturday’s performance he looks well and truly back on form.

Reading Chronicle:

Above: Graphic showing percentages of zones of play


With Rahman expected to be back after the international break, it may spell the end of McIntyre at left-back for the season, but with the Academy graduate being one of only two defenders still in contract beyond this season, it’s good to know we have the position covered going forward.

If the Academy continues to produce young lads with the ability and temperament of ‘TMac’, the club won’t go far wrong.