News and Views

Just How Good Was Adam Le Fondre

19 May 2022
By Hob Nob Anyone?

When Adam Le Fondre was snapped up for just £350k for League Two’s Rotherham United (and off the back of 58 goals in just over 100 games), nothing much was expected of the lower league hitman. But as fans of The Millers told Royals at the time, they had just picked up a striker who guaranteed goals. Websites such as Oddschecker, who provide tips on English football, had predicted that Reading weren’t going to pull up any trees in the 2011/12 Championship campaign. But a roller coaster ride under Brian McDermott was on the horizon, and Alfie was at the forefront.

Before arriving in Berkshire, Le Fondre was beloved at Rotherham and the best striker in League Two. His side were coming off the back of a disappointing campaign and, as such, announced his decision not to renew his contract at the end of the season. The Millers then decided to cash in on their prized asset. Despite a number of potential suitors which included West Ham United and Sheffield Wednesday, the 24-goal hotshot decided that the Madejski should be his new home.

The side he was joining, however, were a side that dropped down to 23rd in the Championship on his debut following defeat at the hands of Watford, their fourth loss on the spin. The Royals ended that run a week later, with Le Fondre bagging his first goal for the club in a 2-0 home victory over Doncaster Rovers. And from there, he and his teammates never looked back.

Alfie had chipped in with some crucial goals during the campaign without ever truly solidifying his place in the starting eleven. That would all change one week in April when Leeds United visited the Madejski. In a tight game finely poised at 0-0, the former Rochdale man would pop up with two goals in the last five minutes, sealing three massive points for Brian McDermott’s men. A week later, they visited St. Mary’s in a 1st vs 2nd clash that would ultimately decide where the second-tier crown would rest. Once again, it was Reading’s number nine that would decide the fate of the campaign, again scoring two late goals.

The following season saw Reading competing in the Premier League for the first time in four years. And it didn’t take long for Le Fondre to stamp his authority on the world’s biggest stage, scoring a last-minute equaliser at home to Stoke City in his side's opening game of the campaign. He’d follow that up with two goals at home to Everton in November, handing his team a 2-1 come-from-behind victory, their first of the season.

The turn of the year would bring the greatest moment in the Englishman’s career. Reading found themselves 2-0 down at home to West Bromwich Albion only for three goals in the last ten minutes to give them an unlikely win. Alfie bagged an 88th-minute equaliser from the bench, followed up by Russian target man Pavel Pogrebnyak’s winner two minutes later. A week later, the Royals visited St. James’ Park and once again trailed. Step up Le Fondre, who equalised with his first touch. Six minutes later he would score the winner, giving his side a much needed three points in the battle for survival. It didn’t stop there. 11 days later, his side trailed Chelsea by two goals and he came off the bench to score twice, including a 94th-minute equaliser. His exploits throughout the month of January would lead to him being awarded the Premier League Player of the Month award, despite playing just 85 minutes.

January was as good as it got and that campaign would ultimately end in disappointment, finishing in relegation back to the Championship at the first time of asking. Le Fondre too would leave at the end of the season for fellow Championship side Cardiff City. Throughout his career he has continued to prove himself as the ultimate poacher, bagging a colossal 256 goals. Unfortunately, he would never again reach those Premier League glory years, and till this day owns the fourth best minutes-per-goal ratio in English top-flight history at a goal every 124.4 minutes.

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