The Russian revolution continues to gather pace at Reading as the club officially confirmed the signings of Derby's Tomasz Cywka and Blackburn's Jason Roberts. Cywka is a 23 year old attacking midfielder who can play through the middle or on the wing and has signed an initial six-month deal with a club option to extend beyond that point. Roberts is a name that will be more familiar to fans, with the 34 year old striker having spent time at a number of clubs including Bristol Rovers, Wigan and most recently Blackburn.
So let's look a bit more closely at Reading's latest recruits and speculate how they might fit into the Reading team.
23 year old Cywka (pronounced sif-ka) was born near Krakow and came to play in England in 2006 when he was signed by Premier League Wigan, turning down overtures from Bayern Munich. Cywka was the youngest player to ever represent Poland at Under 21 level and speaking on his background Cywka said.
"I come from a little town near Krakow in the south of Poland, and played in one of the country's best academies - I really enjoyed it.
"I've also played at quite a few levels internationally, which was very exciting. We played some top sides, including Portugal and Spain, which was very good experience.
With Wigan battling against relegation the Polish midfielder couldn't force his way into the league side but did play in the Carling Cup, before joining Oldham on loan in October 2006. Cywka made one start and a handful of sub appearances at Oldham before returning to Wigan but wouldn't play another first team game for over two years, before getting 16 minutes as a sub in a 3-1 cup defeat at Tottenham. Another year without first team football followed, but Cywka did manage some goals in the reserves, including a double against Manchester United.
Finally Cywka was allowed out on loan to Derby, playing five games at the end of the 2009/10 season and earning himself a move to the club on a free transfer at the end of the campaign, signing a deal through to the summer of 2012. Cywka was in the team for the majority of the season, scoring four goals and creating five more as Derby finished the season in 19th under Nigel Clough. Cywka featured heavily in the first two thirds of the season but found playing time limited as the season wore on, particularly after being publically critisised by the Rams manager. Clough blasted the Polish youngster in a BBC interview saying he 'wasn't very bright' for giving away possession that led to Portsmouth scoring a last minute equaliser. Cywka said there was no rift between the pair, but Cywka would play just 16 games in the next 12 months and was told he could leave the club on a free transfer. In one of his few appearances this year he did score against the Royals in October's 2-2 draw at the Madejski.
I spoke to Derby fan and Tilehurst End contributor Pete Odgers about Cywka and his comments were thus.
On his day he can be a class act and make a mug out of any defender at Championship level. However he does have a tendancy to go missing in games for long periods and always seemed to struggle following Clough's instructions. All in all a decent signing if you can sort his attitude out and could well go on to be a top player, but he could also not work hard enough and fall into oblivion.
To me he sounds like a bit of a Marek Matejovsky, and the reaction to his departure has been similar to many reactions from Reading fans in the wake of Marek's departure 18 months ago. Derby fans are either slamming Clough for wasting such talent or condemning the Polish youth international for not working hard enough.
The biggest plus point is his ability to score and create goals. As we tweeted out yesterday, Cywka had 5 assists and 4 goals in just 22 starts last year. By comparison, Jem Karacan and Mikele Leigertwood had 5 assists and 6 goals in 64 starts combined. Ledge and Jem were obviously working with a much more defensive remit but neither have stunning career goal records and someone who knows where the goal is is always welcome in your midfield.
Tactically I'd envision seeing him in a 5 man midfield, in the 'Gylfi' role that was also occupied at times by Brian Howard. Despite Howard still being at the club, Reading haven't had a striker capable of playing the 'Long role' in which the system relies as none of Hunt, Church, Manset or Le Fondre have shown they're capable of creating much on their own and holding the ball up.
Even if he doesn't start it's great to have Cywka here as he's someone that can offer a plan B and something different to just switching McAnuff inside and throwing HRK or Antonio on or changing a striker for a striker of the same type.
Jason Roberts is a much more known commodity so I won't go into too much depth on his past. He's played against Reading several times, including being part of the 6-0 demolition job inflicted upon the Royals by Bristol Rovers, and in a 3-1 promotion clinching win for Wigan at the JJB Stadium where he played on with a broken leg. If you want to see what he's capable of, check out the video below.
The main critisism of the move is that he's too old and repeating the club's mistakes made with Shaun Goater and Les Ferdinand. In terms of Ferdinand, 'Sir Les' was 38 at the time he signed, four years older than Roberts and very much in the late late twighlight of his career. As for Goater, he was 33 and despite never truly finding top form with the Royals, he still managed 14 goals from 38 games in his first season hardly a shoddy return. He also lost the manager that signed him within a few months of joining so that would hardly have helped his cause.
Roberts has averaged around 5 goals a season during his time at Blackburn but he's often been played as a lone frontman and asked to hold up the ball and bring others into play. When he was at his deadly best he worked in tandem with another striker, be it Jamie Cureton at Bristol Rovers, or Nathan Ellington at Wigan. In a way he's similar to Shane Long, who's goal scoring ratio suffered in the 4-5-1 played during Siggy's time here but flourished when partnered with Noel Hunt. Like Long, Roberts value goes beyond his goals and I think he's the ideal man to play alongside Adam Le Fondre. He could also do a good job with Hunt, as Long did, but the most interesting pairing would be Church and Roberts. I wonder if with Roberts doing more of the dirty work, Church might spend more time in and around the box and if he gets a couple of goals under his belt he may well flourish. Regardless I'd expect Hunt and Roberts to be the preferred front two to start with.
Roberts also brings a bit of experience to our front line and by all accounts he's a good person to have in the dressing room (or the press room) You'd like to think he can be a good influence to players like Church and Le Fondre, while the likes of Dominic Samuel should really benefit by having him around.
Giving an 18 month deal to a 34 year old is a risk and there are questions whether he does have much left in the tank but I'd like to think Roberts has a point to prove and his enthusiastic responses to questions posed in the presser and on his twitter would certainly suggest he's relishing the chance to make a difference.
Some fans are a bit miffed that after we've just had a big takeover that we've gone to the bargain basement but Robers and Cywka are exactly the kind of player that tends to flourish at Reading. They are two players who have shown they have the ability and the talent but their careers have stalled at their old clubs and they've both looking at ways to climb back into the spotlight. Even if the worst comes to the worst, neither will stuck on the books past the summer of 2013 and they're unlikely to make a significant dent in the wage budget.
The biggest positive to take is that they are two types of player that we just didn't have at the club given Brian Howard's fall from favour and Manset's inability to stay fit. Immediately we now have a plan B and perhaps a plan C and they are two guys with great upside for minimal risk. Of course I'd love to see Jordan Rhodes unveiled at the Madejski but in a way this feels a lot more satisfying and safe as it's more of the same transfer strategy that has brought us success in the past. These guys don't have the pressure on them that a big money buy would have nor are they players with inflated egos that are just looking for another paycheck. Cywka had a multi-year offer from Poland on the table but opted to come here for six months, while Roberts could quite easily have picked up a paycheck at Blackburn and worked on his media career.
But what do you think about the deals? we'd love to have your comments below or tweeted to us @thetilehurstend
Regardless of your opinion on the moves, I'm sure every Reading fan joins us in welcoming both players to the club and wishing them all the best, starting on Saturday against Bristol City!