The Waterford man was the Royals’ outstanding performer over the crucial Christmas period, helping Steve Coppell’s promotion chasers claim 17 points, as well as scoring his eighth goal of the season.
Reading won their first five matches in December before
drawing with Cardiff City and Southampton. They suffered their first defeat in 10 league games away to Swansea City last weekend.
The 27-year-old Irish international – who scored his first goal for the Republic against Poland in November – was chased by Everton last summer but a fee couldn’t be agreed between the clubs (Everton offering €4m); much to the Clonea-Power man’s chagrin.
Brought from Brentford on a free in the summer of 2005, Hunt has a release clause in the three-and-a-half year contract he signed last February allowing him to leave for a fee of £5m.
He was previously pursued by then Sunderland boss Roy Keane, who failed with a final £4.5m bid a year ago, while Middlesboro and Newcastle are also understood to have shown an interest, as did West Ham when they were in the money.
Steve Bruce is determined to land the former Carrick United
and Crystal Palace player, while Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp sent scouts to watch him in Reading’s recent 4-0 demolition of Watford.
While Wigan were in first for his services during the current window, a switch to nearby London could be appealing. Either way, it would be a wrench to quit the Madejski Stadium, where his brother Noel (also included in the Irish squad announced on Monday) and best friend Kevin Doyle have formed a potent strike partnership.
Sky Sports’ Chris Kamara, chairman of the Powerade Player of the Month Awards panel, said: “Stephen Hunt has been in terrific form for Reading since the start of the season and December was no exception. His driving displays from the heart of midfield were instrumental in his side’s fine performances.”
Stephen himself man said: “To get the award is a great
confidence booster. It means I must be doing something right, but it is also an award for the team. We have been playing well for a while and we are the highest scorers in the country at the moment. We are not only creating chances, we are taking them. But I am short of my own goal target. I wanted 10 by Christmas… so I’m a bit gutted. I’ll have to kick on now.”
On life in the Championship, “It’s a hard division but it’s exciting,” he said. Last month he spoke about wanting to “play my way back into the Premier League. You have to look after yourself. I feel as if I’m coming into my prime and am looking forward to the next three or four years, hopefully spent as a Premier League footballer.”
The newly-wed recently admitted, “The summer transfer window definitely got to me… I’ve not been a nice person to live with the last six months. I want to play at the highest level. In the Premier League you play once a week and everyone comes to watch you – but the Championship is three matches a week and grinding out points.”
Reading director of football Nicky Hammond said: “Hunty’s situation is well publicised. There have been no offers and we certainly don’t want to lose him. I am hopeful we can keep everyone.”
Meanwhile, it’s speculated that former Waterford United striker Daryl Murphy could be poised for a possible switch to Coca Cola Championship play-off hopefuls Queens Park Rangers, the second-wealthiest club in England after Manchester City.
The Londoners had a bid of around £2m rejected by the Blacks Cats 12 months ago. Murphy went on to be a key player as Sunderland secured their Premier League status but has been a bit-part figure under Roy Keane and Ricky Sbragia this season.
Corkman Liam Miller last week left the Stadium of Light for Loftus Road until the end of the season.