Thomas Henry Alex "Hal" Robson-Kanu (born 21 May 1989) is a Welsh professional footballer who plays as a forward for Championship club Reading and the Wales national team. He is equally adept on the wing or as a striker.
Robson-Kanu started his career as a schoolboy at Arsenal but was released at 15 and joined Reading. After graduating from the Academy in 2007 he spent time on loan at Southend United and Swindon Town before returning to Reading and making his first team debut in 2009. Limited to mainly substitute appearances during his first season, he became an important member of the squad appearing regularly during the 2011–12 Championship winning campaign. He made his Premier League debut in 2012 and has since gone on to make over 100 appearances for the club.
At international level Robson-Kanu initially represented the country of his birth, England, at under-19 and under-20 level. In 2010 he switched allegiance to Wales, the country of his grandmother, playing for the under-21 side before his debut for the senior team against Croatia on 23 May that year. He scored his first senior international goal against Scotland in March 2013 and his second against Cyprus in October 2014.
Born in Acton, London, Robson-Kanu began his career at Arsenal as a schoolboy aged 10. He was released by the club at 15 and joined Reading after speaking to then Academy manager Brendan Rodgers. After graduating from the Academy he signed his first professional contract in July 2007, penning a two-year deal with the club. The 2007 Peace Cup in South Korea saw Robson-Kanu involved with the Reading senior team for the first time with appearances against River Plate and Shimizu S-Pulse. Steve Coppell's policy of resting first-team players for cup matches saw Robson-Kanu selected on the bench for the first time on 5 January 2008 for the FA Cup third round tie against Tottenham Hotspur, though he remained an unused substitute.
Not in contention for a regular place in the Reading first team, Robson-Kanu's first experience of senior football came on 30 January 2008 when he joined Southend United on loan until the end of the season. He made his debut three days later as a second-half substitute in a 2–2 draw away at Leyton Orient and scored his first career goal against Nottingham Forest. He struck twice more in the next two games against Huddersfield Town and Swansea City and returned to Reading with three goals in eight appearances. Robson-Kanu was again involved in the first team during the 2008–09 pre-season, scoring a goal in a 9–0 win over Didcot Town in July. He re-joined Southend on a month's loan on 21 August 2008 and after one goal in six appearances extended his spell for a second month. He returned to Reading on 15 November after his three-month spell came to an end having made 15 appearances, scoring twice, during his second spell at the club.
After returning to Reading he was among the substitutes for the FA Cup third round tie against Cardiff City on 3 January 2009. He would again have to wait to make his debut though, remaining on the bench as Cardiff won the match. On 26 January 2009 he joined Swindon Town on a one-month loan which, after six games, was extended for a further month. Midway through his spell at Swindon, having impressed on loan at the club as well with Southend previously, he signed a new contract with Reading until 2011. He cemented a regular place in the Swindon team and started in all 20 of his appearances for the club before returning to Reading after three months. At the conclusion of his spell Swindon boss Danny Wilson hailed Robson-Kanu and fellow loanee Gordon Greer for their "fantastic impression" which helped the club pull away from relegation.
The 2009–10 season saw Robson-Kanu's former Academy boss Brendan Rodgers take over as Reading manager. He scored five goals during pre-season, including a hat-trick against Jonsereds IF in just 28 minutes during the first game of the tour of Sweden. Robson-Kanu finally make his competitive debut for Reading starting on the right wing in a 0–0 draw with Nottingham Forest on the opening day of the season. He was used mainly as a substitute during his first season, starting just four times in 18 appearances.
The following season saw Robson-Kanu establish himself in the first team setup. He scored his first Reading goal in the League Cup against Northampton Town on 24 August 2010, and followed it with his first league goal in a 3–0 win against Barnsley a month later, having earlier set-up Jimmy Kebe for the second. He continued to feature regularly and finished the season in good goalscoring form, netting four times from March onwards including the winner in a 2–1 wins over Preston North End and Derby County as Reading finished in the play-off positions. He came on as a late substitute in the 4–2 play-off final defeat to Swansea but had no time to influence the game and finished the season with six goals in 34 appearances. His contract expired at the end of the season and despite interest from other Championship clubs including Millwall and Portsmouth, he signed a new three-year contract with Reading in July keeping him with the club until 2014.
After the sale of Shane Long in August 2011, Robson-Kanu was played as a forward by Brian McDermott during some of the pre-season, a position he was familiar with from his Academy years. He struck twice playing up front in the warm-up fixtures and began the season in good goalscoring form with two in the first four games against Leicester City and Barnsley. With injuries to both Kebe and Jobi McAnuff during various points of the season, he soon reverted to a role on the wings though his season followed a familiar pattern to previous years as he was in and out the side, playing a supporting role to the two senior wingers. His longest run of starts came in October when he was named on the teamsheet for six consecutive games. He scored twice more during the campaign, including a spectacular volley against Millwall and finished the season having made 37 appearances, the most in his career to date.
In Kebe, McAnuff and new signing Garath McCleary, Robson-Kanu faced stiff competition for places on the wing for Reading's return to the Premier League. With Kebe injured, he was named on the teamsheet on the opening day of the season as Reading came from behind to draw against Stoke City. Limited to a substitutes role over the next three months, he still managed to score twice, in a defeat to Tottenham Hotspur and a 3–3 draw with Fulham. His only two starts came in the League cup, including the 7–5 defeat to Arsenal in October. He had to wait until 17 November for his next league start in Reading's 2–1 win over Everton, their first league victory of the season, and was a regular over the next month, scoring his third goal of the season in the high scoring defeat to Manchester United. Despite his goals, Robson-Kanu again had to settle for a place on the bench with two FA Cup matches his only starts for the club between December and March. He scored a late consolation goal coming on as a substitute against Everton on 2 March and returned to the lineup for the following game against Aston Villa.
The game against Villa proved to be Brian McDermott's last in charge and Robson-Kanu, having played only a bit-part role under the former manager, began to feature more prominently with the appointment of Nigel Adkins. He missed just two games under Adkins through a freak knee injury, and with a regular berth on the wing finished the season strongly, scoring against Arsenal, and twice in Reading's 4–2 win over Fulham. Having enjoyed his most prolific season yet, scoring seven times, Robson-Kanu was nominated for Reading Player of the Season. In a fans vote he finished in third place behind Adam le Fondre and Alex McCarthy, despite all three players starting 13 or fewer league games all season. He signed a new contract in July 2013, keeping him with Reading until June 2016.
Robson-Kanu initially represented England, the country of his birth, at international level, making his debut for the under-19 side against Germany in November 2007. He made a second appearance against Croatia the following year before winning one cap for the England under-20s against Montenegro in 2009.
In 2010 he switched allegiance to Wales who he qualifies for through his grandmother. He was first selected in the Wales under-21s squad for the friendly against Austria on 18 May 2010 and made his debut in a 1–0 defeat. Robson-Kanu's first cap for the senior team came just five days later, coming on as a second-half substitute for Robert Earnshaw in a 2–0 loss to Croatia. He continued to play for the under-21's after his senior debut and made a further three appearances, scoring twice, with his last appearance coming in a defeat to Italy which ended Wales hopes of qualifying for the European Under-21 Football Championships. He scored his first senior international goal on 22 March 2013 in a 2–1 World Cup qualifying win over Scotland at Hampden Park.As of match played 14 April 2015.
Football League Championship: 2011–12