Ian Harte close to long-awaited return to the Premier League
Left-back close to a Premier League return with Reading after seven years away from the top flight
After seven years away from the top flight, Ian Harte is tantalisingly close to a return to the Premier League with Reading.
The 33-year-old left-back has helped propel the Royals into the play-off places in the Championship, just four points behind second-placed Norwich City.
The former Republic of Ireland international experienced top flight relegation with Leeds United in 2004, after reaching the semi-finals of the 2001 Champions League and making the second round of the 2002 World Cup with the Republic of Ireland.
Harte has netted 10 times since moving to Reading from Carlisle United on the final day of last summer’s transfer window.
“I fully expected to finish my career at Carlisle,” said Harte, who was named in the PFA Championship Team of the Year last week. “Then Reading came in for me on deadline day.”
“At Carlisle there was a man and his sheepdog watching. But I love the game and the important thing was to play. It wasn’t about the money for me.
“Sometimes you have to drop down the leagues, hope that your quality shines through and you will get the rewards.”
When Leeds were relegated Harte was rumoured to be a target for Barcelona, but a move to Cataluña never materialised and he ended up swapping the Yorkshire dales for newly-promoted La Liga side Levante.
Harte made a positive start to his career in Spain, becoming the first Levante player to score in the Primera DivisiÃƒÂ³n for more than 41 years. But injuries hampered his first season and the club were eventually relegated to Segunda DivisiÃƒÂ³n.
Harte then featured regularly at left back, scoring nine goals in a fruitful second season as the Valencia-based outfit achieved promotion back to the Spanish top flight.
But on his return to La Liga injury struck once more and he missed the entire 2007-08 campaign and was released by his employers.
Harte then had a brief spell with Sunderland but failed to make an impression and was subsequently allowed to leave the club in June 2008.
Following a series of unsuccessful trials at Sheffield United, Norwegian side Valerenga and Charlton Athletic, Harte joined Blackpool on rolling contract.
He lasted just three months at Bloomfield Road before departing for Carlisle United, where he played an instrumental role in the club’s run to the Football League Trophy final at Wembley.
Despite a 4-1 defeat by Southampton Harte was named in the League One Team of the Year and finished the 2009-10 campaign as Carlisle’s top scorer with 19 goals.
Following his return to form at Carlisle, where the free-kick and penalty specialist hit 19 goals in 52 appearances, he attracted a £100,000 bid from Reading.
Now, almost a decade after Harte made a semi-final appearance against Valencia in the Champions League, he is on the verge of a return to the English top flight – a promotion that would ensure his career comes full circle.