Malian winger Jimmy Kebe was not just a cult hero at Championship side Reading, but was also instrumental in getting the Berkshire outfit back to the Premier League during the 2011/12 season.
Kebe, now 37, first arrived from French side Lens back in January 2008 for an undisclosed fee but was unable to save the English side from the drop as they were relegated from the top flight, despite winning 4-0 away at Derby County on the final day of the season.
He made five appearances during that campaign, but suddenly became a key player at the Select Car Leasing Stadium after that and managed to utilise the Royals’ demotion to his own gain as he established himself as a regular in the Royals’ starting lineup, with Glen Little opting to move on at the end of his contract in the summer of 2008.
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Fast forward a few years – and the winger was a vital player in getting the club to the 2011 Championship play-off final. He played a big part in the second-tier side’s second goal at Wembley with his dash into Swansea City’s penalty box in the lead up to the corner – but was unable to guide his side to the Premier League with their 4-2 defeat to Brendan Rodgers’ men.
This was something he was able to do in the following campaign though, lighting up the second tier once again with his pace and trickery and recording 14 goal contributions in 33 league appearances.
The Royals’ were promoted with their surge in the second half of the 2011/12 season, with Kebe playing a big part in that and sealing his status as a Reading legend despite not being able to contribute as much during the following term.
The 37-year-old did enough to earn a move to Crystal Palace in August 2013 following the Berkshire side’s relegation though, only producing six displays for the Eagles during the 2013/14 campaign before being shipped out on loan to Leeds United in the January, where he was reunited with former Reading boss Brian McDermott.
He fell out of favour at Selhurst Park after that, being released by the club in January 2015 before moving out to Spain to join Real Mallorca during that summer, where he failed to make a single appearance.
This was a sad ending to a good career, especially upsetting when you consider the fact he was only 31 when he arrived in Majorca.
However, he decided to pursue a different career in professional poker, was reported to be living in London last year and perhaps more importantly for Reading fans, he still keeps up to date with the Royals with him and his family being ‘mad-keen’ supporters of Veljko Paunovic’s men.
He also gave an interview to Planet Football back in 2019, acknowledging his career was coming to an end, saying: “I knew the end of my career was coming.
“I didn’t really play much in England after Reading. There was a bit at Leeds and at Crystal Palace, but I got injuries, and when you get injuries later in your career is difficult.
“I’m lucky I found… well, I didn’t find poker because I was already playing, but I am lucky I had poker. [When you retire] you lose the routine and need something else, and a lot of footballers have found it difficult after they retire if they don’t have something.”
He’s reportedly earned six figures playing the card game since his career switch, not too shabby at all.