Save for any late transfer action, it looks like Reading have completed their 25-man squad for the coming Premier League season. Brian McDermott said he wanted two players for every position on the field and his signings have accomplished his goal. The Tilehurst End looks at the battles on the pitch for each position - starting with the goalkeeper and the defence.
In recent times the goalkeeper position has been the most gifted one on the pitch for the Royals. Before Ben Hamer left for Charlton Athletic last summer, Reading had four goalkeepers who could legitimately do a job in the Championship. Adam Federici held the number 1 shirt and rightly kept it throughout the season, leading England U21 Alex McCarthy to depart on loan to Leeds United and Ipswich Town. Mikkel Andersen moved up to #2 in McCarthy's absence but the signs are that it may be him departing on loan this season, with Portsmouth reportedly interested in his services. McCarthy may be happier to sit on Premier League benches waiting for his chance, but there's no doubting that Federici will be the first-choice for the season.
Starter: Adam Federici
The departure of Andy Griffin over the summer months left Brian McDermott with only Shaun Cummings as a natural right-back. However, the arrival of Wales international Chris Gunter will surely put pressure on former Chelsea trainee Cummings. After a tussle with Griffin in his first two seasons at the Madejski, Cummings made the shirt his own last year as part of the best defence in the Championship. However, Gunter made the right-back position his own at Nottingham Forest, missing just three League games in three years for the Reds. McDermott may want to keep loyalty with the players that won the League last year, but his job might be made easier by Gunter's solid performance against Crystal Palace last Saturday which Cummings missed through illness. Thus, the Welshman may be in possession of the shirt for Stoke - it'll be Shaun's job to wrestle it off him as soon as possible.
Starter: Chris Gunter
This one might be easier than most, unless they start getting found out by Premier League defences. Alex Pearce and Kaspars Gorkss started every match from 27th August 2011 together, and kept 19 clean sheets in the 42 League games they started together. Their understanding together is incredible, and it's clear for all to see that the experienced head of Latvian international Gorkss rubbed off on Pearce, who grew in maturity over the course of the season, going on to win the fans' Player of the Season vote. Adrian Mariappa won't just be here to make up the numbers though - he offers less height but far more pace than either Pearce or Gorkss. Another experienced Championship player, with 169 League appearances for Watford over the last four years, he'll be wanting to prove his worth to the team as much as any of the new arrivals. 21-year-old Sean Morrison helped Huddersfield Town to promotion last season - whilst he won't be a starter, he should be an ample 4th choice centre back.
Starters: Alex Pearce and Kaspars Gorkss
One of the more interesting battles this season. Every Reading fan knows Ian Harte's good points (set-pieces) and bad points (pace). Harte set up 11 goals last year from set-pieces - his wicked, pacy delivery caused innumerable problems for the opposition. His pace, or lack there-of, may have in part cost Reading the Play-Off Final back in May 2011, but Reading's deeper line and counter-attacking style last term helped to negate these problems. Reading fans who remember Nicky Shorey from his first spell will know that he could be just as deadly from set-pieces though, and if he can start delivering free-kicks and corners to match the Irishman then he could well find a starting berth sooner rather than later. Shorey made 267 appearances for Reading in his first spell, whilst his last two seasons at West Bromwich Albion saw him appear 53 times. He has something to prove to the Reading fans after leaving somewhat acrimoniously in 2008, but Harte has something to prove as well - that he's still got it. At 34, he will want one last hurrah in the Premier League - and McDermott might stick to the devil he knows early on in the season.
Starter: Ian Harte
On Thursday we'll be rounding up the midfield and strikers - be sure to check back for our thoughts on the rest of the squad then!