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So Long Shane & What Happens Next

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So that's it, he's gone.

I'm sure every Reading fan wishes we didn't have to sell Shane Long but his move is understandable and we at The Tilehurst End certainly wish him well.

We'll have a few articles on Shane over the coming days, but below the jump Nick Houlton looks at where we go from here in the striking department.

With Shane Long sealing a move to the Premier League with West Bromwich Albion it's time to consider the alternatives that are available to us as a team.

In every star player lost brings panic around the fans but for each star player that has moved on and caused such worry amongst any loyal Royal we, as a club, have recovered against all odds.

Without such parachute payment the finances are tighter and the transfer market is against us, on relegation we lost Nicky Shorey, Ibrahima Sonko, Glen Little, the controversial Emerse Fae and the flame haired Dave Kitson. The following season saw Kevin Doyle, James Harper, Liam Rosenior (loan), Andre Bikey, Marcus Hahnemann and Stephen Hunt all depart the Madstad. While last season Gylfi Sigurdsson was the main departure and he was joined by Marek Matejovsky and Khalifa Cisse.

Despite these sales we have grown as a club and pulled together as a unit, while unearthing a new gem every now and again, and this season will be no different.

Matt Mills has already departed and been replaced by, a potentially sound defender, Bongani Khumalo (although the defence does need improving) and as Long moves closer to his big move we must consider new routes to go down.

Do we deploy new tactics and a new way of playing? Do we sign a new, proven, striker? Or do we sign a striker with potential or one from the lower leagues, maybe even unknown? Or maybe we look within the squad that is already available to us.

This can all depend on the budget that we receive and where the money that is available will be best spent. On a personal level the defence comes first and a centre back must be the priority, followed by a left back, maybe moving on Marcus Williams to free up some space, and looking to bring in a striker once these positions have been filled.

I favour the philosophy of building from the back and that is clearly where we are weakest at the moment. A solid team is normally built based on solid foundations and after a tight, compact defence the spine of the team must be strong, with steel in midfield and a goalscorer to rely on.

It would be fantastic if a new, proven goalscorer was purchased as a replacement and it isn't out of the question, a new young striker with potential would be another, cheaper, option and would see other squad players step up in the short-term and would be the less surprising outcome.

Noel Hunt could be seen as the main striker or the regular strike partner for any new signing and would not be out-of-place un his own upfront. If he remains fit Hunt will be expected to hit 15 goals this season.

Mathieu Manset was a breath of fresh air when he came on against Millwall, scoring twice in the last five minutes, and as we saw can score from distance and from six yards, as the season grows so might Manset and we could see him step up and be another 15 goal a season striker. With his strength and power he has all the raw ingredients to be one of the best strikers in the Championship.

Simon Church receives stick from some fans but he scores important goals and has a habit of being int he right place at the right time. He has goals in him and with time and confidence can hit the 10 goal mark and maybe more if given the opportunities. Another chance for the young Welshman to step up and he could partner Hunt upfront.

Brett Williams was signed as an unknown and unproven striker and he could get his chance with the imminent departure of Long, most likely as a sub at first but that could soon grow into starts with other strikers misfiring and the hard work of the hungry striker. He'll be looking to impress and working hard on earning a new striker.

Nick Bignall has been pushing through for the last couple of seasons and made a handful of appearances, he has pace to burn but has shown little sign of any end product (including loan spells). He could become an impact start and will be eager to show what he can do.

David Murphy and Gozie Ugwu are young strikers that have just been rewarded with their first professional contracts and both will be looking to put pressure on the strikers above them and impress the management team and will see this season as a chance to make their mark on the first team. Ugwu was the apprentice of the year last season.

There are plenty of options available and with the strikers remaining fit and making the step up we should be fine with what we've got but can we risk that and will that dampen our promotion hopes?

We'll soon find out the solution and I'm sure it will bring great debate among many fans but whatever happens with the club and the striking department the club is not all about one player and the team will pull through in one way or another.