I believe it was the great Liverpool manager Bill Shankly who said "the most difficult players in a side to replace are your goalkeeper and your main striker" and it is the latter that may be causing Brain McDermott a few sleepless nights if last season’s top goal scorer Shane Long were to leave the club during in this summer transfer window.
Shane Long, who had his break out season last season, has been linked with a number of premier league sides so far this summer, seems likely to leave sooner rather than later for a good amount of money for the club. The questions that I going to ask in this piece are, is McDermott going to be given the funds to replace long, are the current crop of strikers at the club capable of replacing Long’s goals from last season.
For me the club is at a cross roads this summer, having already sold Matt Mills and being told that the money is going to balance the books I feel any cash from the potential sale of Shane has to be reinvested in the squad if the club hope to remain competitive in the championship. The worst case scenario is that when the season starts we are left with two recognised centre backs and three strikers, two of which are relatively inexperienced at this level. While I accept that the club has to be run in a proper way, it would be nice to see the club reinvest some of the transfer money back in to the club as sometimes as it can be quite frustrating to see players leave and not be replaced.
If nobody is going to be brought in then it is up to one of these three men to take up the slack...
Noel Hunt – By far Readings most experienced striker but is far too injury prone, in his time at Reading he has been good for at least ten goals a season. I would class him as a good support striker as he is good at dropping a little deeper and starting moves. He is also a good team player.
Simon Church – He had a good first season in the first team scoring 12 goals including the first goal of the reign of Brian McDermott. However he fell back in his second season scoring only 6 goals but 6 important goals as they won the team 12 points. I see him as more of an impact sub at the moment. However he is still to prove he is capable of being a regular goal scorer at this level, so the upcoming season will be Important for him to make his mark.
Mathieu Manset – Young French Striker who was signed from Hereford last season. He is a strong and powerful striker but for me he is still a little raw. Next season is going to be a test for him to see how he copes at this level at it will be his first full season in the championship. He has a lot of potential as proven at the end of last season. For me he has to be still used as impact player in the meantime.
Long leaving would take so many goals out of the side, just like Gylfi Sigurdsson and Kevin Doyle before him. Having a player that is capable of scoring twenty goals a season is must If Reading are going to remain competitive and I am of the opinion that we do need to go outside of the club to replace Long when he finally departs. Of course I expect that Nicky Hammond and Brian McDermott have their eye on a replacement but the longer this summer window goes on the more likely it will cost a bit more to find that replacement, so in that respect I wish the deal would be done sooner rather than later.