The transfer market has begun to get properly into full gear and Reading have dipped their toe in the free market pool to bring in Pavel Pogrebnyak, Garath McCleary and Danny Guthrie. Only time will tell if all these moves work out for the best for either the players or the club but after a year we can start to assess how we as a club really got on last summer. There were big name departures in the shape of Shane Long and Matt Mills with the rather more low key arrivals of Kaspars Gorkss and Bongani Khumalo.
As this is a proper football blog there's only one place to start: the big money. After his sensational 25 goal season most Reading fans were expecting Shane Long's departure and it arrived in early August with a reported £6.5m move to West Brom. Whatever the actual price the transfer is one of the biggest sales ever and although Long's goals were missed last year, clearly it's impossible to see the sale as anything but a good bit of business. Mind you, if the Long sale was decent work, I'm not sure what that makes the sale of Matt Mills.
Despite captaining Reading to the playoff final Mills always had a frosty relationship with the fans and there weren't too many tears shed when it was announced that he was leaving to be part of Sven's revolution at Leicester City. The fact that the price for the centre back was £5m was frankly staggering. Not only was this the most the club had ever received for a defender, the true folly of this deal for Leicester was highlighted by his recent departure to Bolton for reputedly less than £2m. Whilst Sven has never been the safest pair of hands for other people's money, full marks have to go to Reading for offloading an unpopular, erratic player for such a massive fee.
Mills wasn't the only defender to depart as the Georgian Zurab Khizanishvili left after his loan spell and long serving former captain Ivar Ingimarsson left after his contract expired. It was sad to see the Icelander leave for Ipswich as he had been Steve Coppell's first signing, was voted player of the season in 2007 and after eight years it did feel like the end of an era. However, at 33 and after being dogged by injuries it was clearly the right decision and one that was justified as he was forced to retire just a few months after leaving the club.
All these departures meant that there was a massive gap at centre back with only Alex Pearce with any first team experience. Pearce stepped up quite brilliantly but the decision to bring in Bongani Khumalo on loan from Spurs turned out to be a mistake. The South African didn't look comfortable in any of his five appearances and injury allowed McDermott to quietly move him back to North London.
What was needed was a player with some Championship experience so his next call was to Neil Warnock at QPR to secure the services of the Latvian Kaspars Gorkss. Although the fee was undisclosed, the speed in which he settled into the team and his form across the season meant that it was more than justified and made up for the failure of Khumalo.
Another arrival from QPR was Mikele Leigertwood whose services were secured before the play-off final. It's easily forgotten that the season just gone was the Antiguan's first full one at the club. The partnership he forged with Jem Karacan was so important in the run to the title and whilst it was a complete no-brainer to sign him permanently, credit must be given to Nick Hammond and co for sewing it all up before our future had been decided.
Elsewhere several youngsters also found their way out of the club. Ben Hamer perhaps understandably tired of being third choice left for Charlton whilst Scott Davies, who'd struggled to make an impact headed to newly promoted Crawley. They were to have very differing fortunes, Hamer was first choice as Charlton romped to the League One title whereas Davies finished the season on loan at Aldershot having fallen out of favour.
Of the other summer dealings the most notable were the signing of Matt Mills' younger brother Joseph from Southampton and of course Adam Le Fondre from Rotherham. Of all the permanent signings Mills was probably the poorest. He started the season slowly and was perhaps unfortunate to get injured when he did. By the time he had regained fitness Ian Harte had fully cemented his place back in the side. That said Mills showed some encouraging signs and at 22 and signed for a negligible amount, he certainly wasn't an expensive problem. Le Fondre also cost very little, reportedly £350k, but unlike Mills he certainly proved his worth. With 12 goals he was top scorer but perhaps more vitally it was the timings of his goals. Would Reading have secured the title without Alfie's brace at St Mary's or at home to Leeds? I would suggest not. However, he did struggle to sustain a place in the starting XI and Jason Roberts' arrival in January really limited his game time.
It's open to debate who the most important signing was. For my money I would say Mikele Leigertwood but strong cases can certainly be made or Gorkss or Le Fondre. As a whole though last summer was a roaring success in the transfer market and is we can have the same hit rate over the next few months then we should be in for a good season!