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Reading FC - End Of Transfer Window Round Table

Chris Gunter was one of eight signings made by the Royals this summer, but how did our contributors rank this summer's transfer activity, and what have they made of our start to the campaign?
Chris Gunter was one of eight signings made by the Royals this summer, but how did our contributors rank this summer's transfer activity, and what have they made of our start to the campaign?

With the window shut and our business concluded until January, it felt time for another round table and with that TheTilehurst End's team of bloggers and contributors gathered around the virtual round table to give their views on this summer's moves and the season so far.

So the summer transfer window has slammed shut with Reading making 8 signings. How would you grade our summer dealings with A being awesome and F being the Magnificent 7 of March 1998....

Mike Wade: I'd grade our dealings a very positive B.

Garath McCleary and Danny Guthrie look to be very shrewd signings and have impressed immediately. I think Adrian Mariappa will prove his worth when given a chance, and Nicky Shorey provides good, and essential, cover for Ian Harte. Chris Gunter and Pog will get better in time too I think. Even the experience of Stuart Taylor can help out Adam Federici and Alex McCarthy as he has unlimited Premier League experience and has worked alongside some of the best goalkeepers going.

Daib0: C - I think we're almost spoilt now that we're settling down in the Zingarevich era. OK, he's not throwing money out of the pram but there's a comfortable feeling now that we definitely lacked since SJM's last premiership adventure. It's almost strange, I believe that Brian McDermott has that ‘scouting' thing in his blood, he wouldn't like something just to fall on his plate as a gift from heaven, he still needs to feel he's uncovering astute and unusual signings!

Tom Robertson: B - All of our signings have been well thought out and perhaps just as importantly, cheap. The majority have Premiership experience and fill gaps that were in the squad. I was going to say C as I don't think any of them (bar Guthrie) are massively better than what we had already but because they all seem to have settled in quickly and we've not allowed ourselves to be bullied (look at you Marseille) it goes up a mark.

Brian Willett: I'll say a B+

Wimb: I'm going to go for B as I Pretty much agree with Mike.

I'm delighted with how lively McCleary and Guthrie have looked, with the later particularly impressive. Overall we're now much stronger than last April and we should have cover for just about every position. The only slightly disappointing aspect was that we didn't a bit of cover for Guthrie, as without him I struggle to see who'll play the 'Sigurdsson' role behind Pogrebnyak. I also wouldn't have mined a bit more investment in the front line but generally I think we'll be OK when Roberts is fit.

Mark Lawrence: Would give them a C.

Looked promising in the early stages but can't help but feel that if we had just put our money on the table a little more we could have got some real class in the team to match some of the signings of the teams that would be finishing around us.

Steve Curtis: I'd grade McDermott & co. a B-.

Considering we've just been (surprisingly) promoted as Champions, the additions we've brought in have not only added quality but more depth in every position. We now have cover in every position and it is easy to see McDermott being willing to rotate the squad on a week-by-week basis depending on individual performances. We may not have made any marquee signings (Gaston Ramirez or Andy Carroll, anyone?) but the signings we have made have been true 'Reading way' signings. Pog, McCleary and Guthrie on free transfers? Brilliant business.

******

Who was your pick of the signings, and who do you remain unconvinced by?

Mike Wade: For me so far the stand out signing has to be McCleary but I have also been impressed with Guthrie. Pog has looked a bit hot and cold but might need to be given more time to adapt and I think we have only seen the start of what Gunter can offer. He will improve over time. Hard to judge Shorey and Mariappa due to lack of playing time.

Daib0: I trust the management team and so prefer not to see any transfer negatively, not that I've many doubts here at this young stage of the season. However, for me it's been a joy to see Garath McCleary adapt so effortlessly to a premier team - I'd seen a number of YouTube clips of him in the past during the summer break just out of interest, and he seems to be continuing in the same vein as we start the season - I forecast he'll do real damage to defences out there!
Perhaps Nicky Shorey needs to prove he's still up for it more than the other newcomers though ...

Tom Robertson: Pogrebynak was probably the headline signing of the summer and McCleary has made a real impact but the pick thus far by a country mile is Danny Guthrie. He is comfortable on the ball, has a range of passing that we haven't had since James Harper and unlike him has the brain and class to use it properly. A really complete midfielder that adds an extra dimension to the side. As for unconvinced the obvious answer is Gunter who's had a shaky start but I think has the capabilities to be a better all round full back than Shaun Cummings; Pogrebnyak clearly has class but will take a while to fit into a 4-4-2 and his presence seems to illicit a hoof ball that doesn't suit us or him and so for that reason I'm going for the big Russian. Just not entirely convinced that he fits in.

Wimb: Got to agree with Tommy in that Guthrie has been the real difference maker so far. While Pog's goal at Chelsea was impressive and McCleary has been good, it's Guthrie that's allowed us to play in a different way and gives us that little bit of Premier League quality in the midfield.

As much as I like the Gunter signing, he's looked a bit nervous defensively at times but I'm hoping it's just nerves rather than a flaw in his game.

Brian Willett: It has to be Pog overall, but I'll say McCleary on current form. He's been a menace in both league matches.

Mark Lawrence: I agree with that as McCleary seems to be the main man at the moment. Still unconvinced by Marriapa but only seen him in friendlies so hard to judge that.

Steve Curtis: Yup got to agree that the pick of the signings has been McCleary. I wasn't sure what to expect when I heard we'd signed him but from what I've seen and read, he's a real livewire and will take the game to the opposition. Like Wimb I'm yet to be convinced by Gunter to be honest. When I heard we'd signed him I was overjoyed, but having seen and read about his performances, he may need time to find his feet. Having said that, I think Cummings will have to as well should he be given game time.

*****

Anybody you'd hoped might have been moved on?

Daib0: Not drastically ... basically the loan-outs we made were sensible too. I think it became obvious that with three excellent goalkeepers at least one of Alex McCarthy and Mikkel Andersen would have to be loaned out to keep their intensity levels jingling. It was inevitable that the club were going to add to its squad to prepare for the higher level of football, and so there are a few who I'm not sure of long-term but would almost surely impress at Championship level down: Sean Morrison, Michail Antonio, Simon Church (feel sorry for him, banging on the first team door for so long, deserves to be a regular if not here then somewhere else), and some more unknown quantities still such as Brett Williams, Pierce Sweeney, and Karl Sheppard. Some of these will make it through though, along with great young hopes such as Jordan Obita and Dominic Samuel. And I'm sorry that it didn't work out for Manset, got my own (non-public) theories there, but he did move on of course ...

Brian Willett: Agree there Daib0, I do wish Church would find playing time elsewhere, because it doesn't seem like happening here.

Mike Wade: I don't actively hope anyone moved on so to speak, although I still think Simon Church could leave on loan, but if we are going to establish ourselves in the Premier League like a Stoke, Sunderland or West Brom then a number of faces will be shipped out in the next year or two.

Steve Curtis: Yup, I still think Churchy will make a loan move, and the likes of D'Ath, Taylor and McCarthy would probably benefit from being sent on loan if they won't be getting gametime.

Mark Lawrence: likewise, I'd Hoped Church would have been loaned out.

Wimb: Going with the majority here, I think it's safe to say none us have anything against Church but he is in desperate need of a regular run of games to get back to the form he's teased us with over the last 3 years or so.

*****

Which area do you feel we remain weakest in?

Tom Robertson: The squad as a whole looks a little threadbare in places. The starting XI is strong but any significant injury to Guthrie or Pearce and we look very short of options.

Brian Willett: Likewise, I'm concerned about our depth, specifically in central midfield.

Mike Wade: Attack and defence are my main worries but I think we could do with upgrades in a lot of positions generally. A lot of other years this side may have been fine in the Premier League but this season looks to be a very competitive and compact division with a lot of very good sides in it and I wonder if we have the touch of class capable of winning games over a whole season.

Daib0: I believe no area is desperately weak, and all is well for a competition for places. No-one should be guaranteed a starting place, not even Pogreb, Jason, Adam or whoever ... However, in the premier the centre of midfield is where so many things start to happen, so yet another motor-engine player alongside Guthrie wouldn't have gone amiss in my humble opinion.

Wimb: Along the same lines as Daib0 really in that I still think we need a few more options through the middle of the midfield and up front. As mentioned earlier we have no real player in the first team that can do what Guthrie does and while Lawson D'Ath might be an option, I do worry if Guthrie is out for a long period of time, something that's possible given his injury history. Similarly we might struggle if Pog gets a knock but we should be able to cope through a combination of the other four strikers we've got.

Mark Lawrence: I think we remain weakest in CB. Pearce and Gorkss are both good defenders but neither have incredible pace that will keep up with the likes of Rodellega and others.

Steve Curtis: Also have concerns with regards to pace but more so at fullback. As much as I love Harte and Shorey for what they've done (past and present), it's hard to see either of them being able to cope with direct, pacey wingers with a trick on them. We've got Spurs up next and Harte v Lennon is a terrifying thought. Hopefully his experience helps him through.

*****

Out of all of the rumours you heard this summer, what was the one that excited you the most, and the one that filled you with the most dread?

Mike Wade: Jermain Defoe would have been an exciting prospect but realistically just a pipe dream? I would have been surprised if we had captured him above the likes of Liverpool, Villa, Sunderland, Fulham, QPR etc. There would have been no end of interest in his services. Wilfried Zaha would have been a good addition too, but I wouldn't have been particularly happy if we spent £5m on Carlton Cole.

Tom Robertson: Agreed, the Jermain Defoe rumour was the most intriguing. It was never going to happen but anyone who wasn't excited by the fact that we were being linked with a current England international is a liar! At the same time though it did have me worried that we'd be chucking silly amounts of money around so in a way I guess it was both!

Steve Curtis: Yup, rumours of Defoe signing on? Incredible. Ridiculous, but the fact that we were even linked with a player of that calibre shows how far we've come (thanks to Madejski, McDermott and Zingarevich) since our first stint in the Prem. Towards the end of the transfer window I read rumours of Jenas to Reading. A good player, sure, but not an improvement on what we have at the moment.

Brian Willett: Ryan Bertrand excited me the most. He would have been an instant and proven upgrade. The Michael Owen rumor scared me, but not as much as the Defoe rumor. I think he's a decent striker, but I don't think he would have been able to justify what we would have paid (relative to our size) for him.

Mark Lawrence: I'm the opposite to Brian in that Owen excited me the most. Favourite England player ever for me and it was exciting to think that he might be moving to my club! haha! One that filled me with the most dread? When I first heard about Gunter, if that counts, in a nearly relegated team in Championship then joined us for Premier League... but his start has been OK.

Wimb: I did love the Michael Owen rumour as well but I'd also hoped we'd be able to make a real statement of intent and signed Jordan Rhodes. If Blackburn's £4m initial fee is to be believed then it's a shame we couldn't make that gamble but I understand the reluctance to gamble on a player with only a handful of Championship goals to his name. Jamie Cureton and Martin Butler both slammed home goals at League One level but neither would have made it at the top level in my opinion! In terms of dread then I've got to be honest in that the Carlton Cole rumour was one I was really hoping wasn't true.

Daib0: Ouch, I didn't take them seriously to be honest! Our transfer gossip thread on Royals Rendezvous went mad, it seemed that all the media thought we'd spend probably far more than we did in the end. And funny, a high proportion of the gossip was issued about strikers, and that was a change from previous seasons. The ‘dread'thing? - no, I do believe that there is a ‘Reading way' to do things, quiet and efficient, so I'd be only wary if any player come in who might upset the dressing room atmosphere, but then ... I know that Brian knows what he's doing here ...

*****

How did you rate the activity of the other promoted sides?

Mike Wade: West Ham have brought well but blown their budget and gambled massively. This was never an option for us so you can't compare it to what we have done but they should be ok to survive. Don't bank on it though as it isn't guaranteed when they are giving games to James Collins! Southampton spent well, but also spent a lot on the likes of Jay Rodriguez and Gaston Ramirez and I still don't think they are totally better off than we are. Strange decision to loan out Billy Sharp too. Maybe he didn't settle so far down south?

Daib0: About what I thought to be honest for West Ham - there were going to chop and change, it's more in their nature; apart from a couple of bigger signings they gave no less than a dozen free transfers to squad men from last season. I'd wait on how their six fee signings fit in together, but I'd estimate they won't have such a smooth ride as Reading this season!
Southampton have gambled to the brink in my opinion - they have also given nearly a dozen free transfers (and not actually sold anyone!) yet spent over 30,000,000 £ - they have to produce the premier goods or they'll probably be in more than a just spot of bother. Seeing not only their neighbour's Pompey plight from last season, and indeed their own instability from a few seasons back, I'm surprised that they've forced their own hand to such an extent. On the other hand, isn't the last-placed Premier team guaranteed about 70m £ from the premier jackpot? Maybe they know what they're doing ...

Tom Robertson: Before deadline day I'd have said we had the best of it in terms of signings but Andy Carroll going to West Ham will be a great loan move. If he stays fit he'll slot in perfectly to their system and score goals. He's also got a great understanding with Kevin Nolan. Mohammed Diame was a smart bit of business as well.

Southampton I'm not so sure about. Clyne is a good prospect but perhaps too young to be putting under the pressure of keeping a side up and I suspect Gaston Ramirez will prove to be a very expensive flop. I'm also amazed that they allowed Billy Sharp to leave.

Brian Willett: Southampton - Shrewd
West Ham - Extravagant (as usual)

Mark Lawrence: Thought they did very well. If Gaston Ramierez is as good as some say, that will be a real asset to Southampton. As for West Ham, Carroll suits them to the ground and will be vital to their survival this season.

Steve Curtis: Looking at the players they've brought in, they've really gone for it. Saints have gone for attacking players but their defence is definitely suspect - they've only added Clyne back there and he's inexperienced. West Ham had the best side on paper last season anyway, but the additions they've made and the Carroll loan deal? Brilliant.

Wimb: Yup can't add much more, kudos to Big Sam for getting Carroll in, if he stays fit he'll be a big big help to them this year. Southampton invested in a lot of potential but not an awful lot of proven quality. If that potential flourishes they could well be pushing the top half next season but if not it could be a swift return to the Championship.

*****

How have you viewed the season so far?

Daib0: A jump start from the Reading perspective. The pre-season was not special, far from it, too many draws. Although the play got progressively better, so many goal-scoring opportunities seemed to come and go. And so to first game - if we had played Stoke half-way through the season then I'd have expected a win, but a point was decent enough to get the ball rolling. Chelsea was at that moment the ‘extra' game (wow, we'd have gone top if we had won!) and you can't ask more than the players gave - took the game to the European champions and were a tad unlucky in the end. Sunderland was simply disappointing - you don't expect to have these types of cancellations in the premier, and I strongly believe we would have taken something there too. Bray Wanderers was just a bit of fun, but all helps to feed confidence and team spirit. So I'm basically optimistic ...

Wimb: Yup I'll agree with Daib0 there in that there's been plenty to be optimistic about even if we've only taken one point. Nice to get through in the League Cup, while Kebe and Roberts coming back will be a good boost.

Mike Wade: A home draw in the first game against Stoke is acceptable, and a defeat away at Chelsea is expected. Defeat at home to Tottenham and away to Sunderland wouldn't be disastrous either but anything gained in those games would be handy. The key to survival is to take points off Wigan, WBA, Saints, West Ham, Swansea, Norwich, QPR and Stoke and accumulate anything else as a bonus.

Tom Robertson: So far I've not seen anything to be too worried about. The ‘top' teams all look fallible and none of the sides that you expect to be around us have really looked up to much (with the possible exception of Wigan). Otherwise it's been an irritating stop start beginning to the season with the way the fixtures have worked out. Sooner we can get our first win on the board the better.

Brian Willett: That Chelsea match was maybe the happiest I've ever been following a loss. We look like we're not afraid to play. I think McAnuff and McCleary could end up doing some real damage this season. Hopefully, there will be a consistent end product. My biggest concern right now (along with probably every other supporter) is Feds. Hopefully this is just a bad run that he's getting out of his system. Judging from some of the other keeping performances this season, it seems like something might be going around. So far, I'm encouraged.

Mark Lawrence: Showed that we can perform when we want to. Think Federici has been alarming but think he had an injury on his knee (it was strapped up for both games) so not sure what to take from that. Guthrie has been immense all the time as has McCleary. Pog been good too.

Steve Curtis: So far? For Reading? Unfussed. Two games, one draw and one unfortunate loss against the Champions of Europe. I'm not entertaining the thought of relegation until the New Year at least. McDermott's sides need to get momentum, we all know that.

*****

Do you think we'll stay up?

Wimb: Yup, I predicted pre-season that we'd be safe in around 15th and I've seen nothing that's really dissuaded me from that opinion. There are plenty of average teams in this league and we've shown that we can score goals against the European Champions so it looks like the fearless spirit we've developed under Brian has carried on through.

Mike Wade: I really hope so and I want us too. But I am fearful, and predict a 20th or 19th place finish.

Daib0: I feel we have enough in the tank to compete with everyone except for the very best of all. The confidence factor does play a big part - remember with Coppell in 2006, that Boro comeback did the team such a world of good. If we start to pick up a few points I can now see a comfortable finish - maybe even 12th, higher than my close season prediction - but if we struggle by the end of the next six matches it might be a struggle all season.

Tom Robertson: Yep. There's definitely 3 worse teams than us in this league. In McDermott I think we've got a fantastic manager and that could well be a telling difference. I won't go so far as to say we won't be looking over our shoulders but we'll do enough.

Brian Willett: My big fear is that I don't see anyone who is even close to a sure thing to go down. I'd say Norwich and Southampton with the lowest of confidence. I've been impressed so far with almost all of the lower-table clubs. I think we'll stay up if 1) Feds tightens up 2) we stay healthy 3) we don't panic buy in January.

Mark Lawrence: Unfortunately, no.

Steve Curtis: One hashtag: #inmcdermottwetrust.

Agree, disagree? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Thanks again to all of our writers for taking part, if you'd like to help contribute to The Tilehurst End, drop us an email to thetilehurstend@gmail.com or contact us on Twitter @thetilehurstend or Facebook