Much has been made in the last few weeks about those players who won’t be at the club next season with several players having been released. I thought I’d create a rod for my own back and get it horribly wrong and have a stab at some of our potential transfer targets for the summer. For more credible suggestions check out Matthew Batten's round-up.
The biggest problem I have is that it’s almost impossible to know how much money will be made available to Nigel Adkins and what Reading’s new manager’s approach to the transfer market will be. On the first point, I’d be surprised if Adkins isn't backed financially, I suspect there will be a fair amount of money available. What will be interesting though is the kind of players he’ll be looking at. A lot of fringe players will be heading out of the door so it may be that he looks to get in younger guys to have in the squad but there’s bound to be some big names linked with us. I've tried to cover a couple of scenarios but here are some potential signings:-
It’s very likely that one of Adam Federici or Alex McCarthy will go but whoever remains will be a very good number one and I can’t see any money being spent on a replacement. Stuart Taylor will probably be retained as experienced cover but even if he isn't, Mikkel Andersen or Joe Henly will I’m sure be called upon.
With Ian Harte, Nicky Shorey and Joseph Mills all being released there is now a gaping hole at left back. Stephen Kelly did a decent job covering at the end of the year but I doubt Adkins has him in mind for the job on a permanent basis. Looking at his old club I’m going to be wildly optimistic and suggest Danny Fox might want to give up his battle with Luke Shaw and make the short journey northwards. In the likely event of that not happening perhaps Brendan Rodgers could do his old team a favour and loan us Jack Robinson or Joe Flanagan for the season and replicate Ryan Bertrand’s time at the Madejski. A cheaper ‘safer’ option will be someone like recently released utility man Danny Butterfield or solid youngsters like Joe Mattock or Fulham’s Matthew Briggs.
Like a couple of spots in the side, it’s hard to know how vital a new centre half will be. At the time of writing the club was making a last ditch effort at keeping Alex Pearce and Kaspers Gorkss was rather surprisingly included against West Ham so perhaps he isn't totally out of favour. What may be needed then is someone experienced who can come in to stabilise things, in which case, why not a return for Matthew Upson? He had a successful time at Brighton and with both clubs in something of a managerial limbo, perhaps now might be the right time. Failing that Elliott Ward is available on a free and he had a good spell at Nottingham Forest last year. Either man could be well positioned to help guide Sean Morrison and provide valuable support and experience.
When he was at Southampton Nigel Adkins liked to play with at least one defensively minded midfielder and looking at the current side it’s hard to see who it might be at Reading (lets rule Mikele Leigertwood out now) so with that in mind I wouldn't mind us exploiting Brighton’s predicament and nab Liam Bridcutt. It’s an area of the pitch that may also benefit a season long loan from the Premier League in which case Tom Carroll is perhaps local enough to be viable or maybe Richard Chaplow will turn up just to annoy my housemate. More likely given ‘the Reading way’ is a lower league youngster like Adam Forshaw of Brentford.
Another interesting area for Reading is the wing. Hal Robson-Kanu and Gareth McCleary both impressed last year but if Jimmy Kebe leaves then the options begin to look a little thin. I think Adkins will be looking for a forward who can play wide as opposed to old fashioned wingers, in which case Simeon Jackson could make a good alternative and is available on a free, as is Reading’s nemesis Jerome Thomas who it’d be nice to sign, if only so we’re not playing against him! However perhaps, and this may just be wishful thinking, Reading will want to make a real statement and persuade Tom Ince to head to Berkshire rather than to the Premier League.
Always the most hotly debated area of the side. Even if Adam Le Fondre and Pavel Pogrebnyak stay (which, let’s face it, is unlikely) there are only really untested youngsters now in the squad. If the club want to make a real marquee signing then this is the position it will be in, so suggesting Jordan Rhodes may not be as stupid as it first seems. No doubt the Charlie Austin rumours will return if there’re signs of the cash being splashed due to his history with the club and this wouldn't be a purely speculative transfer piece if I didn't throw Bobby Zamora and Billy Sharp into the mix! Unlike other positions I think we will see a few arrivals up front so we may just see some money being thrown at a younger player in which case Peterbrough’s Dwight Gayle and Walsall’s Will Grigg could be contenders or maybe Bobby Grant will continue Rochdale’s recent tradition of finding great goal scorers. Sticking with the lower leagues, Tom Pope may just be in prime position for a rapid, Ricky Lambert-esque late rise through the divisions. I am of course assuming that Nigel Adkins will be sticking to his footballing principles, if not then Carlton Cole and Kevin Davies are free agents…
Right, I’m going to head down to the bookies and put money on Reading not signing a single one of the players mentioned!
I’d be interested to hear people’s thoughts, not only on my selections but also those players I've missed off so please feel free to let me know in the comments section below.