Let's start at the very beginning, and take a sitrep on the squad as it looked on 31st May:
(NOTE: First team squad only)
GK: McCarthy, Federici, S Taylor.
DEF: Gunter, Kelly, Bridge, Cummings, Gorkss, Morrison, Pearce, Hector, Obita.
MID: Guthrie, Karacan, Williams, Leigertwood, Drenthe, Akpan, McAnuff, Robson-Kanu, J Taylor, McCleary, Tshibola.
FWD: Le Fondre, Pogrebnyak, Blackman.
At that time, the squad looked a tad lop-sided, and attackers with a competent left-back to complement Obita was the expectation heading into the summer.
Now, that is a very simplistic overview that forgets something. The financial trouble that the club was in, and remained to be in until mid-August (that is assuming we are now out of it), tied our hands behind our back in a big way. This factor dominated the early outgoings, and lack of incomings. Captain Jobi McAnuff joined Leigertwood, Bridge, Stuart Taylor and Gorkss as the major releases. This was seen as coming by many, and could of been worse, as Jake Taylor and Hector signed late deals to stay with the club.
With that in mind, it became clear the taxman was the most important player in transfer dealings in the early weeks of the summer. Consequently, Adam Le Fondre departed for £1.5-3 million (officially undisclosed) and the striker department began to look ludicrously thin.
As we headed into August things had become rather quiet, Reading were not only completely absent from the breaking news straps, but not even speculatively linked with anybody, either. During this period, Jordan Obita was linked to a move away, as was Alex McCarthy. Nevertheless, a self-imposed transfer embargo had made those moves improbable, if not impossible.
The new season started, then, with no new signings. Wigan away was set to be the beginning of the end- on paper- but in the stands the all-but-certain new owners cheered on a spirited draw. Then the wheels began to turn.
Simon Cox returned to the club. Striker? Check. Anton Ferdinand signed for free. Defensive cover? Check. Jamie Mackie signed on loan. Attacker? Got another one. Oliver Norwood came from Huddersfield. Playmaker? Signed.
When looked at like this: 4 signings in a short space of time and for a tidy sum, it's hard to complain. It wasn't perfect, Reading had not signed a new left-back; which became a real problem position as the team faltered away from home at Nottingham Forest. Add on top of that, we saw 2 key departures. Sean Morrison left in a quickfire move to Cardiff and McCarthy signed for QPR. Like them or not, these deals guaranteed Reading stayed in net profit for the summer window and neither deal- while debatable- can be considered bad for the club.
However, certain problems couldn't be ignored. Several members of Reading's first-team from the season before had gone, and plenty more were injured. The naysayers may well strike down the optimists on that fact, but that would be to ignore Reading's biggest asset of this transfer window.
The youth academy has provided many players this summer, ably providing cover in an injury-ravaged squad. Not only that, but some have already shown their potential and ability in a Reading shirt. Defenders Long, Griffin and Cooper have been involved, as have midfielders Stacey, Fosu-Henry and the excellent Aaron Kuhl. Craig Tanner is also in on the first-team-act, the striker scoring on his debut. It is this youth-team abundance that Reading have capitalised on in this summer window, providing a bunch of hungry, talented, and home-grown players to step up when the likes of McAnuff, Leigertwood, and Gorkss have gone.
And what of deadline day? Reading promised much but failed to deliver last season, and this time the club promised to be 'busy'. After a quiet morning, and rumours of a few failures, things kicked into gear in the evening. Shipping out Royston Drenthe to Sheffield Wednesday on a loan deal has eased a burden off the squad- and hopefully the wage bill. But still, deadline day is all about the incomings, and to sign an experienced striker has done the squad a world of good. Glenn Murray coming in on loan may well turn out to be a flop, but at least Reading have laid out some solid cards on the table, heading into the winter months. He could even- whisper it- be the new Jason Roberts...
So, here's the squad we have at our disposal on 2nd September:
GK: Federici, Andersen.
DEF: Gunter, Kelly, Cummings, Pearce, Hector, Obita, Ferdinand, Long, Griffin, Cooper.
MID: Guthrie, Karacan, Williams, Akpan, Norwood, Robson-Kanu, J Taylor, McCleary, Tshibola, Kuhl, Edwards, Stacey, Fosu-Henry.
FWD: Pogrebnyak, Blackman, Cox, Murray, Mackie, Tanner.
Now I'm asking you a very simple question. Compare those squads, and tell us in the poll below, which squad is stronger? Were we better off before the transfer window opened, or now it has closed? Have your say, and leave a comment, below.