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Reading FC's Out Of Contract Class Of 2017

With Reading having all but firmed up plans for the out of contract class of 2016, we take a look ahead 12 months as to who the club might lose next summer.

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With the news that Hal Robson-Kanu, Simon Cox & Anton Ferdinand will be leaving alongside six loanees and a host of Academy products, it's time to shift focus towards those who might join them in 2017. Having players at a club with less than a year left on their contracts is a situation most teams try to avoid, with those players often seeing transfer values fall and lingering questions surrounding them from fans regarding commitment  levels. For Hal Robson-Kanu some, the ticking clock towards free agency acts a motivator and can produce outstanding campaigns but for others you get the feeling they're just biding their time and letting things wind down.

So, who are the men who face that ticking clock over the next 12 months and should Reading be trying to get them to pen new deals?

Ali Al-Habsi

The Oman goalkeeper enjoyed an interesting opening season at the club. At first the former Wigan stopper lost the battle to be the club's number one to Jonathan Bond, a cause hardly helped by some memorable howlers including a shocker that saw us exit the League Cup to Everton.

At that stage it was easy to write off the soon to be 34-year-old but an injury to Bond saw Al-Habsi given a second chance and the veteran goalkeeper certainly took it. Ali would go on to be one of the few standout performers of a miserable spring with his heroics so nearly earning the club an FA Cup quarter-final replay against Crystal Palace. Those types of performances led to him winning the club's official Player of the Season vote and that combined with his fantastic off-field attitude have endeared him to the fanbase.

Despite those positives, personally it's still not entirely easy to have faith in Al-Habsi going forward. The final home game of the season against Preston summed up the dilemma you face with the keeper in that he's a fantastic shot stopper but he lacked the command needed to organise the defence and stop Preston's opener.

Deal or no deal?..... Not right now

By the end of the 2017/18 season he'll be 36 and while not ancient for a goalkeeper, he's almost certainly peaked so for that reason alone I'd be hesitant to give him a new deal, at least if he expects to be number one. I still don't have the confidence that Ali can be the backbone of a promotion winning defence but then we're hardly a promotion chasing team right now. For now I think you just play the waiting game and see how 2016/17 transpires before taking a look in the summer. He's hardly likely to attract massive transfer interest and he's not the type of bloke that's going to let himself get worried about his future, so I'd see how he gets on and if he wants to stay as a number two he'd be a perfect back-up to a hungry younger keeper.


Tariqe Fosu

The winger's performance in a last-day win at Derby hinted at a bright future for Fosu but that remains his last competitive appearance in a Reading shirt after a summer hampered by injuries was followed by a string of loan spells. His most recent has come at Accrington where he's earned League Two Player of the Month honours so it's good to see his talent has translated to a tougher environment.

Deal or no deal?.... Yes

This one is a no brainier and I imagine that Brian McDermott will be doing everything he can to get Fosu to commit his long-term future to the football club. Hopefully the winger puts pen to paper because he's got the potential to be one of the most exciting players to come out of the club's Academy.

With that being said, the lure of walking away for merely a compensation fee set by a tribunal could be tempting. However, if he does play hard-ball then it's unlikely Brian will be giving him too much first team exposure and thus limiting Fosu's chances to develop. For everyone's interest it makes sense to at least sign a short-term extension.


Garath McCleary

With Robson-Kanu's impending departure, McCleary joins Chris Gunter as the joint-longest-serving Reading players having arrived back in the summer of 2012. Around 150 appearances have followed for the winger and we've witnessed some spectacular goals, with this one at QPR my personal favourite.

With skills like that you'd consider McCleary a shoe-in for a new deal but sadly the former Forest man has struggled to hit the heights he managed during early 2014 that led to a new three-year contract.

McCleary struggled to deliver in 2015/16 and ended up at right-back for the closing few games, putting in some solid yet unspectacular displays. Overall he's managed just 13 league goals in 133 league appearances, hardly mind-blowing numbers but then he's been part of a team in decline, where nobody has really managed to find the net on a consistent basis.

Deal or no deal?... Not right now

Unfortunately, right now Garath just hasn't shown enough to suggest that he deserves a contract that'll take him past his 30th Birthday next May. I don't want to read too much into it but I do find it concerning that Brian had him at full-back for the closing games of the season and didn't let McCleary have a proper run of games out wide, although that might have simply been down to necessity and tactics.

Despite those mitigating factors, we've hardly seen a great deal from the Jamaican international over the past two campaigns and his niggling injury history is only going to be more of a concern as he approaches the big 3-0. With the winger among the club's highest earners I'm just not sure you can commit to giving him a new deal until he shows a consistent run of form again, even if that does lead to the risk of losing him 12 months from now.

Fortunately and from the club's point of view there is an extra one-year option on McCleary's deal so if he does perk up in the next 12 months they should be able to hang on to him, unless it's a player based option.


Oliver Norwood

Norwood was one of the club's best performers this season, even though his form did tail off towards the end. His early season form led to multiple Player of the Month awards here on TTE and he ended the year in the top three for Player of the Season honours as well.

So far, so good but Norwood continues to divide opinions, with some, myself included, pondering whether he really fits into a Brian McDermott team. He's certainly a good ball-playing midfielder but at times his ability to create cutting edge chances, set pieces and defensive positioning have all been up for debate and he's a player that seems to need a system built around him rather than being a player you can slot into lots of different positions.

Deal or no deal?.... Yes

With all that being said, I think you do keep a player of Norwood's quality on the books because he's a decent option to have in the squad and even more importantly is a player who will be able to attract a transfer fee going forward. A decent summer at Euro 2016 for Northern Ireland will only increase his value and you don't want that value to amount to 0 next summer if his deal winds down.

Personally I'd try and sell him in the summer if a decent bid comes in but if not then a new two-year deal would seem a wise investment.


Danny Williams

Another midfielder that divides opinion, Williams has excelled and frustrated fans in equal measure during his three-years at the club. On the surface he's been a solid midfielder at Championship level and his return of six league goals this year was a decent level to hit for the American, yet the stats don't paint him in such a good light. Williams had 101 shots this season, with a whopping 83 of them failing to hit the target. That's horrendously wasteful and the fact that Danny managed just two assists all season doesn't look very positive either. Throw in his bust up with Paul McShane at Middlesbrough and he's not massively in the good books right now.

Deal or no deal.... No

Williams was signed under the Zingarevich regime and as such is widely believed to be the club's highest earner, a position his performances have rarely warranted this season. The midfielder clearly has talent but the 27-year-old has struggled for consistency and it's difficult to justify handing him a new deal on the money he'd likely be asking for to stay in the second tier. The USA international has also hinted that he wants to move to a higher level to boost his 2018 World Cup chances and was linked with a January move to Swansea, so it's hard to see him taking a discount to spend more of his prime years in Berkshire.

Like Norwood I'd try and cash in this summer but if not I'd just let him play out his contract and hope that impending free-agency inspires Williams to put in a great season.


So that's how I see it but what do you think folks? Who out of those five would you be rushing into signing a new deal, who would you wait and see and who deserves to be shown the door? Let us know in the comments below.