Finally, we know who Reading's majority shareholder is. Narin Niruttinanon owns 50% of the club but had seldom been seen before this July, when GetReading managed to interview the Thai on his plans for the club. He was extremely open about the financial situation, with player sales necessary to keep the club afloat - admitting he didn't quite realise the magnitude of the problem. But now, back on a stable financial footing, Niruttinanon feels ready to push forward with the Royals. After one disappearing owner in Anton Zingarevich, it was reassuring to finally put a face to a name, and for him to face the media to reveal the grand plan for Reading Football Club.
A big deal to get to know Narin, and Reading too were a big deal in their pre-season tour of Thailand. After a new sponsorship deal from drinks company Carabao, the Royals were expanding their own brand as they headed to the Far East for a tour match against the Thailand All-Stars. By all accounts the trip went extremely well as Reading were touted across the land, and the new owners could reveal their English purchase to the fans back home. Those supporters were even able to watch a 2-2 draw as the match was streamed live across the world. An unmitigated success as pastures new were travelled in this new era for the club.
And six new signings - what's not to like? A new striker in Orlando Sa, a new recruit in midfield with Stephen Quinn, two new goalkeepers in Jonathan Bond and Ali Al Habsi, an incoming centre-back in Paul McShane, and a winger for the future in Leandro Semedo. Shrewd business has been done this off-season in quietly re-building a squad decimated by over-spending and under(non)investment in the past few years. Once the green light was given, the new signings came very quickly indeed - testament to the fact that the Thai owners are willing to invest in the club.
Of course, it's not just on the pitch that investment is planned. In that interview with GetReading, Niruttinanon revealed that the club are looking to expand business opportunities off the hallowed turf. The new Bearwood training ground is in the works, whilst the Thai also hinted that the entire Madejski Stadium are could be revamped for a new entertainment complex. Currently sitting out by junction 11 of the M4 with very little in the way of amenities nearby, the Mad Stad could potentially become the new hub for Reading if those plans are realised. That will take money, so to be speaking of this sort of investment is certainly positive news.
As mentioned above, the Royals have recruited well this off-season, adding six players to the first team squad. But just two of those have required a transfer fee, with Orlando Sa costing around £1 million and Jonathan Bond rumoured to be in the region of £250,000. Nobody is complaining about the calibre of the players brought in as they all bring experience and quality, but so far, none have really excited the fan base. The rumours of breaking our transfer record to sign Robert Beric have quickly died down and so have rumblings around any other potential signings, including Clayton Donaldson who decided to sign a new contract at Birmingham.
And we couldn't hold on to three key players who left this off-season. Jem Karacan, Adam Federici and Alex Pearce were all out of contract and the trio all chose to further their careers elsewhere. Granted, one has moved to the Premier League, another to a club chasing promotion to the top flight, and another to his boyhood club, but managing to hold on to at least one of those players would have been a huge statement of intent.
Whilst it was good to hear from Niruttinanon eventually, the silence for almost a year was excruciating. Occasionally some eagle eyed fans might spot Sasima Srivikorn next to Sir John in the directors' box, whilst former potential owner Samrit Bunditkitsada was oft spotted on social media with a Reading shirt or chatting to fans. The openness has eventually come, but for nine months, most Royals fans were completely in the dark as to who exactly owned the club.
Lastly, there will still be some suspicious over the role of Bunditkitsada in the takeover of the club. The Thai businessman was initially very open with fans, responding to them on social media, before he suddenly wasn't named as a majority shareholder after deciding not to take the Football League's Fit And Proper Persons' Test. His 25% was transferred to Niruttinanon instead. Niruttinanon says Samrit has no say in the running of the club but his sudden withdrawal from the takeover bid is still a horrible reminder of the last owner, who also disappeared without trace.
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