It's been reported recently in the Thai media that Reading are looking to sign several players from the country. This appears to be the wishes of the club's new owners, with links to the South East Asian country growing rapidly in recent months. According to True Life Sport, efforts have been made by the Royals to bring in Thai footballers, but there have been work permit related issues. The site reports the following...
"Reading are interested in Thai footballers and are ready to support them to join the club and play in the Football League Championship in order to meet the policy of the Thai owners. Unfortunately, most of the Thai players have work permit issues which is strictly controlled by the British government and prevents them from playing for English teams."
The report continues....
"However, there's still a possibility with biracial footballers from Thailand such as Charyl Yannis Chappuis (Thai-Swiss), Mika Chunuonsee (Thai-Welsh), Anthony Ampaipitakwong (Thai-American) and also other biracial footballers who hold two nationalities. The club can support them to play with Reading in the near future."
If true, this would hardly be the big on-field lift that Reading need. With respect to the three mentioned players, none of them are the stars that would give the Royals' squad an increase in quality. But, as we saw with the recent visit to Thailand, it's more a matter of how Reading market themselves in South-East Asia. The addition of several Thai players (albeit only half Thai) makes the club much more marketable - in the same way that Manchester United's signing of Ji-Sung Park opened up a market in South Korea.
A more pessimistic way of looking at this news is to say that the club's owners are starting to meddle in affairs that should be left to the the manager. As previously mentioned, none of those signings would be likely to give the expected promotion charge that much of a boost, so it's hard to say how much Clarke would use them.
Interestingly, Mika Chunuonsee made a visit to Reading last season for the home match against Bolton, which he took in from the comfort of a West Stand box. Coincidentally, that was Nigel Adkins' last home game in charge of the Royals - coming a week before the 6-1 drubbing at Birmingham City.
Box at Reading game pic.twitter.com/swWUfpvVO8— Mika chunuonsee (@Chunuonsee16) December 7, 2014
As far as I see things, this kind of move is best kept in balance - as long as Steve Clarke is given such players as options rather than obligations, there's little harm to the club. Indeed, we could end up unearthing a future Thai superstar, although that is of course rather unlikely. Besides that, this is an important step in making Reading a household name in Thailand - with that comes very precious revenue for the long term.
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The original Thai article was translated with the help of a native Thai speaker. As such, the quote from Steve Clarke might not be word-for-word perfect. You can find the original piece here.