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Reading FC Position Previews: Goalkeeper

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With just two weeks until the season kicks off, we start our look at each section of the squad, starting with the last line of defence - the goalkeeper.

Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

Ins:

Ali Al Habsi (Wigan Athletic, free transfer), Jonathan Bond (Watford, undisclosed)

Outs:

Adam Federici (Bournemouth, free transfer), Mikkel Andersen (FC Midtjylland, free transfer)

Already in squad:

Stuart Moore, George Legg, Lewis Ward

Quick Analysis:

Although it was likely to be sorted in the end, Royals fans had a legitimate worry that the season could kick off without a senior goalkeeper after the departures of Adam Federici and Mikkel Andersen. However, manager Steve Clarke moved quickly to replace like for like, as the experienced Ali Al Habsi joined on a free transfer, whilst England U21 international Jonathan Bond was allowed to leave Watford to join the Royals. Suddenly, a position of weakness looks to have depth to it, and an intriguing battle is taking place heading into the season - and likely over the next nine months as well.

The Contenders:

Ali Al Habsi - the 33-year-old will be very familiar to fans of English football, having plied his trade on these shores for the past ten years. He joined Premier League side Bolton Wanderers in 2006 from Norwegian side Lyn Oslo, but didn't appear for the Trotters until 2007 after injury to incumbent Jussi Jaaskilainen. A loan move to Wigan Athletic eventually came in 2010 and he was subsequently named their Player of the Season.

He signed permanently for the Latics and made 115 League appearances in total during his time at the DW Stadium, though during his last two seasons with Wigan he was battling Scott Carson for the number one jersey. Former England 'keeper Carson got the better of the Omani and overtook Al Habsi in the pecking order, but neither will be at the club for their 2015-16 League One campaign.

Jonathan Bond - aged just 22 and having had experience with England's U21 side (5 caps), Bond looks a goalkeeper with a big future ahead of him. Being behind Gomes at newly-promoted Watford, it was only natural for him to leave to further his career, though he has another battle on his hands to cement his place between the sticks.

During his six years with the Hornets, Bond made 22 appearances for the first team, although he was backup to Scott Loach, Manuel Almunia then the aforementioned Gomes in that time. He didn't disgrace himself in any of those performances though, even earning a man of the match award for his role in a clean sheet at Hull City. He's also had loan spells at Bury, Dagenham & Redbridge and Forest Green to improve his game.

Stuart Moore - the 20-year-old spent last season on loan at Basingstoke Town, picking up their Player Of The Season award for his string of performances down the road in Hampshire. He may spend time on loan higher up the pyramid this season but is unlikely to challenge Bond or Al-Habsi.

Lewis Ward - One of the next batch of Academy Graduates, the 18 year old has been included in England youth training camps and is now getting game time with the under 21s. Hard to see him getting any time and could head out on loan.

George Legg - another youngster to come through the ranks, Legg spent time at Dunstable Town last campaign and is likely to head out again this season.

The Verdict:

Very tough to pick between the new goalkeepers and Steve Clarke hasn't picked a favourite in our friendlies, splitting time equally for Al Habsi and Bond. We asked you who your first choice would be earlier this month and you just gave Bond the edge. However, the manager seems to value experience and there's no doubting that the Oman international has that advantage, so Ali Al-Habsi might have the jersey initially. But with the young English prospect putting the pressure on, the battle will no doubt rage throughout the season.

Who's your pick to win the jersey? Could we see rotation throughout the season? Let us know your thoughts.