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Predicting Reading FC’s 2015/16 Squad Numbers

It’s about the time of year when squad numbers are usually announced and over-analysed. With so many players departing over the past 12 months, and many young players becoming bona fide first team options, Reading’s first team squad numbers are in need of a refresh.

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Pavel Pogrebnyak -> 9

Hal Robson-Kanu -> 7

Pogrebnyak already leaked this switch to the Russian media, feeling it might inspire him to score more goals:

What would be good to change before the start of next season is my team number. I've already agreed a trade-in with Hal Robson-Kanu. He plays as number 9, I'm number 7… Incidentally, I've never changed my number before, as I've never stayed anywhere more than three years. Reading will be the first club where I break this tradition.

#9 is traditionally a striker’s number, and #7 is usually given to a winger, so this switch makes complete sense. It will be the first time a winger has worn Reading’s #7 since the departure of Glen Little – Marek Matejovsky and Jay Tabb occupied it until Pogrebnyak's arrival. It’s the fourth number Robson-Kanu has worn at the club; he was assigned #37 in 2007/08, and then wore the #19 for six seasons.

Jonathan Bond -> 1

Ali Al-Habsi -> 26

Pierce Sweeney-> 24

With the departure of Reading’s first four goalkeepers this summer, the #1 shirt is up for grabs. Ali Al-Habsi is the senior goalkeeper, and therefore probably the favourite – but he always wore #26 for Bolton and Wigan. That could mean that Jonathan Bond receives the #1 shirt, even if he doesn't get the starting spot that usually comes with it.

There’s one complication – the #26 is currently occupied by Pierce Sweeney. If anything, Sweeney is further from first team action than a year ago, thanks to the rise of Jake Cooper. It’s possible we'll see him shifted to the teens, but those numbers are probably going to be reserved for young players on the fringes of the first team. A sideways move seems more likely for Sweeney.

Oliver Norwood -> 4

Anton Ferdinand -> 5

Michael Hector -> 6

Paul McShane -> 15

When Anton Ferdinand joined the club, #5 and #6 were occupied by Alex Pearce and Sean Morrison. Without the traditional centre back numbers available, Ferdinand chose #4, vacated by Jem Karacan’s switch to #21 in bizarre tribute to Andrea Pirlo. Days later, Sean Morrison left the club and Oliver Norwood joined. The result is that Norwood and Ferdinand are wearing the "wrong" numbers.

Ferdinand has switched to wearing the #5 twice before (at West Ham and Sunderland), and he also wore it for England U21s. It’s easy to see him making the change now. If Norwood moves to the #4, that frees up #6. Paul McShane would be the obvious choice to take it. However, Michael Hector has established himself as a firm fixture in Reading’s back line, and might also have half an eye on a first team shirt. McShane made the #15 his own at Hull. Given that Hector is currently occupying it, a four-way switch seems distinctly possible.

Stephen Quinn -> 8

Another arrival from Hull, Quinn would be the natural choice to take Danny Guthrie’s #8 spot. Quinn’s spent his long career wearing numbers in the high 20s. If he decides he wants to revisit them, #29 is free.

Danny Williams could take this number, but he passed on the opportunity to take the #4 last year and seems content with his #23. Promotion for Aarons Kuhl or Tshibola seems premature. If Quinn doesn’t want it, Orlando Sa or another new signing seems most likely to get the #8.

Orlando Sa -> 14

With Simon Cox and (now) Pavel Pogrebnyak occupying #9 and #10, the traditional strikers numbers are off limits to Sa… unless Cox leaves, or has his number changed. #14 is the lowest available squad number. Sa has previously worn the #21 and #70, perhaps suggesting a superstitious preference for multiples of 7, or perhaps suggesting I’m spending too long looking at old shirt numbers.

Tariqe Fosu -> 17

The young winger’s fine form in the U21s last season, combined with his electrifying debut on the last day of the season, an impressive pre-season, and the disappointing performances of the club’s other left wingers, has catapulted him into first team contention. His old #39 doesn’t reflect his current standing. #7 and #11 are probably unavailable, but #17 is a nice low squad number. Fittingly, it was also the number Bobby Convey wore.

Given their increased first team involvement, we’ll probably also see Dominic Samuel, Niall Keown, and Jake Cooper shifted from numbers in the thirties to #19, #20, and #21. Jack Stacey is unlucky to be injured at present, and so might miss out on a similar promotion, although #29 is available. This leaves Liam Kelly rather adrift on #38. Expect to see gaps in the numbering filled by first squad numbers for Nana Owusu, Dom Hyam, Sammi Fridjonsson, and Rob Dickie, as well as goalkeepers Lewis Ward and George Legg.

New Player -> 3?

With Stephen Kelly now gone, the #3 is available. That’s traditionally given to the left back. As Jordan Obita possesses a long term desire to occupy a more attacking position, vacating the #11 might be seen as admitting defeat. Steve Clarke has been open about his desire to sign three further players – surely one of them will be a full back?