The transfer window proverbially slammed shut at 6pm this evening and with it a huge sense of euphoria for what is on the horizon at the Madejski Stadium. Whilst the summer didn't get off to the best start it's safe to say the grand finale was well worth the wait, with 11 players joining Steve Clarke's first team squad.
The Royals kicked off their summer by releasing a number of players considered deadwood—players like Jure Travner, Yakubu and Danny Guthrie. So far, so good.
It began to go downhill whenever, when a handful of first team players—and important dressing room personalities—all deciding their careers would be better of spent away from Berkshire. Despite being offered new contracts, Federici, Pearce and Karacan all confirmed their departures in the first few weeks of the transfer window.
Less important members of the squad also left, including perennial bench-warmer Mikkel Andersen and back-up defender Stephen Kelly. Limited but likeable midfielder Hope Akpan was released from his contract to join Blackburn Rovers.
Unlike more recent transfer windows, the Royals also loaned out a few youngsters for first team experience. Young forward Craig Tanner was the first to leave, joining League Two side Plymouth for the season. Jake Taylor made a switch to Motherwell and Aaron Kuhl also moved north of the border, signing up for Dundee United.
Two surprising sales happened in the final week of the window, with last season's first-choice striker and joint top-scorer Pavel Pogrebnyak (and his wages) sold to Dynamo Moscow.
Perhaps the most surprising departure is that of Michael Hector: an academy graduate with just one full season of Championship football under his belt, the Jamaican international signed for Premier League champions Chelsea for a reported £4m. Fortunately for the Royals, he's rejoined the club on loan for the season so the fans don't have to mourn his departure just yet.
A mixed bag of departures, with some important first team players leaving without any money going into The Royals' coffers, but a heap of deadwood shifted and the club finally managed to move the Big F'ing Russian's wages off of their books. The biggest negative of all is the sale of Hector for what strikes many as too small a fee. Ho hum.
The club began the summer with just one glaring hole in the squad: goalkeepers. With all three of Federici, Andersen and Henly leaving the club, Clarke had only young Stuart Moore to call upon. It was somewhat surprising, then, when the club's first bit of business in the summer was to add a striker. Orlando Sa joined the club after scoring 14 goals in 26 games with Legia Warsaw.
Next up, the free transfer of Stephen Quinn, who refused a contract offer from Hull City to make the switch to the Madejski Stadium. Following him through the door was another former Hull City player, Paul McShane. Two experienced, quality and proven players joining on free transfers? Yes please.
The goalkeeping department was finally looked at and two signings in the matter of days added depth and competition in a position that had been vacated at the season's end. Watford youngster Jonathan Bond joined, giving us our first peek at the new goalkeeper kit, whilst Ali Al-Habsi joined the club soon after.
Then the exciting players began to roll in. First up: Peruvian winger Paolo Hurtado. Supposedly a bundle of pace, skills and directness, this signing gave Reading fans a glimpse at what was to come.
Alex Fernandez joined on loan from Espanyol soon after, providing what many fans hoped would be a creative spark that's been missing from the midfield since the days of Gylfi Sigurdsson.
You thought that was exciting? Oh no. Clarke and Hammond weren't done there as they made a last-minute trolley dash for an array of attacking midfielders. In came the 'next Kaka' Lucas Piazon from Chelsea, in came former Championship Player of the Year and pacey striker Matej Vydra and in came speedy one-time Dutch international Ola John, each on a season-long loan deal from Chelsea, Watford and Benfica respectively.
Breathtaking. The summer got off to a decent start with the free transfers of proven Premier League performers Quinn and McShane but only got better as established, pacey attackers like Hurtado, Piazon and Vydra joined the club and offer Clarke an array of options to vary the Biscuitmen's forward line.
The downside being that neither Bond nor Al-Habsi have done a good job of inspiring confidence in the fans' eyes and proving themselves to be able replacements for Federici; whilst Clarke has also signed an assortment of players unproven at Championship level who may need time to adjust to the physicality of the league.
Ifs, buts and maybes aside, this summer looks like it may be the best ever by Reading Football Club.
All in one handy graphic