After two seasons under self-imposed transfer austerity (or 'Royals-terity' if you will…ok...you don't have to), Reading have more than made up for their time out of the market this summer with a series of impressive signings. Arguably amongst all these new arrivals, it is a flurry of deadline day loan acquisitions, including that of Watford striker Matej Vydra, that has got many of the fans the most excited.
This is not without good reason, as Reading do have a history of success in the loan market, with several key figures of our recent success having made a huge impact during their short stays at the Madejski Stadium, as these players show:
MARCUS HAHNEMANN 2001/02 SEASON (6 apps)
Brought in on loan from Fulham as cover for the injured Phil Whitehead in the winter of 2001, Hahnemann quickly established himself as a formidable shot stopper. Despite his short stay with the club, the big American endeared himself to Royals fans, becoming the most popular American import our town has arguably ever seen (and we have a CostCo).
Despite making just six appearances for the Royals in his initial loan spell, Hahnemann nonetheless played a key role in sustaining their promotion push around the tricky Christmas period by helping the side to four consecutive wins and clean sheets.
Returning to Craven Cottage in early February 2002, we wouldn't have to wait long to see Hahnemann in Reading colours again as he signed on a free transfer at the end of the season. Of course from then on, he became a club hero, playing a key role in both our record-breaking Championship winning season of 2005/06 and our first ever Premier League season in 2006/07. A true Royals legend.
MATTHEW UPSON 2002/03 SEASON (15 apps, 1 goal)
After promotion in the previous season, Alan Pardew sought to shore up his defence to manage with life in the tricky realms of Division One. The man he turned to was Arsenal's Matthew Upson, who had seen injuries and the presence of defensive titans such as Igor Stepanovs and Oleg Luzhny hinder his chances to stake a claim in the Gunners starting line-up.
Arsenal's loss was our gain, as the Premier League winner brought an abundance of class and experience to our defence. The Royals managed 10 clean sheets in his 14 appearances, six of which were part of a consecutive winning run.
Following a £1m move to Birmingham, Upson went on to make his England debut later that very season, showing how high calibre a coup this was for Reading and the game-changing effect that such a loan signing can have on a team's prospects. Upson was one of a trinity of key loan signings that saw Reading mount a stunning 2002/03 Division One campaign which culminated in a third place finish, yet unfortunately play-off heartbreak at the hands of Wolverhampton Wanderers.
LUKE CHADWICK 2002/03 SEASON (15 apps, 1 goal)
Chadwick, the second key loan arrival for Reading of the 2002/03 season, began his campaign with appearances for Manchester United in the Champions League against the likes of the previous year's runners-up Bayer Leverkusen. So, like with Upson, the fact that Reading were able to snap up such an exciting, young and English talent was a sign of the growing ambition and reputation of the club. Chadwick dazzled on the wings, immediately making an impact with a debut goal against Gillingham as he set about maintaining the Royals' play off push.
GLEN LITTLE 2002/03 SEASON (6 apps)
The final member of the aforementioned 'Trinity' of key loan signings is arguably one of the most popular men to ever don the blue and white hoops of Reading. Glen Little quickly became a cult figure at the club, with his attacking flair and mazy runs down the right wing playing a crucial role in the critical run-in period of our '02/'03 season. His colourful personality made him a fan favourite, so many were delighted to see him rejoin the club in 2004.
Throughout the record-breaking 2005/06 season, the mercurial Little continued to maraud through any defence he came up against, and despite the latter stages of his Royals' career being scattered with spells on the sidelines, he remains in many people's eyes, one of the most beloved players to appear for the club.
RYAN BERTRAND 2009/10 (51 apps, 1 goal)
The signing of Ryan Bertrand on loan from Chelsea remains one of the (very) few positive things to come out of the Brendan Rodgers era. Having to fill the boots of the popular Chris Armstrong, who himself had been tasked with replacing arguably our greatest ever left back in Nicky Shorey, Bertrand made 51 appearances in his solitary season with the club, adding pace and dynamism to both defence and attack.
He featured in a successful run to the quarter finals of the FA Cup, including that famous extra time victory over Liverpool at Anfield, and even notched up his first ever professional goal against Derby. Since then, he has gone on to win a Champions League final (the first player to appear in one on his CL debut) and become a regular Premier League starter for Southampton. Not a bad effort.
ZURAB KHIZANISHVILI 2009/10 and 2010/11 season (44 apps)
One of the biggest names (literally) to ever join the Royals, Zurab Khizinanishvili served as a rock at the heart of the Reading defence during his season-and-a-half stay at the Mad Stad. Another signing made in the 2009/10 season, Khizanishvili also played a key role in steadying the ship after Rodgers' brief tenure in charge.
His years of Premier League experience was a huge factor in leading us out of a potential relegation dogfight towards stability and even a cup run which ended in quarter final defeat to Aston Villa. His loan stay was extended by a further season, where the big Georgian's defensive prowess helped us reach the Play-Off Final (the less said about that the better).
MIKELE LEIGERTWOOD 2010/11 SEASON (29 apps, 2 goals)
Leigertwood can be a man who splits opinion amongst Royals fans, but he undoubtedly had a large impact on the Royals' successful pursuit of a play-off place in '10/'11. Brought in as a holding midfielder on loan from QPR, the Antigua and Barbuda international was part of a squad that pieced together a 13 game unbeaten run in the second half of the season that saw them sneak into the top six.
He also of course entered club folklore in 2012, by scoring the goal against Nottingham Forest that secured our second spell in the promised land of the Premier League, after having signed for the club permanently in the summer of 2011.
So who do you think deserves the title of our greatest ever loan signing? One of these seven, or someone that we've left out of our shortlist? Let us know by voting in our poll or leaving us a comment below!