Reading Director of Football Brian Tevreden has confirmed the club are in informal talks with Danny Williams over extending the midfielder's deal, which currently expires this summer. The question is, should Reading be putting pen to paper with the USA International or is this the right time to say goodbye?
Believe it or not, Williams is the fourth longest serving senior player currently at the club. Only Chris Gunter, Garath McCleary and Jordan Obita made their senior debuts before the midfielder, who came to the club from Hoffenheim in the summer of 2013, as one of Anton Zingarevich's final signings.
That last fact gets to the heart of the issue and why for me, it's probably time to part on good terms with Danny.
The Anton Factor
We all know the financial misery that Anton inflicted on the club. The Russian didn't have a lot of spare cash to splash on transfer fees, so instead he signed free agents and low cost signings and put them on huge wages to get them to come to Berkshire, while borrowing capital wherever he could. Pavel Pogrebnyak, Danny Guthrie, Wayne Bridge, Royston Drenthe and Williams himself all came to the club, while big new deals were given to players including Hal Robson-Kanu, Adam Federici and Jem Karacan. Over the years most of those have left the club with Williams the last player left on his original 'Anton' contract. It's a deal that's widely believed to be worth somewhere between £25,000-£35,000 per-week, or roughly £1.3-£1.8m a year, without bonuses or a signing on fee taken into account. That means it's cost us around £5-7m for the American to play for the club.
If we go up, that's not an issue but in the Championship, that's a pretty big chunk of change. Reading earned around £30m last season, a figure that's set to drop to around £23m next season. Is Williams worth 5-10% of our entire revenue?
Of course he might opt to take a pay cut, however is a player who turns 28 in March really going to want to slash his wages at what should be the peak of his career?
What We've Got So Far
In his four seasons at the club, Williams has notched up 120 Championship appearances, with 12 goals and just four assists. In that time Reading have finished 7th, 19th and 17th in the Championship, before this season's current bounce-back.
If you're a bean counter, based on those wages that's around £312,500-£437,500 for every goal he's been involved in. I'd say a couple of those strikes have been worth the money, not least his effort against Blackburn last season. Yet overall, that's a pretty poor return from a player that's usually had plenty of license to get forward.
Of course Williams' game is based on much more than just scoring goals, he's usually shown plenty of drive, energy and has got himself around the pitch to help push the team on. Yet the question for me has always been whether there's a better option out there and over the last few weeks the answer seems to be more and more yes.
Who Would Replace Him
John Swift and Liam Kelly have already shown that they're two of the most exciting prospects we've seen come through Reading Football Club for a long time. Both players have already had a hand in five goals this season, already around 1⁄3 of Williams' total from his entire Reading career. George Evans has also shown his growing maturity, with Joey van den Berg also doing just fine in front of the defence. Jaap Stam has hinted that Jordon Mutch has a clause in place to make his deal permanent, while fellow January signing Tiago Ilori is also able to operate in the midfield. On the Academy front, Josh Barrett continues his development after a promising introduction to first-team football last season, while who knows if Aaron Kuhl has a future at the Mad Stad.
For now Williams remains as good, if not a better option than many of those I've listed above, but come next season, I'd expect that situation to change whatever league we're in. For me he's not proved himself a Premier League quality starter, while at Championship level Williams is around average to good. WhoScored.com has him down as the 172nd best player in the division this season, just above Nick Powell, Gary O'Neil and Michael Mancienne, while below Lucas Piazon (165), Steve Sidwell (153), van den Berg (145), Kelly (137) and Swift (130).
Would he be able to do a solid job in a squad role or even occasional starter next season? Certainly in the Championship level and maybe to a lesser extent at Premier League level but at this stage isn't it time to see if someone can do better? The replacements I've mentioned above are almost all certainly on smaller wages while there's plenty of more attractive options available should we decide to invest in a player on similar money. The risks of letting Williams go are far lower than the rewards of finding someone better.
Time To Say Goodbye
Again, I've got nothing against Williams and he's a player that's provided a few good memories over the years. Yet he's not been worth the money we've been paying him and I think Reading can do better. This season he's got a big role to play but just as it was time to say goodbye to players like Paul Holsgrove, James Harper, Jay Tabb and others, it's now the right time to say bye to Williams, hopefully with a promotion winning medal around his neck.
So what would you do folks? Have your say in the comments section and place a vote in the poll below.