It seemed for a while as though Nick Blackman would be moving to Sheffield Wednesday, just a few places above Reading in the Championship table. Now, he's managed to land himself a move to one of the outright promotion favourites after securing a transfer to Paul Clement's Derby County.
Although the exact terms of the deal remain undisclosed (The Reading Way, alive and well), Charles Watts has plenty more details on the fee paid.
Three and a half year deal with Derby for Blackman - deal which could be worth up to £3m. #readingfc— Charles Watts (@charles_watts) January 5, 2016
This deal has left fans split on whether we should take the money or make him stay and try and help us towards promotion. At the time of writing, about 55% of people felt he was replacable whereas 45% wanted to see him stick around. Hoops wrote a piece yesterday on why selling Blackman now makes perfect sense, but any move like this is a massive gamble.
Blackman has been a revelation this season as he's finally had a campaign that built on all the untapped potential he had shown in previous years. The talent and the confidence aligned to see him smash 11 league goals in and take our first three Player Of The Month awards. As I researched yesterday he's been involved in nearly 50% of Reading's goals this season - an absurdly high figure.
But can he keep it up? At the start of the season I wrote a piece on how this could be his "Shane Long" season, a breakthrough campaign where finally everything comes together and he secures his place at the highest level. I don't think fans are truly convinced that has happened with Nick, who has scored just twice since October. He also yet again showed on Saturday against Bristol City the petulance and arrogance that distanced himself from Reading fans throughout his career - something Jamie argued in the same piece at the start of the campaign.
Ultimately it seems the Reading board have gambled on one of two things; that promotion is out of reach, or that it wasn't a decisive turning point for the divisive winger-cum-forward. And who knows, perhaps Blackman had already told management that he would test the market in the summer rather than sign a new deal at the Madejski?
Indeed, chief executive Nigel Howe told the official site:
"The club made extensive efforts to negotiate a new contract with Nick over the course of the last four or five months but no conclusion was forthcoming."
It's not a perfect transfer but it's at least one you can justify rationally - just about. Equally we'll only be able to judge if the squad is any stronger by the rest of the business done in January as a whole.
We know that Brian McDermott teams seem to pick up in the second half of the season, but now they'll have to get results without their most important player so far this campaign.