Paul Clement may have only been at Reading for a few months, but it’s clear that he wants to make big changes at the club over the next few months. He inherited a pretty poor squad from predecessor Jaap Stam, and has already set about reinvigorating it. Within the last few weeks, Andy Yiadom has come in on a free transfer from Barnsley, whilst a raft of squad players were told that their contracts would not be renewed when they expire at the end of next month.
Speaking to BBC Berkshire on Friday, Clement seemed to suggest that additional signings could be joining Yiadom in coming through the door at Reading imminently. He told Ady Williams:
“Even since the season finished, we've been busy with lots of telephone calls, particularly on the recruitment side of things, so hopefully we'll be able to do some good business over the summer, and have a good start to next season.”
“We're close to doing a couple of other things, which hopefully we'll know about in the next couple of weeks. Maybe towards the end of the window, something in the forward positions.”
There’s no word on what those “couple of other things” could be, although the club have been strongly linked with the likes of Peterborough creative spark Marcus Maddison and midfielder David Meyler, who’ll soon be released by Hull City.
Either way, despite acknowledging that the striker hunt could take a while, to me Clement’s comments imply that he’s keen to get Reading’s transfer business done early. Normally I’d brush off “[having] a good start to next season” as the kind of generic, vague statement that managers love using nowadays, but it fits in with a recent Ron Gourlay interview on why things were so bad in 2017/18 - which you can read here in The Wokingham Paper:
“Some new signings and other players did not join first team training until very late, just a week or two before the season started. I think that definitely had an impact.”
With that in mind, we can safely assume that the manager and Chief Executive are after a different approach this time around. Make sure deals done quickly, give them time to gel over the summer, and get the team off to a strong start in August.
The early arrival this month, Andy Yiadom, was also mentioned by Clement in his interview with Williams - the former Swansea City boss stressing the need for competition at right back.
“We've got Gunter as a right back but apart from that, only really young players from the [under] 23s that are pushing for that spot, so Andy's gonna give us good competition.”
However, the manager seemed to speak a lot more assuredly about his intentions in bolstering another part of the squad: the forwards. Jon Dadi Bodvarsson scored just seven league goals last season, whilst Yann Kermorgant (2), Chris Martin (1) and Sam Smith (1) weren’t exactly free-scoring either. Clement didn’t hide frustrations, saying:
“It's no secret that we need to be better in that position. I think we had five strikers in the first team squad last year, and collectively there wasn't enough goals between them. I'd rather that be a smaller group of players but higher in quality and that's what we're gonna try and do.”
The fifth striker is presumably Joseph Mendes, who registered one assist in his three league appearances.
Despite the departures of Mendes and Deniss Rakels, who are among the group to be released, not to mention the forgettable Chris Martin, Reading will still have Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, Yann Kermorgant, Sam Smith, Danny Loader and the returning Andrija Novakovich on their books. It also doesn’t help that Kermorgant is due to retire in 2019, whereas the young trio have 14 Reading appearances between them (Smith 11, Novakovich two, Loader one).
That all makes at least one quality addition up front vital (isn’t it every summer?) - perhaps more than one if Clement is reluctant to promote a youngster. Who that ‘quality addition’ ends up being is anyone’s guess.
You can keep track of all the baseless speculation and gossip in our summer-long transfer rumour tracker: