After their 0-0 draw with Fulham yesterday, Reading jet off to Austria this morning for the next part of their preparations for the upcoming season. The Royals will face Turkish side Beşiktaş and Rubin Kazan of Russia on the six day-long trip, and Paul Clement has picked the following 26 players as part of the squad:
Sone Aluko, Leandro Bacuna, Modou Barrow, Tyler Blackett, Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, Pelle Clement, David Edwards, George Evans, Chris Gunter, Tiago Ilori, Anssi Jaakkola, Liam Kelly, Danny Loader, Vito Mannone, Marc McNulty, Paul McShane, Yakou Meite, David Meyler, Liam Moore, John O’Shea, Omar Richards, Andy Rinomhota, Sam Smith, John Swift, Lewis Ward, Andy Yiadom
Whilst on the face of it this is just a 26-man squad containing goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders and forwards, you can read more into it than you think...
Callum Harriott might be the most injury-prone player ever
Having played in the friendlies against Eastleigh and Wimbledon, Callum Harriott looked on the right track to start the new season fit and healthy after a lengthy spell on the sidelines. But it is indeed the hope that kills you, as it has been confirmed that the winger is injured again - missing the Fulham friendly and now the trip to Austria.
Harriott has not played a competitive game for the first team since December 30th 2016, in which he damaged his hamstring just minutes before the game against Fulham was abandoned. A series of set-backs restricted him from returning earlier and now it seems his absence will be go on for a while yet.
The club also confirmed that Adrian Popa has picked up an injury that rules him out of the Austria trip, whilst Jordan Obita and Garath McCleary will continue to recover at home following injuries attained last season.
Joey van den Berg has no future at Reading
Whilst the exclusions of the likes of Harriott and Popa have been attributed to injury, there is no mention at all of Joey van den Berg, indicating Paul Clement is looking to offload him this summer.
The Dutchman has played no part in any of the three pre-season friendlies so far, and also found his game time pretty limited after Clement replaced Jaap Stam as manager at the back end of last season.
He has one year left on his contract at the Madejski Stadium and has been linked with a loan move to FC Utrecht in the Netherlands, but The Chronicle have claimed that a deal has a hit a stumbling block over van den Berg’s wages.
A future for Tyler Blackett?
One man who has been included in the squad despite speculation about his future is Tyler Blackett. The former Manchester United defender has failed to impress in his first two years in Berkshire, and it was thought Paul Clement might look to move him on this summer with just 12 months left on his contract.
Omar Richards is probably the first choice left-back with Jordan Obita still out injured, whilst Chris Gunter has played there in pre-season, so Blackett’s inclusion despite this suggests he may well be given another chance.
Dave Edwards was not included in the squad to face Fulham yesterday, sparking rumours that he could also be heading for the exit door, but the former Welsh international will go to Austria.
Little faith being put in youngsters
One noticeable observation from the Austria squad is that it is predominantly first-team focused. All of the players (excluding the new signings) have played a senior game for Reading apart from goalkeeper Lewis Ward, whilst just five players are 21 years old or younger.
This is in contrast to the squad that Jaap Stam took to Holland last summer, which including nine academy players. Stam would go on to give four of those players their debut in 2017/18, but it seems unlikely that Clement will take a similar stance to youth this coming campaign.
Signing another striker must be a priority
Jon Dadi Bodvarsson will link up with the Reading squad for the first time since his World Cup adventure which boosts the squad’s attacking options, but it is evident that reinforcements are still needed.
With Yann Kermorgant’s contract cancellation earlier this week, Bodvarsson and new man Marc McNulty are the only senior centre forwards in the squad, with Sam Smith and Danny Loader also included from the academy. Yakou Meite has played as a striker in the pre-season friendlies so far, but realistically that cohort of five is not strong enough to lead the line for a whole Championship season.
Encouragingly, it seems that Paul Clement realises that fact, and suggested after the Fulham friendly yesterday that a deal for another frontman could be close.
Paul Clement says Reading are closing in on signing another attacker - who may join the squad for trip to Austria. Bodvarsson joins squad on Weds. pic.twitter.com/KQUVnF3A4k— Tim Dellor (@TimDellor) July 14, 2018
Ward to be third choice goalkeeper?
Reading are looking pretty healthy in the goalkeeping department right now, with Vito Mannone and Anssi Jaakkola experienced options between the sticks and Lewis Ward, George Legg and Luke Southwood seeming to be promising shot-stoppers from the academy.
It has been widely thought that one of the three youngsters would be third choice behind Mannone and Jaakkola this season, and if the Austria squad is anything to by, it will be Ward who takes that spot. The 21-year-old spent the second half of last season on loan at Aldershot and signed a new two year deal this summer, but is yet to make a first team appearance.
As for Legg and Southwood, loan moves look most likely for a duo who spent time at Barnet and Bath respectively in 2017/18.