The start of the 2018/19 season might be creeping up fast, but transfer deadline day is creeping up even faster, as following the EFL’s vote in February it was confirmed that the window will slam shut on August 9th - six days after Reading’s opening game against Derby County.
It means that clubs only have just over two weeks left to bring in permanent signings, with loan moves still permitted up until August 31. At present, Reading’s incomings stand as follows: Andy Yiadom, David Meyler, John O’Shea, Marc McNulty and Darren Sidoel.
Is this sufficient business? On the one hand, at the time of writing only four other Championship clubs have bought more players than the Royals’ five so far this summer. Meanwhile only two - Bristol City and the bankrolled Nottingham Forest - have brought in more than six.
It could also be acknowledged that we had only signed three players by this point last summer, but a) the squad seemingly didn’t need too much an overhaul following a third place finish the season before and b) there were still 38 days left of the window as opposed to 16.
Moreover, should only one more player (or god forbid no more players) arrive through the door, then this will have been Reading’s quietest summer transfer window since 2014, when the club’s finances were all over the place with Anton Zingarevich having gone AWOL.
In terms of outgoings, Frenchmen Yann Kermorgant and Joseph Mendes, along with loanees Chris Martin and Tommy Elphick, are the only players to have featured in the league last season but no longer be in the squad. It means that Reading have the second lowest turnover of players in the Championship this summer, as per this graphic by experimental361.
Whilst this may not be so much of an issue if Reading had been competing in the top half of the Championship last season like Millwall, Brentford or Preston, the fact that the Royals squad was often heavily criticised as it laboured to 20th place could be cause for concern. Indeed, two other teams who struggled at the bottom of the table in 2017/18, Bolton Wanderers and Hull City, have had comfortably the biggest turnover of players.
This lack of sales could ultimately be what’s stopping Reading from bringing anyone else in. For one, there’s no advantage in having an overcrowded squad and therefore unhappy players who never feature, but more pressingly, is the money needed to buy players having to be generated by sales?
I say this because we have not actually received any money for players this summer. George Evans looked set to join Sunderland for just under £1 million but that appears to have hit a stumbling block, whilst Joey van den Berg’s proposed return to the Netherlands also seems to have stalled. Beyond those two, the only other player to have even been linked with a money move away from the Madejski Stadium has been the club’s most valuable asset Liam Moore, with Brighton warned off the £10 million defender.
As a result, the only new arrival this summer that has not been a free transfer is Marc McNulty, who cost the Royals a rumoured £1.2 million.
In terms of the money already at the club, CEO Ron Gourlay commented at the start of the summer: “There is money available to spend on the team.” Now this doesn’t indicate a spending spree as some people assumed, but it certainly doesn’t suggest that the club are struggling to find the money for transfers.
Perhaps the most interesting thing that Gourlay said was as follows:
“If the right player came along at the price we could afford then we would be prepared to pay the fee.”
The key word in that quote is the very first one. ‘If’. Reading’s recruitment wasn’t particularly impressive last summer, so it is at least promising to see that a more considered approach is being taken this time around. It would be silly to spend money just for the sake of it and it’s really only worth adding players who will improve the side.
A striker is clearly the priority, and Paul Clement had spoken about getting in one by the end of the Austria tour. Although that time period has now been and gone, it does potentially indicate that the funds are there for a deal to take place.
Beyond that, what is the likelihood of any other players coming in in the next two weeks? What positions need strengthening? Maybe a winger? Potentially a more attack minded midfielder? These are however positions that are generally the most expensive to buy in, and even the reports linking players with Reading appeared to have dried up.
As for who could viably be sold, Dave Edwards and Tyler Blackett might be free to go, but again no clubs have been rumoured to be interested in a duo that would only rack in minimal cash anyway.
Of course some transfers come out of the blue with rumours emerging just 24 hours before a player is pictured holding his new club’s shirt - see Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Vito Mannone last summer - so we’ll have to wait and see. The transfer window might be shutting earlier, but it will still go right to the wire.