The confirmed rumours of prized asset Liam Moore’s transfer request on Friday have left the Royals in a somewhat precarious position, with time to finish preparations ahead of the new season rapidly running out. The curtain raiser for that new season comes on Friday evening against Derby County.
Despite modelling the club’s new kit released prior to Saturday’s final pre-season friendly against Crystal Palace, Liam Moore’s omission from the squad and the resulting 4-0 defeat alarmingly demonstrated how keenly his absence may be felt. With Premier League Brighton And Hove Albion set to reignite interest having reportedly already had three bids knocked back, manager Paul Clement has naturally been keen to seek a resolution to a saga which has rumbled on for much of the summer.
In the absence of parachute payments, record low attendances for 2017/2018 and the club still harbouring more than £53 million in debt as of June 2017, funds generated from any impending sale could give the Royals’ hierarchy some much needed financial stability and in turn flexibility in the transfer market. Reading could recoup in excess of £10m for Moore, which could be used to help address the well-documented lack of firepower up front.
This summer’s speculation has seen Reading linked with numerous forwards including Peterborough United’s Marcus Maddison and Barnsley’s Tom Bradshaw, potentially good signings at this level, as well as the arrival of 28-goal Marc McNulty from Coventry City. In addition to Moore, George Evans - also accomplished in central defence - is set to move on, with Clement having not dismissed a swoop for former loanee Tommy Elphick from Aston Villa to plug the gap.
Minimal financial room for manoeuvre could well have been an underlying factor behind the Royals’ largely frugal transfer business to this point, with four of the six summer arrivals so far arriving on free transfers.
Whilst a replacement for Moore would still be imperative, defensively there have also been encouraging signs under Clement’s regime, with confidence slowly being instilled to shore up the back line. Saturday aside, Reading managed clean sheets against top-flight sides Fulham and Rubin Kazan in pre-season, and the acquisition of John O’Shea and return from injury of Paul McShane both provide extra nous and invaluable leadership for this division.
Tiago Ilori and Tyler Blackett still have unfulfilled potential with good pedigrees at a young age, while for the long-term the likes of Darren Sidoel, Axel Andresson and Tom Holmes are exciting prospects, the latter duo having made their debuts last season.
Ultimately however, few could begrudge Moore a return to the Premier League. Arguably Jaap Stam’s most astute signing during his ill-fated reign at a comparative snip of just £1m from Leicester City in 2016, Moore has emerged into a commanding physical and vocal presence at the heart of defence. Despite Reading’s desperate 2017/2018 campaign, his individual performances wavered minimally.
He deservedly won the club’s player of the season award, demonstrating heart, bravery and composure in possession, attributes which make him a highly sought after player for this generation. In only two seasons he has endeared himself to the Berkshire faithful with his immense determination and heart-on-the-sleeve attitude, and would undoubtedly be sorely missed should he get his wish to move on.