It’s not been a great month to be a Reading fan, but there’s still plenty of interest elsewhere for our loan players. Members of the Royals’ squad were sent out on temporary switches across England and in mainland Europe to give them the first-team experience they wouldn’t have got at the Mad Stad, so it’s time to check in and see how they’ve all been getting on.
Sam Smith (Oxford United)
It’s been a slow goal-scoring start to life at the three-sided Kassam Stadium for academy graduate Sam Smith. The 20 year-old registered a goal and an assist in a 3-0 home win over Fulham’s under-23s in the Checkatrade Trophy, but is otherwise yet to get off the mark.
However, Smith told the Oxford Mail recently that Karl Robinson’s advice has helped his development as a striker:
“Recently I’ve been working a lot with the manager on the timing of my runs into the box. (Against Fulham) that paid off because I was more central and I got the goal.
“As a young striker you can sometimes do too much. I was coming out wide and being dragged out of the positions I should be in.”
He’s played in all but one of United’s league games so far - they lost their opening four before beating Burton Albion on their own turf, with Smith dropped to the bench for a 1-1 draw at Sunderland. Nonetheless, he’s been featuring regularly, and he’ll overtake his Reading appearance total with another three starts or introductions from the bench for United. That League One experience should benefit him greatly in the long run.
Tennai Watson (AFC Wimbledon)
The young right-back had been a part of Neal Ardley’s first-team, missing just seven minutes of action in the Dons’ opening three league matches. However, after an injury that ruled him out of the next two, Watson came back in for a 3-0 tonking at Burton Albion before helping his side to a clean sheet and 1-0 win at Gillingham.
Dons fan Alex Mitchell told us the following about Watson’s progress so far:
“He had huge shoes to fill following the departure of our long-standing captain Barry Fuller but he’s taken to the challenge really well. He’s also come into the bars after a couple of games to chat to fans which is always appreciated.
“He looks calm and assured in our defensive line and played a key part in our early clean sheets. Unfortunately an injury during a warm-up kept him out of the team for a few games. Now he’s back I’m looking forward to him kicking on again in healthy competition with our home-grown prospect Toby Sibbick.”
Lewis Ward (Northampton Town)
Clean sheets: 0
After last season’s impressive loan spells at Hungerford and Aldershot, Lewis Ward moved up to play League One football with Northampton Town. Unfortunately, he’s only played two times for the Cobblers so far - both of them in cup games against Wycombe Wanderers. The first ended in a 7-6 penalty shoot-out win for the Chairboys, with the South Bucks side taking a 1-0 victory in the other.
However, he was still pleased to play a professional game for the first time, telling the Northampton Chronicle in mid-August:
“I’ve bided my time in the lower leagues. I’ve played in the Conference South and Conference Prem and gradually worked my way up.
“I’ve had to be patient but I’ve finally stepped into the league. Northampton are a big club and for me it’s a great place to be and a great stepping stone so hopefully I enjoy my time here and get some good games.”
Andrija Novakovich (Fortuna Sittard)
Novakovich has continued last season’s goal-scoring form with two strikes in his opening four at top-tier Dutch side Fortuna Sittard. The young American striker has played every minute of Fortunezen’s games so far, grabbing goals against PSV Eindhoven and FC Utrecht.
Axel Andresson (Viking)
The Icelandic centre-half could have been pushing for first-team involvement at Reading this season, but the retention of Liam Moore and addition of John O’Shea meant that’s a non-starter. Instead, he joined Norwegian side Viking - their season (and his loan spell) finishes in mid-November.
Andresson wasn’t in Viking’s squad for a home win over Strommen IF, and made it to the bench for a 3-0 loss at Sandnes Ulf. However, he was given his debut - and the full 90 minutes - in a 3-0 victory against Levanger FK. That result leaves Viking second in the table, three points off the top. If they stay put, they’ll be promoted to the top tier.
Jokull Andresson and Liam Driscoll (Hungerford Town)
Played: 4 / 5
Clean sheets: 1 / 1
We’ll lump these two chaps together as, unfortunately, Jokull Andresson picked up an injury whilst at Hungerford. Reading kindly honoured their “lose one young Reading goalie, get another free” deal by sending Liam Driscoll to Bulpit Lane instead.
By that point, Jokull had played four games including a 6-0 home thrashing by Chelmsford City, coming off against Hemel Hempstead. Driscoll appeared in the subsequent five, but got off to a disappointing start with a 4-0 loss to Concord Rangers in his opening match.
Driscoll's loan spell at Hungerford has now finished, with the youngster heading back to Reading.
Danzell Gravenberch (KSV Roeselare)
Danzell continues his Reading exile with another loan spell at KSV Roeselare. He’s been in their matchday squad on five occasions so far, making the bench three times and playing the full 90 minutes twice - as a centre half on both occasions.
Joey van den Berg (NEC)
It’s unlikely we’ll ever see Joey in a Reading shirt again, especially after he said he was “glad to be rid of” the Royals when his current loan move went through. Nonetheless, he’s made a fine start to life at Dutch side NEC Nijmegen, playing in all four of their opening league games. In fact, he’s missed just three minutes so far - the tail end of a 2-2 draw, the only time NEC have dropped points this season.
In the subsequent three matches, Joey’s side have won at Utrecht (he got an assist in the process), beaten Gravenberch’s former club FC Dordrecht and claimed a late victory away at Roda thanks to an 81st-minute penalty.
George Legg (Aldershot)
Clean sheets: 0
Legg was the latest Reading ‘keeper to head out on loan (there’s now five in total), joining Aldershot Town on Friday. However, he went straight into the Shots’ starting line-up and helped them to their first league win in three, which came from an 87th-minute 3-2 home victory over Bromley.
My stand-out loanee: Tennai Watson
There were doubts over whether or not the youngster could adjust his game to regular football at League One level but, on the basis of his start to life at Kingsmeadow, he’s more than capable of that. Watson is playing regularly, has bounced back from injury already and is even impressing the Dons fans.
NB: Young goalie Adam Desbois is on loan at Hartley Wintney of the Southern League Premier South division but we don’t have enough info about his progress so far.
Which of these loanees do you most want to see get a chance in the Reading team? Leave us a comment below.