How the full-backs did last season
Andy Yiadom arrived on a free transfer last summer and was one of Reading’s best players throughout the campaign, winning The Tilehurst End’s Player of the Year award. He played 90 minutes in all bar one of the 46 league games, impressing not only as a reliable part of the defence, but as an attacking option too - only Mo Barrow (six) registered more assists than the Ghanaian international (four). Mr Consistent, Yiadom was one of the first names on the teamsheet whether that be at right or left back, while he also filled in at centre back and in midfield.
His success limited the vastly experienced Chris Gunter to the least game time he’s had in any Championship season at Reading. The Welshman was criticised for his performances early on in the season, and saw just 89 minutes of action between December and the start of April. However, he came back into the side for the final six games of the campaign clearly feeling he had a point to a prove, and played noticeably better.
It’s now 20 months injured for Jordan Obita, who the Royals have certainly missed on the left hand side. Although that’s perhaps being unfair to Tyler Blackett, who had his best season in a Reading shirt to date. The former Manchester United man has grown in confidence, making him less of a defensive liability and more of a reliable part of the backline.
2017/18’s breakout star Omar Richards started the opening day defeat to Derby and also featured in the first few games of José Gomes’s reign, but injury ruled him out for two months before he ended the season back with the under-23s. Fellow academy star Teddy Howe became the fifth graduate of the season to make his senior debut when he came on in second half stoppage time against Birmingham City on the final day.
Tennai Watson spent the season at AFC Wimbledon, making 27 appearances in all competitions. Most of these came in the first half of the campaign though, and the 22-year-old featured just twice in the last 15 games as the Dons secured League One survival on the final day.
Left-back Ramarni Medford-Smith, who spent a period of 2018/19 with Wealdstone in the National League South, is another academy option.
Who might leave?
Both Gunter and Blackett have just 12 months left on their current contracts, so the club may decide to cash in on them this summer rather than letting them leave for nothing in a year’s time.
Wigan, Stoke, Nottingham Forest and Middlesbrough were all said to be interested in Blackett in January, with bids of up to £500,000 rumoured to have been made. Meanwhile, Gunter may decide that it’s best for his career to call time on his seven year stay in Berkshire, as regular football doesn’t look guaranteed for the 29-year-old.
He has also lost his place in the Wales starting XI, and he’s unlikely to win it back if he isn’t starting every week for the Royals. It’s also worth noting that Obita’s contract also runs out next summer, but you would expect he’d be given a chance to prove himself when back fit before any decision is made on his future.
In addition, at least one of academy quartet Watson, Richards, Howe and Medford-Smith will likely go out on loan, as none appear quite ready for regular Championship football just yet. Richards is undoubtedly the closest, but even six months in League One might be beneficial.
Watson may even decide to leave permanently, as at 22 years old he could be keen to find a long-term home rather than go out on loan again with no guarantee he’ll make the grade at Reading.
Finally, it has been confirmed that 20-year-old Cameron Green will not have his contract renewed for next season.
Who might come in?
With Yiadom expected to continue as first choice right-back with one of Gunter, Watson or Howe as his understudy, it seems unlikely José Gomes will look to bring in someone new. He may though be tempted to improve his options at left-back, given we’re still unsure as to when Obita will return and how long it will take him to get up to speed.
Considering that finances are tight, the club may look to enter the free agent market as they did with Yiadom last summer - Martin Olsson (Swansea), Jake Bidwell (QPR), Jonas Knudsen (Ipswich) and Daniel Pudil (Sheffield Wednesday) have all been released in recent weeks.
Other options are really anyone’s guess, but I’ll make a left-field suggestion (literally) in the shape of former Real Madrid left-back Fábio Coentrão. Wages will probably be a stumbling block to sign the 31-year-old, although he did say “I don’t mind dying poor” after taking a pay cut to sign for Rio Ave last summer (you won’t, Fábio, you were at Real Madrid for seven years).
He is set to depart the Primeira Liga side after just a year, criticising the state of Portuguese football and saying he wants to move abroad. The reason of course I make this link is that José Gomes was Rio Ave manager for the first half of 2018/19, signing Coentrão for the club.