Reading Football Club has begun the summer of 2019 with a softly-softly approach to the market. By which I mean, they’re under a “soft” transfer embargo whereby players must be sold before they can be bought, at which point the EFL must green light any arrival to ensure the club isn’t breaching Profit & Sustainability rules.
That makes it very likely that the Royals will have to wait it out in the market and push for last-minute deals on the eve of the new season, with loans allowed until the end of August. Here, we look at how the club has fared in that regard with a look specifically on summer deals, given the unique manner of the January window not applying yet.
The term “Sone Aluko” is synonymous with the term “flop” and his August 29th arrival in 2017 was largely caused by negotiation struggles that, ultimately, wasn’t worth the bother.
It would appear that making marquee signings late on in the window doesn’t work for Reading. Lucas Piazon, Matej Vydra and Ola John all arrived in the last couple of days of the 2015 summer to plenty of fanfare, but poor results. Perhaps we needn’t worry about splurging that level of cash (Vydra’s loan reportedly cost £2.5m) this season.
The lesson appears to be that you want the players you will build your squad around through the door as soon as possible. After all, Vydra and co had barely played for months before debuting in September. On the other hand, Dave Mooney and Eric Obinna were rubbish late signings - probably because they were rubbish players.
Some unwanted players plucked from other clubs manage to get straight to business in Berkshire. Liam Moore’s escape from Leicester City was drawn out but the completion of his arrival on August 19th 2016 gave Reading a player who was very determined to reignite his career.
And while Aluko’s eventual deal didn’t work in his favour, Kaspars Gorkss arrived from QPR having decided to come while driving to a medical at Southampton. The Latvian was the plug-and-play experienced head we thought we were getting in Aluko, and who we certainly got when Ian Harte and Ulisses de la Cruz drifted over the line late in the day.
Like Harte, Adam le Fondre and Jamie Cureton came from lesser teams and hit the ground running, filling desperately needed positions and ready to prove themselves at a level that probably didn’t interest Vydra and Piazon so much.
Also in this category, steady pros Chris Armstrong, Liam Rosenior and Jobi McAnuff are worth mentioning. The latter didn’t start particularly well but was given time to develop on and off the pitch by managers who trusted him.
Players who don’t sink too deep or swim too fast tend to be signed as late-window squad cover signings. Josh Sims, Joseph Mills, Stuart Taylor and Pete Mate were never truly meant to revolutionise the teams they were signed to but did a job if and when required.
Then there are those who were arguably never good enough or in good enough teams to make a massive difference. See the poorly deployed playmaker Oli Norwood, the inconsistent Tyler Blackett, the short-term target man Gregorz Rasiak, and the oft-injured Saeid Ezatolahi.
This category is probably the most prevalent to today. Jose Gomes has little chance of making marquee signings this summer so we probably needn’t fear another Aluko. And other clubs’ outcasts and lower league gems have a pretty middling rate of success.
What has worked in the past may well be our best shot. That means buying players specifically to fill first-team positions rather than general squad cover, and opting for experience over youth.