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The Case For Keeping Sam Baldock

Although one of the highest earners on an overloaded wage bill, the striker has what it takes.

Aston Villa v Reading - Sky Bet Championship - Villa Park Photo by Anthony Devlin/EMPICS/PA Images via Getty Images

Reading’s transfer window has been dominated by trimming expensive squad members who have failed to make the grade in a failing side. But let’s be realistic: they won’t all go.

Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Liam Kelly are the only major names to have left - for a combined £750,000, all on the Iceland striker - and they are arguably the more saleable assets we are trying to dislodge.

Garath McCleary has many qualities but age, fitness and his goalscoring record aren’t among them. Chris Gunter is a high earner who’s never won promotion. David Meyler is the wrong side of 30 and barely played last season. Marc McNulty is only of interest to League One level clubs. And Sam Baldock?

Baldock scored just five times last season, is also now 30, and missed a number of games through injury. He is also a high earner as the final marquee signing of the doomed Ron Gourlay era. So why was he the only one of the aforementioned transfer-listed quintet to make the trip to Spain?

Jose Gomes barely got a chance with Baldock last season. The striker got injured in the Christmas period and only returned to the fold for the final few games, by which point Reading had a settled team on a decent run.

Preston North End v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Chris Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images

Before that injury, his scoring record was average to poor but there were fleeting glimpses of a player with bags of Championship experience. His late penalty equaliser at Aston Villa was a huge pressure test - one McNulty managed to fail weeks later at Leeds United. And his goals - generally poacher’s efforts - came while being shifted between the centre-forward and left-wing in an oft-rotated, crap team.

At time, it even looked like he was capable of forming a partnership with McNulty. That is out the window now but Baldock showed what Bodvarsson didn’t in those moments: reasonable technique. Gomes knows he has a use if he is capable of making passes, getting in the box, and finishing off chances.

Reading’s strikeforce is incredibly inexperienced going into the new season. Danny Loader and Andrija Novakovich have one Championship goal between them, and Yakou Meite will probably play out wide. If we can’t sell Baldock, we can do a lot worse than utilise his experience, Championship pedigree, and ability to play the Gomes way.