As Jose Gomes and his players return to Berkshire after their two-week tour of Spain, there will be mixed feelings on its success. On the pitch, Reading scored 12 and conceded three, keeping clean sheets in nine of the 12 halves played. However, off it, Gomes will be frustrated at the lack of signings he was able to integrate on the tour with only Joao Virginia able to make his debut after arriving on loan from Everton.
The inaugural game against Gibraltar United was used as simply a confidence booster; Paco Luna’s side finished sixth in the Gibraltar Premier Division in 2018/19 and proved little resistance for Gomes’ men as they strolled casually to a 10-0 win. Danny Loader picked up a hat-trick with Yakou Meite and Jordan Holsgrove each claiming a brace for themselves as Andrija Novakovich, Josh Barrett and Tom McIntyre ensured the final goal tally reached double figures.
Three days later, the Royals faced their toughest test on the tour when they came up against five-time Europa League winners Sevilla. The first team held their own for the duration of 45 minutes before the under-23s came out and put the Royals ahead through a Novakovich header from a corner.
Former Barcelona and Manchester City man Nolito equalised form the spot nine minutes later before Jose Lara grabbed the winner four minutes from time - a defeat, but one in which the Reading players could come out of which with their heads held high.
Joao Virginia then kept a clean sheet on his debut against a Malaga B side before Sam Walker completed the same feat later that day as a Danny Loader penalty proved to be the difference between Reading and Segunda Division outfit Extremadura. The Azulgranas were formed just over a decade ago, yet their meteoric from the sixth division to the second meant they were strong opponents for Gomes’ players with many getting their first 90 minutes of the tour under their belts.
The final set of games was rounded off with 1-0 defeats to League Two champions Lincoln City and La Liga outfit Granada. Both were again respectable defeats as it was largely the under-23s that came up against Danny Cowley’s side before the first XI went toe to toe against a team who ply their trade alongside Barcelona and Real Madrid. It is also of note that Granada made wholesale changes at half time compared to the Royals who made just one substitution throughout the contest and, as fatigue inevitably set in, Ramon Azeez grabbed the winner 12 minutes from time.
What should we take from the tour?
Results wise the tour can largely be considered a success. After comprehensively overcoming Gibraltar, the youth side held their own against Lincoln and most impressively Sevilla while the seniors also restricted two La Liga sides and one of the best up-and-coming teams in Spain to one goal between them.
However, Gomes has rightly expressed concerns about a lack of signings and, with the soft transfer embargo finally lifted, he will hope to bring in a multitude of new faces in the coming week. Ideally, these new players would have been integrated on the tour as this is not only the prime time to work on squad fitness but also team morale meaning any new incomings will be singing their initiation songs on the way to Hull rather than in sunny Marbella.
Despite these concerns, the benefits of the tour for those that did travel was clear and obvious to everybody. Not only did it test the squad against some top-quality European opposition but also in coming out of those games feeling stronger, fitness and more importantly confidence will have improved.
Gomes will test his players further this upcoming week with friendlies against Peterborough and then Chelsea - the latter of which will provide the sternest test prior to the start of the season against Sheffield Wednesday on August 3.