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What Happened To The Royals That Left The Mad Stad In 2019? Part One

As the January 2020 transfer window gets going, here’s a closer look at the players who left the Royals permanently in 2019 and how they are performing for their new clubs.

Pre-Season Friendly”FC Red Bull Salzburg v Feyenoord”

Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly was a fan favourite during his time at Reading and his departure was somewhat unexpected having come through the academy and made his name one of the first on the team sheet. The Irishman put in some unforgettable performances during his time with the Royals, including his game-changing substitute appearance away to Bristol City. With Reading 2-0 down, he helped turn the game on its head with 20 minutes to go and Reading went on to win 3-2.

He also scored some absolute beauties during his time at the Mad Stad. His long-range effort against Derby County in particular is one that stands out. His vision and passing were undoubtedly his stronger attributes but ultimately he failed to unlock his potential and paid the price under Jose Gomes.

Kelly was brilliant under Jaap Stam so it came as no surprise when he was offered the opportunity to play under him again at Feyenoord. Admittedly Kelly’s Reading career had begun to peter out come his exit. Despite his decline, it was poor business in the transfer market that allowed Kelly to leave on free to a club with a significant amount of money to spend.

Following Kelly’s arrival at the Europa League side, Jaap Stam was relieved of his duties, leaving the 24 year-old out in the dark and without a look in. He has played just once in the Eredivisie all season and may now be regretting jumping ship.

Do Reading miss Liam? No. Although the Royals have underperformed this season, Kelly would not get in the side over Andy Rinomhota, Ovie Ejaria or John Swift. He wasn’t required and the club needed his wages to spend elsewhere - but it was weak negotiation to allow him to go for free, particularly to a club who desperately wanted our midfielder and had a substantial budget.

Good business? No

Andrija Novakovich

Following Novakovich’s departure from Reading, there was a huge wave of disappointment. We had let a highly rated prospect, with a proven goalscoring record, leave us on a free. Were we surprised? Of course not; a sigh, but nothing less than we expect.

Novakovich was a player to be excited about. The man could score goals. There were calls for the American to be given a chance after his successful loan spell with Telstar in the 2017/18 season, but the Reading hierarchy made the decision to send him out on loan again. He joined Fortuna Sittard in the Eredivisie for the 2018/19 season, where he averaged a goal every three games and caught the eye of many pundits and football scouts. However, his much-awaited return to Reading never amounted to much. At the rich age of 22, many felt he was ready to take the Sky Bet Championship by storm. Jose Gomes didn’t.

Reading played out the pre-season with a team that was, essentially, full of under-23 players, due to a (supposed) lack of funds and transfer movement. Despite the younger players being given an opportunity to impress, Gomes still showed a reluctancy to play Novakovich. The American did what he could with minimal minutes, scoring once as a substitute, but chances were hard to come by. Novakovich went on to play just five minutes for Reading in the Championship before he left on a free to join Italian outfit Frosinone.

Frosinone Calcio v Empoli FC - Serie B Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images for Lega B

Since moving to Italy, he has struggled to tie down a first team spot. In total, 16 league games for his new club but only one goal. That said, the American has plenty of time yet to make Reading regret their decision.

Do Reading miss Andrija? Who knows? You can’t miss what you never had. It would’ve have been great to see Novakovich given a proper chance in the royal blue hoops but it wasn’t to be. However, considering the hype around his goalscoring record, allowing the USA international to leave on a free was criminal.

Good business? No

Jón Dadi Bödvarsson

The 27 year-old left Reading for a fee of around £765k in the Summer transfer window. The majority of Royals fans were disappointed to see his departure; a player who always gave 100% for the club. Bödvarsson endured an injury-plagued spell at the Mad Stad, that lasted just under 2 years.

Since moving to the Den, the Iceland international has struggled to get into the team, starting just 8 times in the league. As a result, he has failed to make any real impact with the Lions, recording just two goals against Oxford United in the League Cup - much to Reading fans’ amusement.

Do Reading miss Jón Dadi? In terms of a personality, yes: the man cared when others didn’t and showed a lot of fight for this club. However, in terms of technical ability, he is no better than any striker currently at the club and given his current form, it seems the Royals were right to cash in when they did.

Good business? Yes

Danzell Gravenberch

In the summer Danzell Gravenberch left Reading for second-tier Dutch side TOP Oss. The centre back had played just eight times over a three-year period with the Royals and, having returned to his homeland, he will be left wondering why he ever moved to Berkshire in the first place. He was the first player signed during the Brian Tevreden era, but it never really worked out for him at the Mad Stad.

Since moving back to the Netherlands he has featured just ten times for his new side in all competitions. At 25 years old, Gravenberch will be keen to take any chance he gets, hoping it comes sooner that later. His younger brother Ryan will certainly be hoping to make more of his career with last season’s Champions league semi-finalists Ajax.

Do Reading miss Danzell? No. However, we don’t really know what we are missing out on. The man was never given a chance by any of the Royals managers, but perhaps that speaks for itself. A waste of £77,000 and three years worth of wages.

Good business? Yes

Anssi Jaakkola

The Finnish international played 20 times in the league for Reading, 15 of those coming last season. He proved that he was more than capable of playing Championship football and often produced some top saves between the sticks. His string of appearances came in a season that saw lots of inconsistency in the number one spot.

Jaakkola was originally brought in as a back-up keeper from Ajax Cape Town, joining in 2017 for an undisclosed fee. Reading opted against offering him a new contract and therefore allowing him to join League One side, Bristol Rovers. He has played almost every game since joining, starting 26 times across all competitions.

Do Reading miss Anssi? Technically no - when do you miss a back-up keeper? However, I personally believe that Anssi was a more reliable choice than Sam Walker and Joao Virginia, but that is down to personal opinion. It is unlikely that we would have ever got any money back from selling Jaakkola, and it is now one fewer keeper to pay every week.

Good business? Yes

Joey van den Berg

Joey van den Berg enjoyed a three-year stint with Reading before leaving for his homeland in June 2019. He returned to NEC where he spent the the 2018/19 season on loan.

For Reading, van den Berg’s strongest season came under Jaap Stam. He was one of many players to leave in 2019 that were pivotal in the Royal’s playoff push during the Dutch revolution.

Shortly after completing a permanent move to NEC, van den Berg was exiled from the first team and made to train with the under-21s before being released soon after. He is now looking for a club again.

Do Reading miss Joey? No. The Dutchman would struggle to find a place in Reading’s current team due to his lack of technical ability in comparison to the surrounding competition. He was signed on a free and left on a free. Certainly not the worst signing Reading have ever made, but definitely not the best. No hard feelings.

Good business? Yes

Reading v Huddersfield Town - Sky Bet Championship Play Off Final Photo by Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

Callum Harriott

Callum Harriott was another player to leave Reading on a free in the summer, and he now plies his trade in League Two with Colchester United. He never really had his chance with the Royals, mainly down to being consistently injured. Personally, I felt Harriott was a brilliant, silky winger; he lacked end product but was great at beating his defender and causing problems - a player who I believe is wasted at League Two level.

Harriott is still relatively young and will be disappointed to have not taken his chance in the Championship. Following his release from Reading, he trialled with former club Charlton. This proved to be unsuccessful and he has since had to drop down the leagues for game time. Despite this, Harriott has played just 13 times in all competitions since re-joining Colchester.

Do Reading miss Callum? Not really. It was sad to see it end the way it did but, other than a couple of stand-out games, the winger never really made his mark at the Madejski. Having said that, the lack of wingers at Reading is beginning to prove a problem.

Bowen has no choice other than to stick with his wingbacks or play someone out of position. With Modou Barrow, Adrian Popa and until recently Sone Aluko out on loan, Garath McCleary is his only natural winger. Had Harriott have stayed on, might this have been his long-awaited opportunity? He would have been on low wages, having signed from a lower league club, and could have been a useful squad player.

Good business? No