Over the past month or so, Tyler Blackett has established himself as a first-team regular at Reading. The versatile defender first came back in to the side at the goalless draw away to Stoke City. The Royals came away with a much-needed clean sheet, following the disastrous display of defending at Barnsley the week before. Blackett was making his first league start of the season, partly down to fitness and partly down to injuries to Andy Yiadom, forcing Bowen to shift his defence around.
The 25 year-old played as a left back in a new 4-4-2 system for the Royals. He made 65 passes with 73 touches - more than any Stoke player all game. He also made won all three of his aerial duels and made the most interceptions of any Reading player on the pitch. Blackett made the most of his chance, showing what he was capable of defensively, as well as offensively.
Following his solid performance at the bet365, Blackett earned a place in Bowen’s squad to face Derby County. Again, he adopted the left-back position as his own - creating multiple chances and denying Derby with a vital goal-line clearance.
On Boxing Day, Blackett put in a third successive solid performance; the most touches of any player on the pitch, the most passes completed of all Reading players. Blackett’s performance level has only increased over the past few weeks; he has begun to build his game going forward, including winning man of the match for his two assists against Preston North End. Tyler’s crossing ability has become a key part of his game: he recorded another assist from the left flank at Craven Cottage. As well as contributing in an attacking sense, Blackett completed seven tackles against Fulham, more than double anyone else.
However, it’s not all good news for Reading fans. Blackett’s recent surge in form has seen him drum up interest from abroad. It has been reported that Blackett is in talks with top-flight Turkish sides: Fenerbahçe, Ankaragücü and Trabzonspor. With Blackett’s current deal due to run out this Summer, Reading have reason to be worried. Amidst the interest from Turkey, Reading have reportedly offered Blackett a two-and-a-half year deal. However, clubs such as Fenerbahçe will inevitably be able to offer Tyler more money.
So why should Reading keep hold of Blackett? The 25 year-old has often struggled to tie down a place in Reading’s first team. Over the past few years we have seen glimpses of his quality, but never for extended periods of time. Blackett’s ability to play multiple positions is inevitably appealing to Mark Bowen. Tyler can play as a centre back, a left back or a wing-back; this is something that he has over Jordan Obita and Omar Richards.
With Blackett finally getting a decent run in the team, he has shown what he is capable of when trusted. His strong statistics are proof of his defensive ability. He has also shown how much of a threat he can be when going forward; Blackett’s crossing has essentially acted as an extra attacking asset for the Royals. It is no secret that Reading’s recent form has coincided with Blackett’s return to the side. Who is to say the run can't continue? Why get rid of a player who has been so influential in Bowen’s recent success?
Reading play host to Nottingham Forest on Saturday afternoon and will be hoping to continue their recent form in the league. Whether or not Tyler Blackett features will be a huge telling sign in where his future lies. It is hard to know what the best thing is for the club to do; admittedly Blackett has not always performed at the level that he currently is, is it too much of a risk to tie him down for another two seasons? Only time will tell.