One out, one in on transfer deadline day. Having announced the loan arrival of Tomas Esteves earlier today, Reading have now announced the loan exit of Marc McNulty. The Scottish striker has returned north of the border to link up with newly promoted side Dundee United.
His exit is far from a surprise. Any hopes of McNulty being involved at Reading this season went when Mark Bowen was replaced; the Welshman had said at the end of last season that McNulty could be in his plans for 2020/21.
Since then, McNulty has been a bit-part player in the League Cup. New boss Veljko Paunovic tried him out twice in that competition - both times in the attacking trio behind the striker in his 4-2-3-1. McNulty unsurprisingly failed to impress in an unfamiliar role, whether out wide or in the number-10 position.
Had he stayed at Reading this season, he would have fifth choice in the pecking order. Besides Lucas Joao and George Puscas, both of whom have started up front on their own in the league and scored under Pauno, Yakou Meite and Sam Baldock can also be called upon. You’d think that, for him to have had a realistic chance of regular football this season, one of those four would have had to leave - and Reading would have to be playing two up top.
This is now his fourth loan spell away from Reading. Having spent the first half of the 2018/19 campaign in Berkshire, McNulty headed off to former club Hibernian in the new year. Similarly, McNulty joined Sunderland on loan for the first half of 2019/20, before returning to Hibs in January.
It’s a stupid cycle that benefits neither club nor player, with McNulty still only halfway through a four-year contract. Each window, Reading try to sell him to get his wages off the books permanently. Each window, they fail to do so but manage to find a loan late on. Yes, Reading manage to save some money on his wages, but his contract - that still has two years to run - is a drain on the club’s finances.
From McNulty’s point of view, he needs a fresh start at a club where he can settle down and show what he’s capable of, rather than being stuck where he’s not wanted. Although he is a good goalscorer at a lower level than Reading, he wasn’t really given a fair shot at proving he could make the step up to the Championship.
Good luck in Scotland, Marc.