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Grading The Reading Squad’s 2020/21 Season So Far: Goalkeepers

We’re nearly halfway through the campaign, so we’re reviewing how well it’s gone for Reading’s players so far. First up: the ‘keepers.

Brentford v Reading - Sky Bet Championship - Brentford Community Stadium Photo by John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images

All this week we’ll be reviewing how the seasons’s gone so far for everyone in Reading’s squad, including giving them an overall grade. Look out for future installments on the full backs, centre backs, midfielders and forwards.

Rafael Cabral: B

How were things going before this season?

Excellently. Rafael settled in quickly after the summer 2019 switch from Sampdoria, immediately established himself as Reading’s number one after penalty shootout heroics against Wycombe Wanderers in the League Cup, and was named player of the season by both the club and TTE readers.

How well has he done so far this season?

Not so well. Rafael is still certainly Reading’s number one, but he’s become somewhat error prone. That first reared its head in the 3-2 defeat at Coventry City when he flapped at a long-range effort, continued over the next few games including giving the ball away for a cheap Bournemouth fourth goal, and was most recently seen at Brentford when he let a close-range shot squeeze under him.

For whatever reason, Rafael doesn’t seem to have the consistently high level of concentration that we saw last season. It even opened up talk of Luke Southwood coming in for the Millwall match, which ultimately didn’t come to pass.

Blackburn Rovers v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Visionhaus

What does the future hold?

Going into this season I assumed a Premier League move would come round at some point for Rafael - whether with Reading or not. Talk of that happening in the summer proved to be wide of the mark, but a strong 2020/21 campaign would inevitably mean suitors coming in for him next summer. However, due to his slightly shaky form, at the moment the likeliest outcome is Rafael seeing out his contract, which expires in 2022.

Luke Southwood: C

How were things going before this season?

Southwood’s promise has always been evident but, before this season, he hadn’t been given any chance at all to show it in Berkshire. His inclusion on the bench for an FA Cup tie against Blackpool was his first taste of first-team involvement despite good form with Eastleigh and Hamilton Academical.

How well has he done so far this season?

Southwood’s finally made the crucial next step in his Reading career after academy football and being out on loan: establishing himself as second choice. He made his debut in the League Cup against Colchester United when Reading ran out 3-1 winners at the Madejski Stadium, and got another 90 minutes in the 1-0 defeat to Luton Town. It’s baby steps, but it’s a clear indication that he’s ahead of Sam Walker in the pecking order, and he’ll likely get the nod in the FA Cup next month.

Queens Park Rangers v Reading - Sky Bet Championship - Loftus Road Photo by Tess Derry/PA Images via Getty Images

In the Championship he’s yet to play - despite Rafael’s errors. He was named on the bench each week in the earlier stages of the season but he’s since been rotating with Walker.

What does the future hold?

Hopefully a contract extension - Southwood’s deal runs out at the end of the season. The question he needs to ask at the moment is whether or not there’s a clear pathway for him to become Reading’s number one, whether that requires Rafael leaving or not. If he’s satisfied that the pathway is there and it’s strong enough, he’ll likely renew his deal. If not, you wouldn’t blame him if he headed elsewhere in search of regular football, given that recently turned 23 and needs to consider where his long-term future lies.

Sam Walker: D

How were things going before this season?

Bar a brief run in the first team at the beginning of the 2018/19 season, Walker has never really been a contender for the number-one spot. However, he’s been a perfectly capable back-up and even performed some penalty shoot-out heroics of his own this year when he made a crucial stop from Aden Flint in the FA Cup victory at Cardiff City.

How well has he done so far this season?

Walker’s no closer to first-team action; if anything, he’s further from it. He managed to sneak ahead of Joao Virginia in the pecking order last season, hence playing at Cardiff, but the return of Southwood has pushed Walker down to third. Pauno has kept him involved to a degree by rotating him and Southwood on the bench in the Championship, but beyond that, he’s very much a fringe player.

Reading v Brentford - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images

What does the future hold?

A summer exit looks certain, with Walker’s contract up at the end of the season. It’d be a low-key exit for someone who never really got a proper run in the first team but, by all accounts, seems to be a popular guy in both the goalkeeping department and the squad in general.

Anyone else?

Jokull Andresson earned rave reviews for his time on loan at Exeter City, where he played eight times in the league and cup. The 19 year-old’s only senior involvement with Reading though was to be on the bench for the Colchester United match. You’d think an opportunity may open up for him when one or two goalies higher up the pecking order leave in the summer.

Otherwise, Coniah Boyce-Clarke and James Holden are the next young ‘keepers, although neither have been involved for the first team this season.