According to various sources, Chris Gunter won’t be a Reading player next season. The Welshman’s contract is due to run out at the end of this current campaign, and although it’s been reported that he’s agreed an extension until the conclusion of 2019/20, 2020/21 is another matter.
Football Insider, usually a reliable source for contract news at Reading, claim Gunter will turn down the option of staying at the Madejski Stadium in favour of joining another Championship club. They say:
“He has not agreed a new deal with Reading and there are no plans for him to do so. Gunter will then become a free agent and look to secure a move to another Championship club.”
This is backed up by The Athletic’s Laurie Whitwell, who has put out two Championship clubs vying for Gunter’s services.
One is Middlesbrough, now under the management of Neil Warnock - who wanted to sign Gunter when he was in charge at Cardiff City, and is likely to go back in for the Welshman. I’d add that Boro previously came close to buying Gunter in the summer of 2017, soon after relegation from the Premier League. Despite activating a release clause, he stayed at Reading.
Chris Gunter on a live Insta now, says his release clause was activated in the summer of 2017 - and he was offered better money elsewhere - but wanted to stay at #ReadingFC and got better terms in a new contract.— The Tilehurst End (@TheTilehurstEnd) March 30, 2020
There was also interest in him the previous summer after the Euros
Whitwell also mentions Birmingham City, who are two places and one point behind Reading (14th) in the Championship. I’d also be surprised if Gunter isn’t a target for Cardiff City. He started his career in the Welsh capital, would be a cost-effective option for a side in need of a right back next season, and would be popular with their fanbase.
The point is: Gunter would be in demand if he leaves Reading. Going by these two reports, that appears to be pretty likely.
Personally, I’d be disappointed if he leaves Berkshire. Although Gunter isn’t the most eye-catching player, he’s a solid, versatile, dependable option who’s been a loyal servant for eight years now - not to mention turning down better money elsewhere to stay here.
Gunter leaving the club would also mean Reading losing a key leader in the dressing room and a lot of experience. After all, it’s why Mark Bowen was so keen to bring his compatriot back in from the cold as soon as he took the manager’s job last year.
With Andy Yiadom as the established first choice, the question is then who would play backup to him. Reading probably don’t have the money to buy a right back outright to replace Gunter, and with Teddy Howe now on Blackpool’s books, it could mean a return for Tennai Watson as Yiadom’s understudy.
Either way, Gunter’s departure would - for me at least - leave a big gap in Reading’s dressing room. Experience and knowledge of the club can be so beneficial; they’re easily lost, but difficult to replace.