Reading have had a clear-out of the under-23s squad, announcing today that a dozen players in that age category have left the club.
The most notable names are those who made their debuts for Reading’s first team this season. Andre Burley, Akin Odimayo (centre backs), Ramarni Medford-Smith (left back) and Ben House (striker) all featured as part of the ‘B team’ that the Royals put out in the FA Cup against Blackpool and Cardiff City.
Otherwise, Liam Driscoll, Lexus Beeden, Marcel Elva-Fountaine, Werick Caetano, Ethan Coleman, Tyler Frost, Roberto Nditi and Adam Liddle have all also moved on. In addition, two under-18s have been released: Emmanuel Obamakinwa and Pedro Neves. We wish them all the very best of luck in their future careers.
Although some of these under-23 exits were probably expected, with Reading always letting some prospects go at the end of each season, the sheer number takes me aback. Letting a dozen players leave the club at once makes you wonder how strong the under-23 side will be in 2020/21.
It’s worth noting a few things about the club’s financial situation. More broadly, Reading need to cut costs due to a huge wage bill (going by the 2018/19 accounts) and save money due to a lack of matchday revenue - from playing behind closed doors while Covid-19 keeps spectators out.
But, more specifically for the academy, it was reported at the end of April that the under-23 players had been furloughed to save the club money. Going by the BBC’s report, that seems to include the entire under-23 squad, although that’s not said explicitly, and I’ve not seen that the furloughing’s been officially acknowledged by the club anywhere.
Today’s news looks like another, similarly tough cost-cutting measure from the club. However, it does clear the way for a number of even younger players to step up into the under-23s bracket.
This isn’t to say that the club hasn’t acted to secure young talent though. Reading have also confirmed professional contracts for goalkeepers Coniah Boyce-Clarke (17) and James Holden (18). The former’s deal had been announced before, but could only be completed when he turned 17, while the latter joined the academy ranks after previously coming through at Bury.
In addition, American forward and owner of the finest name in football Augustus McGiff has agreed a pro deal, while one has also been offered to Femi Azeez. Hopefully we ‘ll see some of these four in the first team at some point in the future.
There’s also some expected contract news for the senior players. All five loanees will now finish the current season at Reading, with the Royals agreeing deals with their parent clubs to make that happen. That’s Ayub Timbe, Ovie Ejaria, Lucas Boye, Pele and Matt Miazga, the latter of whom is suspended for another two games.
Finally, Vito Mannone and Adrian Popa have made unceremonious exits. Both players, brought in under Jaap Stam in 2017, have been sent out on various loan deals by Reading in an attempt to claw back some of their sizeable wages, and have now departed permanently.