Reading have confirmed their first signing of the transfer window today: Josh Laurent. The 25-year-old midfielder joins the Royals from Shrewsbury Town on a free transfer after his contract expired this summer. He's agreed a two-year contract.
It looks like Laurent has been a target for some time now. We were first linked with a move for him in early January, and although that move didn’t come to fruition, Mark Bowen confirmed that the player was on the club’s radar at that point, saying:
“I know about the boy and I know he is a talented young player. He’s one a number of clubs could be interested in and he is on our radar. But no more than that.”
Laurent was also linked with fellow Championship clubs Cardiff City and Stoke City back then, while Swansea City were also interested more recently, according to Berkshire Live. The fact that we’ve reportedly been able to brush off competition from some decent clubs is pretty encouraging.
In his comments to the official site, Mark Bowen explained why Laurent will fit in at Reading:
“Josh fits the mould as a hungry, vibrant, energetic young midfielder who I am sure will make an impact at Madejski Stadium. A box-to-box-style midfielder, Josh is a talented player whose career I have been tracking for some time, so I am delighted to now welcome him to the club.”
Although most of his career has been spent in the lower leagues, Leytonstone-born Laurent was involved in the youth setups of some higher-ranked clubs. After early involvement at Wycombe Wanderers, he had a trial at Liverpool before ending up at Queen’s Park Rangers, where he developed throughout the 2012/13, 2013/14 and 2014/15 seasons.
A first taste of professional football came at Braintree Town, where he played 16 times in early 2014. Although QPR’s head of football operations (and former Reading striker) Les Ferdinand wanted to keep Laurent, the player wasn’t convinced there was a proper pathway for him at the club.
One season and one appearance followed at Brentford in the 2015/16 campaign, which also featured a loan to Newport County. He then headed north, with spells at Hartlepool (33 games), Wigan Athletic (four games), Bury (22 games on loan) and finally Shrewsbury Town.
It’s at the last of those clubs where Laurent really came into his own. He scored eight times and registered 11 assists across his 93 appearances for League One side Shrewsbury, and was eventually named the players’ player of the year for 2019/20.
Moving up to the Championship will be his big step up to a higher level, and hopefully he takes to it well. Welcome to Reading, Josh!