If I had to describe Tuesday evening’s signing of Josh Laurent in one word, I’d simply say: smart.
Looking at the profile of this signing, Reading have chosen sensibly. Laurent is a good age at 25, is an English player so will settle in quickly, and will surely have the hunger to do well in the Championship. This is of course his big step up to the second tier, having played the bulk of his football so far in the lower leagues.
Financially he fits the bill too. Although Reading have let a fair amount of players go this summer, some on free transfers and others returning to parent clubs, they’ll have to be replaced with thrifty additions. Low wages, little or no transfer fee and ideally good resale value further down the line will help the books at a difficult time for the club.
What I find most encouraging though is that this signing isn’t at all knee jerk. Reading have been guilty far too often in recent years of, at least on the face of it, rushing into transfer deals. Bringing in players has felt more like a case of addressing a need that’s suddenly popped up - rather than recruiting to fit a long-term plan.
But this signing isn’t more of the same. Reading have been tracking Laurent for some time now, and Laurent told the club in his first interview after joining that he’d first heard of interest in early January. Although the move didn’t go through at that point, Laurent said Mark Bowen was back on the phone to him as soon as his League One season finished. Bringing in Laurent has been a drawn-out process that’s finally paid off.
I’ve had my doubts over how much of a long-term plan Bowen has had at Reading, but this case of earmarking a transfer target and seeing it through is encouraging. What’s more, Laurent appears to fit a more specific profile of player that the manager has his eyes on. Just after the final-day defeat to Swansea City, Bowen said:
“This club needs building. We have to make sure we recruit well in the summer and get a different attitude to things. I want to get a young vibrant side that is full of running, full of energy and show the fans that we can play a high-tempo game and take games to the opposition.”
Bowen’s desire for young, hungry, vibrant players was mentioned to Laurent in his post-signing interview, and he seemed confident that he fits the bill in that regard. In a tactical sense, Laurent’s comments on his own strengths suggest he’ll provide the energy Bowen wants in his midfield:
“Probably my biggest asset is my legs and the energy I can bring. I can get up, box to box, run the pitch well, and I’ll try to give the team some energy when it’s needed throughout the 90 minutes.”
It’s refreshing to see a signing come in that just seems to make so much sense. Because of that, I’m feeling optimistic about this signing; Laurent appears to offer quality to Reading’s midfield and have both the character and ambition to improve the dressing room.
In the best-case scenario, Laurent becomes an important player for the first team and signing him on a free looks like great business. In the worst-case scenario, Laurent doesn’t make it, is still a useful squad player, and signing him on a free means Reading haven’t lost that much.
All in all, it’s smart business. And Reading haven’t done much of that in recent years.