It certainly looks like this transfer window will be a very significant one for Reading Football Club. We’ve already seen a host of departures and more could follow, while plenty of additions will be needed to plug the resulting gap.
The scale of the task has been openly admitted by figures across the football club. Sam Baldock said after the Blackburn Rovers defeat that he’d be “surprised if it’s the same dressing room come start of the season”, before Mark Bowen spoke in the aftermath of the Swansea City loss of “rebuilding the club and the philosophy”. Most recently, Nigel Howe teased a “very busy summer period” when the signing of Josh Laurent was announced.
Of course, that’s started already. Nine first-team players have been released as of Gabriel Osho’s departure, in addition to another dozen or so under-23s, while another has been sold and five loanees have returned to their parent clubs. To date, Laurent is the only one to come in the other direction.
Here’s how those departures break down:
First team released: Danny Loader, Vito Mannone, Adrian Popa, Charlie Adam, Tyler Blackett, Jordan Obita, Garath McCleary, Chris Gunter, Gabriel Osho
Under-23s released: Andre Burley, Akin Odimayo, Ramarni Medford-Smith, Ben House, Liam Driscoll, Lexus Beeden, Marcel Elva-Fountaine, Werick Caetano, Ethan Coleman, Tyler Frost, Roberto Nditi, Adam Liddle
Sold: Modou Barrow
Loanees returned to parent club: Matt Miazga, Pele, Lucas Boye, Ayub Timbe, Ovie Ejaria
It’s certainly a big change to the makeup of the first-team squad, so I’ve visualised it in the below graphic, the format of which I mostly pinched from this Athletic piece on Leeds United. Included are all notable players involved in a matchday squad in 2019/20 and a few who weren’t but have a good chance of being involved in 2020/21. Long-term exiles Mannone and Popa, both of whom were unceremoniously released, aren’t on the graphic.
I’ve added how long they have to run on their current deals (except in the case of Jokull Andresson for whom I don’t have contract info) and divided them up by position - most of that is self-explanatory but midfielders are, loosely speaking, ‘deeper midfielders’, ‘playmakers’ and ‘wingers’. Faded-out names indicate that the player has left the club, but the one player with an asterisk is reportedly in discussions to stay on.
That graphic handily indicates just how many players Reading have lost already, and what parts of the team need the most attention in this transfer window. The biggest gaps are out wide and at full back, although centre back and centre midfield have taken smaller hits too.
However, this graphic doesn’t give a particularly good representation of the options currently available to the manager in terms of quality and experience. Although there isn’t a completely objective way of showing quality, I’ve sorted Reading’s players (including the one who’s reportedly in talks to stay on) according to experience - in this case greying out those with fewer than 1,000 minutes of action at the club.
That does a better job of highlighting where the gaps in Reading’s squad are, and of showing how much change there’ll be over the course of this summer window. Even in parts of the pitch where Reading have plenty of cover (goalkeeper, centre back, centre midfield), not many of those options have established themselves at the club.
All in all, only 16 of that 29-man squad have played at least 1,000 minutes of football for Reading so far. Otherwise there’s a large number of relatively fresh options coming into play, whether they’re recent academy graduates, new signings or players that have been on the fringes for a while - such as Sam Smith, Marc McNulty and Tennai Watson.
This isn’t to say that ‘fewer than 1,000 minutes’ is an inherently bad thing. Some of these players simply haven’t yet had the opportunity to play that much, such as Felipe Araruna and Josh Laurent who have both joined in 2020. But, given that there were 26 players with at least 1,000 minutes for Reading on the first graphic, the huge change to the makeup of the squad already is clear.
Of course, this is before you get to extra departures. A number of Reading’s youngsters could head off on loan for first-team experience, fringe players are likely to be sold to cut down the wage bill and streamline the squad, and more established options may be picked off by other clubs. We could well see any of the following leave permanently this summer: Sam Walker, Tennai Watson, Liam Moore, Ryan East, Sone Aluko, John Swift, George Puscas, Marc McNulty and Sam Smith.
With all of that in mind, the size of the rebuild facing Reading this summer is clear: we’re not just talking about adding a few extra faces here and there, but actually of a deeper rebuild. How Reading undertake that rebuild in terms of incomings - the amount of money spent, whether signings are permanent or loans and so on - is at the moment unclear.
Whatever the case though, it’s bound to be an intriguing summer transfer window.