On Tuesday evening at 9:30pm, Reading confirmed the loan signing of 20-year-old Everton defender Lewis Gibson. The youngster joined the Toffees from Newcastle in the summer of 2017 for just short of £1 million. Having spent last season on loan at League One side Fleetwood Town, the left-footed centre back has now joined Veljko Paunovic’s Royals on a season long-loan and reports suggest that Carlo Ancelotti has ‘high hopes’ for Gibson.
But what does this mean for the likes of Tom McIntyre and Tom Holmes? Like Gibson, McIntyre is a left-footed centre back capable of playing in a back three or a more traditional pairing, so why the need for another? We can assume that Gibson has been signed as a squad player to add depth, following the departures of Matt Miazga and Gabe Osho at the end of the 2019/20 season, but where will he sit in Pauno’s pecking order and does his arrival push McIntyre further down the pack?
It’s been reported that Reading are now looking at potential loan destinations for the Scottish under-21 international, despite him being in the last year of his contract.
McIntyre made 14 appearances for the first team last season in what most fans considered as a breakthrough season for him. There was a large swell of support for the youngster, with many touting him as a future club captain. However, the Royals’ new boss clearly doesn’t feel that he is up to the job yet.
It is rumoured that numerous top League One clubs are interested in bringing the 21 year-old in, but they all remain unnamed so far. It is likely that Paunovic will face questions from the media about the whispers and possible destinations for TMac, prior to the Royals’ third league game of the season on Saturday, away to Cardiff City.
Both McIntyre and Gibson have been important figures for their respective under-23 sides in past seasons, but made the step up to playing professional first team football last season. Gibson in particular captained the Everton under-23s side to a league and cup double before joining Fleetwood on loan, as aforementioned.
Would do him some good to get some regular football and come back an even better player.— Pedro‼️ (@PictonPedro) September 23, 2020
Need to remember that Gibson has won the youth World Cup and captained the Everton U23’s to a league and cup double.
Ancelotti has sent him here to fight for a first team spot #ReadingFC https://t.co/qGL0mLLrVC
Generally, Reading fans appear to be relatively disgruntled at the news that Tom McIntyre could be on his way out, with many feeling he had earned his place in the squad already. An argument for that case would be that McIntyre has more first-team appearances under his belt than Gibson - and at a considerably higher level.
With the arrival of Gibson, Tom Holmes too will feel his chances of an opportunity with the first team have become even slimmer. However, the 20 year-old has already featured twice for the Royals this season under Paunovic, playing the full 90 in the 0-1 loss to Luton Town and coming on as a late sub against Derby County in the opening-day win.
Holmes spent last season on loan at KSV Roeselare, who have since been forced into administration and collapsed as a result. The youngster made 11 appearances in Belgium’s second tier where his side finished second from bottom.
At only 20 years old, it might be better for Holmes to spend another year playing regular first-team football elsewhere before he can be considered as a match-ready squad player for Reading. However nothing has been said regarding any transfer movement for the defender, perhaps suggesting that Paunovic has been impressed by the youngster, and sees him as part of his plans going forward.
At the end of the day lads if you want to have a push at promotion centre backs like Tom Holmes aren’t gonna be getting in your starting lineup or near the first team. Need some real nice quality like Gibson who seems to have tonnes of potential in there #readingfc— Harry Sands (@SarryHands) September 22, 2020
Holmes has two years remaining on his Royals deal, however McIntyre has just one. It remains to be seen whether or not McIntyre will stay at the club beyond 2021, but I’d imagine that generally speaking, most fans would love to see the fan favourite sign a new deal.