- Michael Morrison and Reading “mutually agree” a one-year extension on his contract.
- New deals offered to senior players Tom McIntyre and Omar Richards.
- Sam Baldock, Sone Aluko, Sam Walker, Tennai Watson, Ryan East, Conor Lawless, Oli Pendlebury, Jayden Onen and Sam Smith released.
- Clause activated to keep Ethan Bristow at the club.
- New deals offered to academy players Thierry Nevers, James Holden and Femi Azeez.
- No mention of Dejan Tetek.
You wait ages for Reading FC contract news to come along, and it all happens at once. After Luke Southwood penned a new deal at the end of last week, agreeing to stay until the summer of 2023, the Royals have now released their full retained list. The headline news: Michael Morrison is sticking around for another season at least after it was “mutually agreed with the club to activate an extension clause in his contract to stay at Madejski Stadium for another year”.
It’s a huge boost for Reading, given Morrison’s importance to the side. Up until injury late on in the season he’d been an ever present at the back, playing every minute of the first 33 league matches. The composure, aerial dominance, experience and leadership he brings to the table have been invaluable since his arrival in the summer of 2019.
Replacing those qualities can’t be done easily or on the cheap. Losing him this summer would have left a big hole in the squad, but sorting out his future means Reading can breathe a little easier. It’s also very beneficial to Reading’s younger defenders too. Morrison won’t be a first-team player for too many more years, so passing his know-how onto Tom Holmes and co will allow Reading to plan for the future.
Plus, he can score worldies like this one at Ashton Gate.
Any excuse to mention that goal.
Two young defenders who may well be learning from Morro at the Mad Stad next season are Tom McIntyre and Omar Richards, both of whom are out of contract but have been offered new deals. It had been widely reported that Richards has already agreed a pre-contract with Bayern Munich, but with that move not yet officially confirmed by any party, his future is less clear.
Then again, it could be that Reading want to give the impression they tried as hard as possible to keep him. We’ll get clarity before too long.
On the flipside, we’re bidding farewell to a number of players who’ve appeared for the first team in the last few years. The most notable departures are Sam Baldock and Sone Aluko, two veterans of Reading’s squad who never really impressed on a regular basis. Their exits should free up some valuable cash at a time when FFP and Covid-19 means money is tight.
Also on the way out is Sam Walker who, besides a run of games in the Championship in the first half of 2018/19, was never really more than a squad player since joining on a free from Colchester United in 2018.
You’d think that, between those three, Reading will be able to take a pretty hefty amount of money off the wage bill. Baldock and Aluko in particular were multi-million-pound signings of experienced, established players in the Ron Gourlay era, so will likely have been on big salaries that can now be put to better use. In fact, their departures mean only two Gourlay signings remain in the squad: Andy Yiadom and Marc McNulty are both contracted for another year.
Baldock and co. all need replacing though - not only for the sake of squad size, but also experience. Despite their minimal impact on the pitch, Baldock, Aluko and Walker were some of the few experienced squad members Reading had, so finding that trait in new recruits will be important this summer.
They’re joined by a number of academy graduates who’ve appeared for the first team in recent years: Tennai Watson, Ryan East, Conor Lawless, Oli Pendlebury, Jayden Onen and Sam Smith. Although none played regularly for the first team, their departures leave the under-23 squad light on quality and experience (relative to that age group, at least).
We’d like to wish every one of those departing players the very best of luck in their footballing careers. Although it hasn’t worked out for them at the Mad Stad, I’m sure they’ll get good moves elsewhere. That’s particularly true of the academy grads in that list. There are some really talented guys there, and I’m sure they’ve all got bright futures ahead of them in the game.
I believe Dejan Tetek is also out of contract, going by Transfermarkt at least, but there’s no mention of him in the retained list.
It’s brighter news though for four other youngsters. Ethan Bristow is sticking around after a clause in his current deal, which he signed in October 2019, was activated. There’s no official word on how long his contract now lasts for though.
Bristow is an important player to keep as, with Richards’ future uncertain and Imari Samuels yet to make his first-team debut, he’s currently Reading’s only senior left back. Hopefully he can build on the few matches he played in the cup this season by getting more first-team exposure in 2021/22.
In addition, the club have offered new deals to a trio of youngster who are yet to make their debuts: goalkeeper James Holden and wingers Thierry Nevers and Femi Azeez. I’m particularly happy for the last two; Nevers bounced back from a year-long injury to score three times in nine appearances in the back half of this season for the under-23s, while Azeez finished the campaign as top scorer with 10 goals.
And finally, the rest of the academy. Joseph Ajose, Josh Hewitt, Omri Luzon and Augustus McGiff have been released, while Alfie Anderson, Jordan Hamilton-Olise and Yaw Turkson depart Reading at the end of their scholarships
Pro contracts have been offered to Kian Leavy, Harvey Collins, Kelvin Ehibhatiomhan, Malachi Talent-Aryeety and Lynford Sackey, the last of whom made his first-team debut in the League Cup this season.