While we were all looking one way, our sights set on the exit of Veljko Paunovic - first seemingly certain, then apparently off the table - Reading were actually preparing for a new signing. Completely out of nowhere, the Royals have snapped up 25-year-old left winger Brandon Barker. A free transfer, he’s set to stay at Reading until the end of the season.
Barker is a graduate of the Manchester City academy, but made just one first-team appearance (in the FA Cup) before joining Rangers on a permanent basis in 2019. He left The Gers at the end of the latest transfer window by mutual consent. His career’s also included loan stints at Rotherham United, NAC Breda, Hibernian, Preston North End and Oxford United.
Reading’s manager, who is surprisingly still Veljko Paunovic, said:
“I am very pleased to welcome Brandon to Reading on a three-month contract that is the right opportunity for both the player and the club. During his time training with us at Bearwood Park, he has shown us his ability, his hunger and the positive attitude he can bring to this squad for the final three months of the season and I am looking forward to integrating him quickly into our squad.”
While Dayong Pang added:
“Brandon is a player we have been keeping a close watch on for a number of weeks now and we are very pleased he has agreed to join the club. He will add additional competition for first team places and will hopefully play a key part in the all-important final third of our season.”
Parking the managerial issue for a moment (hard to do given how intensely it’s been discussed recently), this signing in isolation makes some sense. Despite the signing of Tom Ince and return of Yakou Meite, the Royals have struggled to get consistent game time out of other wide options: Junior Hoilett, Ovie Ejaria, Alen Halilovic and Femi Azeez.
So, assuming Reading aren’t confident of that situation improving, you can see why they’d sign Barker. Given he’s apparently impressed on trial, it’s not a snap decision either.
But still, in the wider scheme of things it’s a bizarre use of limited funds and a spot in the squad. On the pitch, the need for more defensive cover is surely more pressing in the absence of Scott Dann and Liam Moore, even with Tom McIntyre back in contention. Reading also lack centre forwards now George Puscas and Andy Carroll have departed.
And stepping back further, you have to wonder if investing in Barker would make replacing Paunovic more difficult. Funds are tight, and tempting a replacement in wouldn’t have been easy even before this signing.
I really hope Barker’s a success and he shows us why Reading brought him in, but at this stage it’s a confusing addition.