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OPINION: Who Will And Who Won’t Sign A New Deal At Reading?

Reading’s 26 out-of-contract players: who’s staying and who’s going?

Fulham v Reading - Sky Bet Championship - Craven Cottage Photo by Kieran Cleeves/PA Images via Getty Images

Reading have a heavy task on their hands in the coming weeks and months to put a squad together for next season. Most players currently on the books are due to be out of contract at the end of June, so the Royals now face an intense period of decision-making and negotiation. Financial restrictions make that process even more difficult and complex.

To analyse the situation, I’ve gone through all of Reading’s out-of-contract players and asked two things:

  • Should Reading try to keep them?
  • Will the player ultimately stay?

For the first of those questions I’m looking at things from the club’s point of view: going on all the evidence we have, are Reading likely to want the player to be on the books next season? I’ve had to use a fair amount of guesswork to answer the second question, so some of my predictions will inevitably age poorly. I’ve generally tried to stick to a straight yes or no, but in some cases I’ve added a ‘probably’ where I think it’s appropriate.

Before we get started, here’s how the broader picture looks - I count it as 17 senior players and nine junior players. I’ve not included the two loanees whose deals at their parent clubs expire this summer. Everyone in grey is due to leave this summer. The numbers indicate the number of years left on a player’s deal as of July 1.

Orjan Nyland

Should Reading try to keep him? Yes.

Despite his final-day error at Luton Town, Nyland is still a solid ‘keeper; don’t let one seriously embarrassing loss of concentration overrule his prior form. Nyland is experienced, and commanding - traits which aren’t necessarily easy to find.

On the flipside of the argument, Reading have a young ‘keeper on the horizon in Jokull Andresson and could get a different experienced goalie (even just as a back-up) without much difficulty. So not keeping Nyland wouldn’t be a disaster. We should still try to do it though.

Will he stay? No.

I found this one tough to judge. On the face of it, Nyland should be happy at Reading when you consider he’s finally got regular first-team football at Championship level - something he’d lacked since Aston Villa’s 2018/19 campaign. But I suspect he’ll still fancy his chances of finding a club higher up the ladder, not least for the sake of his standing in the Norway set-up. He can probably also get better terms than whatever was offered in his initial short-term deal.

Michael Morrison

Should Reading try to keep him? No.

I really like Morrison. He was a credible contender to be Reading’s player of the season in his first two campaigns (I made the case for that in 2019/20 here and 2020/21 here) and he’s proven to be an astute free signing. But he’s not really looked the same since an injury towards the end of 2020/21, his age (34) is catching up with him and the role of ‘veteran centre half’ is filled by Scott Dann. It’s time to move Morrison on, ideally into a behind-the-scenes role.

Will he stay? Yes (probably).

Renewing Morrison’s contract may well look like a safe bet for the club. After all, he’s a known quantity (not least to the returning Mark Bowen), an experienced leader and probably pretty cheap too. I think he’ll get another year.

Tom Holmes

Should Reading try to keep him? Yes.

There aren’t too many players on this list who could be part of the backbone of this team for a few years to come, but Holmes is one of them. While lacking consistency on the whole, he’s shown himself to be a talented and committed defender who can not only hold his own at this level but develop too. I’d just like him to nail down the right-sided centre-back spot rather than being shunted out to right back or left-sided centre back.

Will he stay? Yes.

I’m reminded of the mini saga over Tom McIntyre’s future this time last year. It took a while to get that contract renewal done, but it was always feasible when you consider the fondness the player had for the club, the club’s regard for the player and (probably) reasonable wage demands. Similarly, all parties want Holmes to stay, so he ultimately will.

Sheffield United v Reading - Sky Bet Championship - Bramall Lane Photo by Zac Goodwin/PA Images via Getty Images

Terell Thomas

Should Reading try to keep him? I don’t mind either way.

I’ve gone back and forth on this in my mind and can’t decide so I’ll just sit on the fence.

It doesn’t help that we’re judging Thomas on only a couple of matches - both of them at right back rather than in his preferred centre-back spot. He did fine both times, not excelling but not looking out of place either. Accurately judging his overall quality isn’t easy, so we’ll have to go on the fact that a month ago he had never played a match above the third tier of English football.

In the plus column though, he’d be a cheap and relatively versatile back-up who seems happy to be here (as well he might, given that this is his proper shot at Championship football).

On the whole, I don’t see a huge potential upside with keeping Thomas, but neither do I see any obvious risks.

Will he stay? Yes (probably).

If Reading had more money to play with I’d have assumed Thomas wouldn’t be kept on (or brought in in the first place for that matter). But from the club’s point of view he’s a pretty safe back-up option. Clearly they see something in him, given that he earned a pro deal after an extended trial with the under-23s and was ultimately handed two starts at right back over young prospect Kelvin Abrefa.

Jeriel Dorsett

Should Reading try to keep him? Yes.

Reading need cover at the back and could do an awful lot better than a cheap, young and hungry academy graduate. Dorsett’s had a bright campaign out on loan at League Two side Rochdale, so is ready to be in contention, even if not to be a regular starter.

Will he stay? No (probably).

While it’d make sense to keep hold of Dorsett, there’s a nagging doubt in my head. After all, this is a player that Reading allowed to go out on a season-long loan without his contract being renewed in the first place. That suggests the club aren’t convinced he’s got a long-term future here and will let him go.

Andy Yiadom

Should Reading try to keep him? Yes, absolutely.

Whoever your pick for player of the season, Yiadom was certainly excellent this season in his own right, showing leadership, quality and consistency - traits which Reading otherwise lacked. Really though it wasn’t surprising: Yiadom’s been a very good right back at this level for a while now.

Keeping him is vital. Reading would find it very difficult to just replace Yiadom’s footballing ability, let alone his experience, leadership and reliability. Injuries may have been a complicating factor, but his 38 appearances this season put paid to that concern.

Will he stay? Yes (reportedly agreed).

We’ve got the bonus of some actual reporting on this, thanks to Jonathan Low at Berkshire Live. According to him, Yiadom is close to agreeing a new deal. While a contract isn’t done until it’s done, Reading seem to have got their man.

Ethan Bristow

Should Reading try to keep him? No.

It just hasn’t worked for Bristow. He’s been on the periphery at first-team level during the last two seasons and had a few opportunities in a variety of left-flank roles, but has come up short. Even at times when Reading have lacked a senior left back, such as before Baba Rahman’s arrival this season, he’s not been trusted to step up.

Will he stay? No.

I can’t see Reading offering him a new deal, but hopefully he can get regular football elsewhere and kick on.

Stoke City v Reading - Sky Bet Championship - bet365 Stadium Photo by Barrington Coombs/PA Images via Getty Images

Josh Laurent

Should Reading try to keep him? Yes.

The conundrum of Josh Laurent: he’s been one of the first names on the team sheet throughout the two years since his arrival, but this season he hasn’t consistently justified that status. His first campaign justifiably ended in a player-of-the-season award and he’s had his moments in 2021/22, but also no shortage of quiet and ineffective performances. Before his improvement under Paul Ince, this season hadn’t been going that well for Laurent.

On balance I can confidently say I want to keep him - I really like him as an individual, he’s certainly talented and I’d love to see what he could do with a more defined midfield role. But with tight wage restrictions it’s not worth Reading breaking the bank to keep him.

Will he stay? No.

While he seems to really enjoy being here, my underlying feeling is that he’ll get a better offer from elsewhere. Laurent’s probably done enough to attract the attention of a more stable Championship club with better prospects and a bigger budget. I wouldn’t begrudge him taking that option if it comes, which I think it will.

Andy Rinomhota

Should Reading try to keep him? Yes, but with a caveat on injuries.

Take fitness out of the equation and Rinomhota is a sure-fire renew in my book. Reading badly miss his tenacity, presence and ball-winning ability when he’s not in the side; replacing those traits wouldn’t be easy. However, after missing a significant amount of 2021/22 through injury, it’s worth asking how much of Rinomhota we’d actually see if he were to get a new contract. If there’s a serious doubt over his long-term availability, it may be better to move him on.

Will he stay? Yes (probably).

Another difficult one to judge - in this case because Rinomhota is highly valued at Reading but I’m not sure how that would translate into interest from other clubs. I’m sure he’d be happy to stay and the club would like to keep him, but will he get better offers? If you were a rival Championship side, would you try to poach a talented but injury-prone player? Maybe, maybe not.

I’ll go with my hunch and say Rinomhota will ultimately stay, softening the blow of Laurent’s departure.

Felipe Araruna

Should Reading try to keep him? No.

But not for anything he’s done. Araruna’s time in Berkshire has been horrifically afflicted by injury: he managed a few games in 2019/20, missed a season and a half or so across 2020/21 and 2021/22, and then suffered another long-term setback in January. I really feel for the bloke, but offering him a new deal wouldn’t make sense from club’s point of view. We don’t really even know how good he is when he isn’t injured.

Will he stay? No.

Araruna will be off and, at a guess, he’ll probably head back to Brazil.

Kidderminster Harriers v Reading - Emirates FA Cup - Third Round - Aggborough Stadium Photo by Bradley Collyer/PA Images via Getty Images

John Swift

Should Reading try to keep him? Yes, absolutely.

‘Try’ is very much the operative word here. Swift is Reading’s best player for individual ability and actual impact, so if there’s any realistic way of keeping him here without bankrupting the club, that has to be done.

Will he stay? Not a chance.

Despite the reported offer of a new three-year deal, Swift’s too good and too expensive for this club to keep, so he’ll make a well-deserved move to a higher-ranked side this summer. The question is less of whether he’ll stay, more of where he’ll go. A rumoured switch to West Brom would be a waste of his talents; Swift can aim higher in this division, but I’d hope to see him in the Premier League. He should be off to a club in the ‘top Championship/bottom Premier League’ bracket.

Junior Hoilett

Should Reading try to keep him? Yes.

I really like Hoilett. Reading had been crying out for a reliable winger for ages before his arrival and we finally got it with the former Cardiff City man. He offers tactical variety, experience, positional flexibility and more reliable delivery than most other attacking players we’ve had. Keeping him around for another year or two would be a good idea.

Will he stay? No (probably).

I really don’t know, but I’ve edged towards ‘no’ as there are similarities between Hoilett and Laurent: both would probably be happy to stay but are likely to get better offers from other Championship clubs. Obviously Hoilett (32 in June) is at a different stage of his career to Laurent (27), but I feel he could still get a year or two on better money elsewhere.

Femi Azeez

Should Reading try to keep him? No.

On the one hand Azeez is a versatile forward with potential and an apparently good attitude. But, off the back of a season in which he struggled for fitness or stand-out performances when he was available, it’s probably more sensible to move him on. In an ideal world Azeez would have another year or two on his deal, go out on loan and come back a more established player, but at this point he’s not done enough to warrant a contract.

Will he stay? No (probably).

Reading could look at Azeez as a cheap and versatile back-up, so don’t rule out the chances of him staying. But ultimately I don’t think they’ll have seen enough in him to dish out a new deal. Like Bristow he needs regular game time elsewhere to properly kickstart his senior career.

Mamadi Camara

Should Reading try to keep him? Yes.

I don’t know a huge amount about Camara, but there are certainly promising signs. The 18-year-old is refreshing with his pace and direct running, versatile enough to play out wide or as a number 10, and was one of the few players to come out of January with any credit - playing well in the defeat to Fulham. Given his potential and tactical value, it makes sense to keep him on and bring him into first-team contention next season.

Will he stay? No.

After the second international break, Camara was in all but one of Reading’s 22 matchday squads until Paunovic’s departure. Since the Serb left, Camara has been in none. Although that probably says more about Reading’s increased number of fit attacking options in that time, not being involved at all still hints at something else going on.

That ‘something else’ could be interest from other clubs, Reading not fancying him in the long term or anything else. Either way, it doesn’t augur well for a new contract being agreed between both parties.

Kidderminster Harriers v Reading - Emirates FA Cup - Third Round - Aggborough Stadium Photo by Bradley Collyer/PA Images via Getty Images

Alen Halilovic

Should Reading try to keep him? No.

Under a different manager I’d have said yes. Halilovic looked to be getting on well with Veljko Paunovic and did enjoy a decent spell in autumn 2021. Had the Serb stayed on, you could well have seen Halilovic retaining a first-team spot and then being offered a new deal (if Reading had stayed up).

However, a combination of injuries and Paul Ince’s arrival killed off his Reading chances. Given that the current boss has seemingly decided to freeze Halilovic out, it’d make no sense to offer him a new deal.

Will he stay? No.

An exit is inevitable, but I’ll be interested to see where Halilovic ends up next.

Brandon Barker

Should Reading try to keep him? No.

There may have been some logic at the time behind bringing in Barker as cover, but the signing has ultimately aged poorly as he’s barely played. While it’s hard to know what level Barker’s at exactly, the lack of game time here shows that it’s not Reading’s level.

Will he stay? No.

Again, an exit is inevitable.

Marc McNulty

Should Reading try to keep him? No.

Be honest, you’d forgotten he was still here. It’s not just that Reading shouldn’t try to keep McNulty, it’s also that he should have been long gone anyway. After an underwhelming half season under Paul Clement in 2018/19, McNulty’s been continuously farmed out on loan amid failed attempts to sell him. He’s a relic of, and victim of, long-term failings in Reading’s recruitment. Hopefully, with his departure, both club and player can turn a corner.

Will he stay? No.

The easiest answer in this article: there’s not a chance McNulty sticks around for next season. Even if Paul Ince or another manager were open to giving McNulty another chance, the player would run a mile, given how much he’s been left in limbo in recent years.

Everyone else

There are eight other out-of-contract players who’ve appeared for the first team at some point (Tyrell Ashcroft, Nelson Abbey, Lynford Sackey, Claudio Osorio, Kian Leavy, Rashawn Scott, Kelvin Ehibhatiomhan and Nahum Melvin-Lambert) and another at a similar level who’s yet to make his debut: Imari Samuels.

Let’s start with the players for whom we have some decent information. Reading were reportedly struggling to agree a new deal with Ashcroft, so the safest bet is to say the Royals want to keep him but ultimately won’t manage it. Sackey going on trial with Sheffield United’s under-23s indicates the club won’t keep him.

Going by first-team involvement, Ehibhatiomhan getting onto the bench recently ahead of the more experienced Melvin-Lambert suggests the former will be offered (and accept) a new deal while the latter will leave. Final-day debutant Scott will also stay.

There’s less evidence for the rest, so I need to do some guesswork. Osorio’s featured regularly for the under-23s this season but that hasn’t led to more involvement at first-team level, so I don’t think the club will keep him on. Abbey, Leavy and Samuels all seem to have had injury-hit seasons (info on this is hard to come by at under-23 level), so it’s difficult to guess what the club’s thinking will be. I’d like Reading to keep all three, and I’ll go with my gut and say all of them will sign on.

In summary...

Should stay: Nyland, Holmes, Dorsett, Yiadom, Laurent, Rinomhota, Swift, Hoilett, Camara. Also: Ashcroft, Ehibhatiomhan, Scott, Abbey, Leavy, Samuels

Shouldn’t stay: Morrison, Bristow, Araruna, Azeez, Halilovic, Barker, McNulty. Also: Sackey, Melvin-Lambert, Osorio.

Don’t mind: Thomas

Will stay: Morrison, Holmes, Thomas, Yiadom, Rinomhota. Also: Ehibhatiomhan, Scott, Abbey, Leavy, Samuels.

Won’t stay: Nyland, Dorsett, Bristow, Laurent, Araruna, Swift, Hoilett, Camara, Azeez, Halilovic, Barker, McNulty. Also: Ashcroft, Sackey, Melvin-Lambert, Osorio.