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Reading Outline Squad Plans With 2021/22 Retained List

Five senior contracts offered, dialogue ongoing with another three, six released and a host of under-23 deals put on the table.

Reading v Derby County - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Headline info

  • As things stand, no new deals have been agreed with any out-of-contract player.
  • New contracts offered: Tom Holmes, Josh Laurent, Andy Rinomhota, Femi Azeez and Andy Yiadom.
  • No contract has been offered to Junior Hoilett, Michael Morrison or John Swift, but dialogue between them and the club is ongoing so that could well change.
  • Terell Thomas, Brandon Barker, Orjan Nyland, Felipe Araruna, Alen Halilovic and Marc McNulty released.
  • In the academy, contracts have been offered to Nelson Abbey, Louie Holzman, Tyrell Ashcroft, Jeriel Dorsett, Imari Samuels, Claudio Osorio, Kian Leavy, Rashawn Scott, Mamadi Camara, Jahmari Clarke, Kelvin Ehibhatiomhan and Nahum Melvin-Lambert.
  • Elsewhere in the academy, Ethan Bristow, James Holden, Lynford Sackey, Malachi Talent-Aryeetey and Jordan Addo-Antoine have been released.
  • Pro terms offered to Hamid Abdel Salam, Sam Paul, Matthew Rowley and Benjamin Purcell.

Or if you want the whole thing summed up in a graphic...

Black: new deal offered, White: in contract, Grey: released or rejoining parent club, *: Dialogue ongoing between club and player

With no new contracts officially agreed yet (which feels like a first for an initial retained list), there’s a big asterisk over the information published today. We have no idea how many of the players who’ve been offered new deals by Reading will actually end up sticking around, or how ongoing dialogue with Hoilett or Morrison will play out. Swift’s exit however feels inevitable.

This retained list is therefore better read as an outline of the club’s intentions going into an extensive period of negotiations than anything more concrete. Reading have 18 or so contracts to sort out in the coming weeks - some should be easier to resolve, while others could drag out.

There are however still some conclusions we can draw. The five senior contracts offered (Holmes, Laurent, Rinomhota, Yiadom and Azeez) make sense: the first four are probable starters right now while the fifth could develop to that standard and be a long-term asset for the club.

The released list is similarly logical. None of the six players let go (Thomas, Barker, Nyland, Araruna, Halilovic and McNulty) are huge surprises, although Nyland could have been retained after being a regular starter while Paul Ince had suggested Thomas would be kept on. The other four shouldn’t be difficult to replace, most likely with a promoted youngster (more on that below).

The overall picture is of continuity. Reading are trying (or may try) to keep the bulk of the 2021/22 squad rather than undertaking a bigger clear-out. At senior level that could have been achieved by, say, shifting some of Azeez, Hoilett and Morrison onto the release list.

Reading edging away from a more extensive clear-out is better seen though at under-23 level, where I was expecting a greater number of players to be released. The Royals have opted to make offers to a dozen youngsters who are broadly at the stage of graduating out of academy football and stepping up into first-team action: Abbey, Holzman, Ashcroft, Dorsett, Samuels, Osorio, Leavy, Scott, Camara, Clarke, Ehibhatiomhan and Melvin-Lambert.

(Apply the usual caveat of some young players not necessarily being likely to stay but Reading still offering deals for the sake of getting compensation when they join another club.)

While some of those 12 have shown more of what they can do than others, none have really yet had the chance to make a compelling case that they’re ready for the first team. Thus, it’s interesting that so many have been handed offers - surely a sign that they’re regarded as having substantial senior-level potential, whether in the first team, as a back-up or developing on loan. There’d be little point in just keeping them for the under-23s.

There is of course a clear financial and footballing case for bulking out the squad with talent developed in-house: it’s better to have a young, hungry academy graduate as the back-up than a more expensive senior player who’s not necessarily as invested in the club long term. Take the released players for example: Reading can theoretically swap out Thomas for Dorsett, Araruna for Ashcroft, Barker for Scott and McNulty for Ehibhatiomhan. It’ll be interesting to see how many of those 12 stay and how involved they are in 2022/23.

On the flipside, this time is a tough one for those unlucky enough to be released - particularly younger players who’ll face the task of finding a new club for the first time in their career. While they haven’t quite made the cut at Reading, they’re more than capable of finding good clubs elsewhere.

James Holden has already proved that by sealing a move to Cambridge United. I’m sure the others who’ve departed - Ethan Bristow, Lynford Sackey, Malachi Talent-Aryeetey and Jordan Addo-Antoine - will be able to do the same.

To those lads and the senior players also let go, we wish you the best of luck for the future.