And so, just like that, Reading make their second “new” signing of the off season. Tom Ince has joined the Royals on a free transfer from Stoke City, agreeing a three-year deal. Of course, Ince Junior is hardly a newbie, having spent the latter part of last season on loan with us, travelling down from the Potteries and ultimately help the Royals avoid relegation to League One.
Harking back to those brutal final few months of the previous campaign, his reviews were mixed. The facts are that he did offer more of a threat in the final third of the pitch, with two goals and an assist. With 15 appearances under his belt, he was definitely capable of adding to that tally before his season was cut short through injury after an absolutely outrageous challenge up at Hull City.
Could he have done more offensively? Yeah, to be blunt. But let’s remember that he was in a team devoid of attacking prowess and shorn of confidence, so he can be forgiven for not fully finding his feet during his first stint in Berkshire. Others will argue that he kept fan favourite Yakou Meite out of the team, which did breed some resentment (the old classic “he’s the gaffer son” doing the rounds on several occasions) among the fans.
So, what are we actually getting? A 30-year-old who knows the league, has a decent goal record at historically similar clubs (see Derby County, 38 in 114 apps and Blackpool, 33 in 113) and knows the set-up of our club already. The three-year deal will inevitably raise eyebrows given his age, but the signing itself won’t surprise anyone connected with the club.
A very strong hypothesis is that the structure of the contract may well be that his wages are relatively low in the first season (see also Andy Yiadom and Tom Holmes) while we continue to toe the EFL line, with the promise of bigger riches to come. Maybe. Or maybe not.
All in all, a decent bit of business for the club - backed up by the fact that, at the time of writing, our poll on Ince shows around three quarters of fans deem him to be a “good” signing. That’s certainly true in the short term: securing a player who wants to play, is known by the fans and won’t need a settling-in period.
Welcome back Tom!