Another signing completely out of the blue - Reading have snapped up goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis on a free transfer from Sutton United. The 31-year-old Aussie has agreed a three-year deal with the Royals, becoming the third signing of the summer after Joe Lumley (loan) and Tom Ince (three-year deal as a free agent).
Clearly, Reading are serious about reinforcing the goalkeeping department. The Royals can for now count on Lumley, Bouzanis, Luke Southwood, Jokull Andresson, Coniah Boyce-Clarke and Harvey Collins. You’d think however that the rumours of a permanent departure for Southwood are likely to be true, while adding an established back-up in the form of Bouzanis would free up Andresson and Boyce-Clarke to head out on loan for regular first-team football.
You’d think Bouzanis will be on pretty low wages, even by Reading’s standards, given that he’s been brought in from the fourth tier. Depending on how low those wages are, it might even give the Royals more leeway on other signings, given the need for salary costs this season to fit an overall average, as per the EFL’s business plan.
He had actually been set to stay at Sutton this season, only to change his mind. United’s manager Matt Gray said:
“We had agreed a new contract in principle with Dean but he has decided not to sign and so unfortunately will be leaving us. He has been an important part of our success over the past two years and we wish him all the best.”
Bouzanis will be working with Reading’s new goalkeeping coach, Tony Warner, who joined last week from Bristol Rovers. Former goalkeeping coach James Bittner has in turn “been offered a senior role within [the Royals’] academy set-up”.
Head of football operations Mark Bowen said of Bouzanis’ arrival:
“I’m delighted we have been able to acquire the services of a goalkeeper with Dean’s ability and add him to a group who will benefit from his additional experience between the posts. We now have great strength in depth in a position in the team which will be so important to get right this season. I’m pleased to welcome Dean to the club.”
While manager Paul Ince added:
“Dean is a goalkeeper who I know will put his body on the line and throw everything into keeping the ball out of the net for this football club. He becomes part of what is now a solid-looking goalkeeping department, led by the hugely experienced Tony Warner, and I am confident he will be a real asset to the club this season and beyond.”
Bouzanis has had quite the eclectic career. He came through at Liverpool, where he was dubbed the best ‘keeper for his age by then-manager Rafael Benitez and played alongside a certain Tom Ince. They’re still in close contact.
However, Bouzanis ended up cancelling his deal at Anfield a year early, in 2011, to get regular first-team football. That search ended up taking him to Oldham Athletic, Aris (in Greece), Carlisle United, Western Sydney Wanderers, Melbourne City, PEC Zwolle and finally Sutton United.
That last spell took in Sutton’s best period. Bouzanis played 42 times in the 2020/21 season as United earned promotion to the Football League for the first time in their history, and then 44 times as they finished eighth in League Two - just one spot outside the playoffs. They even got to the final of the EFL Trophy last season, only to be beaten by Rotherham United.
Welcome to Reading Dean!