Reading have continued their squad-building ahead of 2022/23 by signing up Femi Azeez to a fresh contract. The 21-year-old has agreed a two-year deal after his previous terms expired at the end of last month.
It’ll be interesting to see how he develops next season. Azeez initially showed promise in August 2021 by scoring twice at home - first against Preston North End and then against Bristol City a few days later. However, after starting the first four matches of the season his campaign was badly affected by injury and he could only manage nine more league appearances.
Bouncing back from those setbacks will be key, as will his positional future. Azeez can in theory play up top or out wide, but for the sake of his development it’s probably better if he’s able to focus on one position. With that in mind it’s probably better for Paul Ince to use the youngster as a right winger (Azeez isn’t as good at holding the ball up), but still as one who’s allowed to make runs in behind.
Joining Azeez in agreeing new deals are youngsters Nahum Melvin-Lambert and Hamid Abdel Salam. The former is a 19-year-old centre forward who’s played three times for Reading’s first team, in addition to loan experience with St Pat’s, while the latter is an 18-year-old right back yet to appear at senior level.
Melvin-Lambert could be in line for first-team involvement, given that he’s one of the few youngsters on Reading’s books who’s actually had time out on loan rather than just playing for the under-23s. That senior-level experience should make him that bit more ready for Championship football if required, so I’m interested to see how much he’s used in 2022/23.
How the bigger picture now looks on the contracts front
These three signings are the latest bits of news in an already very busy summer. First up, at first-team level, Andy Yiadom and Tom Holmes both agreed three-year deals on the same day a few weeks ago. They could be joined at Reading next season by Junior Hoilett, who was offered fresh terms of an unknown length, as confirmed by head of football operations Mark Bowen:
“Junior Hoilett has been offered a deal. He went away with Canada and we’re still waiting back on that one.”
On the flipside, Reading have lost a number of senior players. John Swift (West Bromwich Albion), Josh Laurent (Stoke City) and Andy Rinomhota (Cardiff City) have new clubs, while Michael Morrison confirmed his departure on Instagram.
The following senior players were released: Terell Thomas, Brandon Barker, Orjan Nyland, Felipe Araruna, Alen Halilovic and Marc McNulty. You can read the full original retained list here.
We’ve also seen plenty of players at academy level commit their futures to Reading:
- Extension clauses activated (presumably for a year): Jeriel Dorsett (20, CB) and Kian Leavy (20, CAM)
- Two-year new deal: Nelson Abbey (18, CB/LB)
- Three-year new deal: Louie Holzman (18, CB) and Mamadi Camara (18, CAM/winger)
- New deal of unknown length: Rashawn Scott (19, winger), Claudio Osorio (19, CM), Matt Rowley (17, GK), Benjamin Purcell (17, CM) and Sam Paul (18, RB)
- New signings for the under-23s: Michael Craig (19, CM) and John Clarke (age unknown, LB)
Going by the club’s retained list, we’re still waiting for news on a few other players: Imari Samuels, Kelvin Ehibhatiomhan and Jahmari Clarke. The first two have been spotted in pre-season training with Reading so could agree new terms, while the latter has been playing (and scoring) for Jamaica in the CONACAF U20 Championship.
However, the chances of Samuels staying look a little slim. Mark Bowen told the media:
“The two main concerns at the moment are central midfield and left-back. It’s obvious to see. Imari Samuels - we’ve spoken to him about contracts and I think he wants to try and be a number one full-back somewhere [else].”
Otherwise, former triallist Tristan Abldeen-Goodridge was seemingly spotted in Reading’s pre-season training so may join the club. Out-of-contract right back Tyrell Ashcroft moved to Tottenham Hotspur, having played four times for the Royals last season. Best of luck to him at Spurs.