Reading’s contract renewals are ticking along nicely, with Junior Hoilett and Kelvin Ehibhatiomhan becoming the latest players to agree new contracts. They join a trio of young players who penned fresh terms on Saturday: Femi Azeez, Nahum Melvin-Lambert and Hamid Abdel Salam.
Hoilett’s deal is due to keep him in Berkshire for another 12 months. That’s the same length as his original one-year contract which he committed to upon arrival from Cardiff City on a free transfer last summer. As for Ehibhatiomhan, his terms last for two years.
Keeping hold of Hoilett in particular is a big boost for the Royals’ attacking options next season. The 32-year-old not only brings plenty of experience, but he’s also a natural left-sided player unlike other options such as Yakou Meite, Tom Ince and Azeez.
It had looked for a while as if Hoilett wouldn’t be retained. He was one of three players Reading officially released at the end of last season but remained in dialogue with - the others being John Swift and Michael Morrison who have both had their departures ratified.
However, Berkshire Live reported that an offer was tabled by Reading for Hoilett a few weeks ago. Head of football operations Mark Bowen then stated last week that the Royals were still waiting to hear back. Hoilett taking his time may have given the impression he wasn’t keen on staying after all, so seeing the announcement of his new deal on Tuesday afternoon was a nice surprise.
Reading’s options out wide now look pretty healthy. Paul Ince can call on Hoilett, Azeez, Meite, Ovie Ejaria, Mamadi Camara and Rashawn Scott. However, given that Hoilett only managed 27 appearances last season and his teammates tend to be needed elsewhere (Ejaria is likely to play centrally next season) or are still very raw, another established left winger would be a good addition.
As for Ehibhatiomhan, he’s now one of a number of centre forwards Reading have on the books. Excluding the possibility of Hoilett lining up as a false nine, the list now reads: Lucas Joao, George Puscas, Meite, Azeez and Melvin-Lambert. Puscas is likely to leave, as could out-of-contract young striker Jahmari Clarke, but they may be replaced by triallist Connor Wickham and long-rumoured target Shane Long.
In that light, it’ll be interesting to see what Reading’s plans for Ehibhatiomhan are. If there is a bottleneck at first-team level, a time out on loan could be the best call.