Reading’s thin squad keeps getting thinner. Today Tom Ince has swapped the Royals for the Hornets, joining Watford on a two-year deal (with the option of another year). Officially the fee has been put down as undisclosed, but recent reports suggested Ince had a paltry £50,000 release clause.
It’s a blow, but not an unexpected one (which seems to be becoming a theme for Reading this summer). Even without a clause, we were likely to find it difficult to keep hold of a player who’s certainly above League One standard and would have always retained hopes of remaining in the second tier.
The reported fee grates. Normally, Reading would have been hoping to bank half a million at the very least for a player of the season with a couple of years left to run on his contract, if not more. It’s yet another case of a key player leaving without the club receiving a substantial fee to reinvest.
To be fair though, such a clause may well have been the clincher in getting Ince to sign permanently in the first place. Reading were in a weak bargaining position last summer, severely restricted in the wages that could be offered (not to mention the low status of the club in general), so throwing an exit clause in as a sweetener could have been decisive.
And it can’t be said that Ince didn’t make a major contribution last season. He was joint-top-scorer and top-assister, also coming out ahead of anyone else in our player ratings and player of the month awards.
He’s the third in-contract player to move on this summer, joining Naby Sarr and George Puscas in that respect. The former signed for Qatari team Al-Markhiya after triggering a relegation release clause in his deal (presumably meaning no transfer fee for us), while the latter was sold to Genoa - due to an obligation for the Italian side to buy him if they were promoted.
That’s not to mention all those departing on frees, including Shane Long, Luke Southwood, Yakou Meite and Lucas Joao. They could be joined by Junior Hoilett and Amadou Mbengue, but as far as we know, negotiations are still ongoing. All of that leaves the first-team squad looking like this:
Just kidding of course, but the way things are going this summer, that picture might soon be accurate. At the moment the squad actually looks like this: