The Royals’ summer transfer business is finally up and running, with the arrival of Harvey Knibbs. The 24-year-old forward has joined on a free transfer from fellow League One side Cambridge United, agreeing a three-year deal.
Knibbs could have left Abbey Stadium in January to Plymouth Argyle, who were ultimately promoted to the Championship last season. However, a bid was rejected by Cambridge, who then tried once more to retain Knibbs’ service by offering him a new deal this summer, only for him to turn it down.
Knibbs’ career started in the youth ranks of Nottingham Forest, although he spent the bulk of his development - seven years - in Aston Villa’s academy. Having been released by the Villans without making a first-team appearance, he joined Cambridge on a permanent basis in 2019 and was there until joining Reading.
He played a total of 156 games for Cambridge in all competitions according to Transfermarkt, scoring 25 goals and assisting 11. His best season statistically was his most recent one, with a career-best 10 goal involvements (5 goals, 5 assists) in 40 appearances (also a career high).
If that end product looks somewhat low for a forward, it’s at least partially because of Knibbs’ tactical role. Having been more of an out-and-out centre-forward in his earlier years, he’s since moved deeper, as he told the Cambridge Independent last October:
“I’ve always been a striker growing up but I feel in the system we’ve got the number 10 role is really good for me. It’s a position where I can help to set our off-the-ball press.
“[Manager Mark Bonner] says I sort of play two positions when I’m in that role. I can help back and be an eight defensively but then I get forward to stretch teams and help Joey [Ironside] or Sam [Smith] if they’re playing through the middle.”
That bit about pressing is particularly relevant for Reading, with incoming manager Ruben Selles likely to want the Royals to win the ball back aggressively. Cambridge Independent editor Liam Apicella told Bristol World earlier this month:
“One of his major strengths is work-rate and the ability to lead an attacking press, which on countless occasions forced defenders into making mistakes or gifting the ball back to Cambridge.”