Well this one hurts. Reading have sold Nelson Abbey to Olympiacos for an undisclosed fee and no, unlike the Tom Holmes to Luton Town transfer, there’s no loan back.
Abbey’s been one of my favourite players this season: a real break-out star, bright talent and one of our own. He was surely also on track to be a leading contender for player of the season. It’s not just that he played very well this season - it’s also clear that he’s been proud to pull on the shirt and there’s been a real mutual love between him and the supporters.
An exit was inevitable though, sometime at least. Abbey’s contract was up in the summer (albeit with a reported year-long option included in that deal) and his excellent performances this season will have attracted widespread suitors. Indeed, Southampton and Luton Town have both been linked with Abbey, with the latter actually having a bid accepted.
The Hatters’ interest in Abbey was revealed by the Reading Chronicle in mid-January before it later emerged that he’d be off to Olympiacos. Abbey played no part in the Wigan Athletic or Derby County games, fuelling speculation of an exit, with the transfer seemingly all done on January 24.
Reading’s financial situation made it difficult to keep Abbey. Funds are desperately required, hence the sale of both him and Holmes, as well as the loan exit of Nesta Guinness-Walker, who joined Stevenage this week. Hopefully Holmes and Abbey are the last first-team sales this month.
The Royals are undoubtedly losing an important first-team player. Abbey has brought pace, aggression and ball-progression to the left-sided centre-back spot, giving Reading the ability to play a higher defensive line and develop attacks down that side.
Holmes and Tyler Bindon currently make up the first-choice pairing, with them starting each of the last two matches. Tom McIntyre’s return from injury adds some experience (it’s handy to have another left-footed option now Abbey’s gone) while Amadou Mbengue, Clinton Mola and Harlee Dean are among those further down the pecking order.
So, as it stands, Reading should be able to cope with Abbey’s departure. But it’s still gutting to lose him, let alone in these circumstances - having to cash in on a young talent rather than having an owner who’ll fight to keep him.
Best of luck Nelson.