Hammond aims to keep Reading FC starsBy Jonny Fordham
June 03, 2011
Reading director of football Nick Hammond is battling to secure the services of the club’s key first-team players and avoid losing them for free next summer.
Star striker Shane Long, captain Matt Mills and wingers Jimmy Kebe and Jobi McAnuff will all be free agents in 12 months time and have been attracting the interest of Premier League suitors.
Long’s admirers include Liverpool, Everton, Newcastle United and Celtic and they are all on red alert after chairman Sir John Madejski indicated he expected Royals’ goal ace to be sold this summer.
Manager Brian McDermott is desperate to keep hold of the 24-year-old striker.
Royals’ boss and Hammond will meet with the board next week to discuss tieing down the club’s top stars on new contracts.
The pair will stress the need to secure the futures of Mills, who has been watched by Bolton, and Kebe, who is reportedly a £3million target for Queens Park Rangers.
McAnuff is likely to want to stay following the recent capture of his best mate Mikele Leigertwood from QPR.
Hammond, who held preliminary budget talks with chief executive Nigel Howe on Wednesday, said: “There are discussions to be had with those people upstairs and we will know exactly where we are at when we have clarity of what the budget will be.
“Thanks to our FA Cup run this season and playing at Wembley in the play-off final we are looking like we are in a better position going forward.
“This is the time of year when we look at all contracts, from top to bottom, and we will be keen to hold on to our best players as we always are.”
Brynjar Gunnarsson met with McDermott yesterday as he mulls over a new one-year deal.
Zurab Khizanishvili, a free agent now that his Blackburn Rovers contract has run out, has been offered a permanent deal following his loan spell at Reading.
But the Georgia captain looks like he will be heading abroad.
Winger Hal Robson-Kanu is also out of contract and Royals are hoping he will put pen to paper on a new deal.
Hammond insists that the club have not received bids for any of their players, but confirmed there had been interest.
Royals have also been busy drawing up a list of targets for when the green light is given to begin business.
Hammond added: “We have a number of targets that we are looking at and we are keeping a close eye on what the situation is with them. As always, though, we will conduct our business in private.”