Where do Reading FC need to strengthen?By Jonny Fordham
May 10, 2012
Work has already started on planning for life in the Premier League at Madejski Stadium.
Manager Brian McDermott and director of football Nick Hammond have a wish-list of players drawn up.
McDermott has already spoken of bringing in at least three players ready for the start of pre-season training in July, but what areas do Royals need to strengthen?
Undoubtedly Reading’s strongest position – in first-choice keeper Adam Federici , McDermott has a player destined for an exciting career in the top flight.
In reserve former England Under-21 stopper Alex McCarthy proved his credentials against Everton and Manchester City in the FA Cup last season.
Danish star Mikkel Andersen also has international experience with the Under-21s and although is yet to make his Royals debut, the 23-year-old is another highly thought of talent.
McDermott’s man-management skills will again no doubt come into play with McCarthy and Andersen both keen to play at the highest level possible.
McCarthy will keep his understudy position behind Australian Federici, but Andersen could head out on loan to a Championship club to keep his own career moving.
Verdict: Royals will be the envy of most Premier League side’s with their stable of keepers next season and McDermott won’t need to spend any money between the sticks.
In Kaspars Gorkss, Royals have a top-quality centre-back and leader at the heart of their back four.
Although Ian Harte is the only player in the rearguard with Premier League experience, Gorkss has played at the highest level captaining Latvia.
And Alex Pearce alongside him at centre-back has grown in stature in the past 12 months.
Right-back Shaun Cummings has the talent to cut it at the highest level and will be another player who develops with the experience of top flight football.
The lack of pace in Reading’s back-four is glaringly obvious and this will be an area where Royals could come undone.
What Harte lacks in pace he more than makes up for in positional sense and it is that nous that his team-mates will also need to show.
Beyond the current first-choice defenders McDermott has very little in reserve.
Centre-back Sean Morrison has done well at Huddersfield on loan, but he has yet to play in the Championship.
Joseph Mills has been hit and miss in the Championship, but he managed to find his feet and show some form before injuries got the better of him around Christmas time.
The likes of Michael Hector and Angus MacDonald continue to progress well out on loan in League Two, but they are not ready for Premier League football.
Verdict: Someone like Matthew Connolly from Queens Park Rangers would provide perfect cover and competition across the back four.
Another proven centre-back or right-back would also be a good addition to the 25-man squad.
Mikele Leigertwood and Jem Karacan are likely to be McDermott’s first-choice central pairing, but both are defensive minded.
Jay Tabb is the main competition at the moment, so Royals could do with another central player to add cover with doubts over Brynjar Gunnarsson’s future.
There is talent waiting in the wings with Lawson D’Ath and Jake Taylor, but neither are ready for this kind of stage just yet.
In wide areas Jobi McAnuff and Jimmy Kebe should thrive on the big stage and Hal Robson-Kanu is ready for this opportunity having played at international level for Wales.
Michail Antonio has been brilliant on loan at Sheffield Wednesday this season, but his five goals in 14 games have all been in League One.
The 22-year-old has raw ability, but lacks the technical side of the game he would need in the Premier League right now.
Jordan Obita, the 18-year-old winger, is an exciting talent, but he too will need more time to mature as a player in the lower leagues.
Verdict: A creative midfielder as well as another wide player would give Royals’ added flair to the midfield.
Jason Roberts came to Reading to play Premier League football and he now has his wish.
Although Roberts will miss the first two games of the season, he will most likely still be Reading’s number one hitman next season.
Noel Hunt has SPL and international experience and Simon Church has also played for his country.
However, neither have been consistent scorers for Royals, but both have had to sacrifice their own talents for the sake of the team at times.
Adam Le Fondre is the most clinical striker of the lot, but he may again be used more as an impact player rather than starting games.
Mathieu Manset, currently on loan at Shanghai, will be back at the club come pre-season, but his 18-months at Madejski Stadium have been more miss than hit.
Outside of those five players, Karl Sheppard has yet to make his debut, likewise with Brett Williams, who has spent the final half of the season on loan at Northampton Town.
So neither of those two forwards look likely to feature much in the Premier League, it at all.
Verdict: At least one striker with proven Premier League experience, or international pedigree, would be a big coup for McDermott and inspire the fans.
If Roberts gets injured then Royals could end up looking lost in attack, such is his importance to the team.