AFTER months of demoralising results, Reading’s first team was in dire need of a shake-up.
In truth, it was necessary in the summer when Paul Clement and Ron Gourlay had a chance to replace last season’s underachievers with a new batch of talent, but it didn’t happen.
The widely anticipated clear-out wasn’t forthcoming and, although a number of new players came in – mostly on frees or loan deals – they simply didn’t end up having the impact required.
Of all the summer arrivals, only Andy Yiadom can claim to have been a smart addition. David Meyler, Marc McNulty and Josh Sims left the club in January, while none of Sams Walker and Baldock, John O’Shea or Saeid Ezatolahi gave the side a noticeable boost (although the latter may have, were it not for injury).
Fast-forward to January, and Reading learned from their mistakes.
All five loan signings were targeted at obvious shortcomings in Jose Gomes’ first team. Emiliano Martinez, Matt Miazga and Nelson Oliveira are now arguably the best options in their respective positions, while Lewis Baker and Ovie Ejaria add quality and creativity in midfield – two distinctly missing attributes pre-January.
It’s particularly telling that, in the very first match after the transfer window closed, every January addition started. Add in summer signing Yiadom, and two other players in Andy Rinomhota and Callum Harriott who barely played last season if at all, and you’re left with a side barely recognisable from the one available just under a year ago.
Gomes needed such a sweeping change if he’s to alter the mindset at the club, injecting confidence and work ethic.
His own man-management can only go so far, with the bad habits developed under his predecessors running deep into the psyche of his squad. But Reading’s recruitment has given them a fighting chance of avoiding the drop.
Simeon can be found on Twitter @SimFromBucks and his Reading fansite account is @TheTilehurstEnd.