Opinion: Why Reading FC’s current predicament potentially shows 2021 West Ham sale was a mistake | OneFootball
Opinion: Why Reading FC’s current predicament potentially shows 2021 West Ham sale was a mistake
Football League World
It’s often hard to make a case against selling someone who never made a first-team appearance for the club, but in this case, we can make an exception.
19-year-old Thierry Nevers was one academy man that was never given an opportunity to shine in the senior squad – and perhaps there is a reason for this. But when the summer came around, he was a player many Reading fans wanted to keep.
Known for their successful academy and bringing players through, including Omar Richards and Michael Olise who moved to Bayern Munich and West Ham United respectively in the previous transfer window, there has always been an appetite from supporters at the Select Car Leasing Stadium to give young players a chance.
And why not?
There may have been hit and misses in Berkshire with several academy players failing to live up to expectations during their time at the club, but there have been many success stories at the club as mentioned above.
And with the Royals needing to drastically reduce their wage bill as part of a business plan agreed with the EFL, they may be forced to rely on some of their younger players to provide squad depth in some areas, something that has happened already due to the club’s injury crisis before the international break.
Their current situation has been summed up perfectly by 18-year-old Jahmari Clarke’s second-half brace against Birmingham City in the last match, with 17-year-old Tyrell Ashcroft making his senior debut in the fixture before that away at Millwall, not an easy place to go to by any means.
The teenage duo may need to make more appearances before it can be accurately judged whether they are indeed ready for first-team football or not, but what can’t be denied is the fact fellow academy graduate Luke Southwood has been exceptional this term, stepping up well in place of Rafael Cabral and making a selection of stunning saves during his stint in the starting lineup.
Another player from the Royals’ youth ranks that could have made a real impact this season though is Nevers, an exciting winger who shone in Premier League 2 during his time in Berkshire and generated a lot of excitement in the fanbase.
Unfortunately, the club decided to sell him to West Ham United for an undisclosed fee in May this year, shortly after triggering an extension in his contract that would have seen him remain at the club until 2022.
As a youngster who was yet to take to the field for the senior squad, his wages would have been modest and considering he had scored nine goals and recorded two assists in 23 Premier League 2 appearances during the previous two campaigns, he was worth giving a chance to in the first team.
Also able to play as a centre-forward, his presence would have provided depth in two positions that are arguably the Royals’ weakest points as things stand.
20-year-old Femi Azeez made a great impact in the early stages of the campaign before picking up injuries – and you would have backed Nevers to make a similar impact having been a key man for the Under-23s.
Not all players who impress in the U23s go on to be a success in the first team. Danny Loader is a case in point before his move to Porto last year.
But as a young player on a low wage, a squad member we may have been able to tie down to a longer-term deal with the EFL’s permission and a man that would have been able to provide squad depth in areas the club needed to address, he was someone worth keeping at the Select Car Leasing Stadium, especially with a transfer embargo affecting the club’s ability to bring players during the previous window.
You have to appreciate the fact the club needed to get players off the books to cut costs and were and are always going to struggle to offload some of the potential higher earners in the squad including Liam Moore and George Puscas, but Nevers wouldn’t have added much financial strain on the wage bill at all.
So unless the teenager was pushing for a move to West Ham and was prepared to kick up a fuss about it, the club may look back at this summer 2021 transfer and realise they have made a mistake, knowing he could have been someone they would have been able to keep at the expense of other first-teamers in their quest to reduce their wage bill further.
This is a requirement to keep the EFL happy and escape a further points deduction – and after seeing him score four times in seven Under-23 matches for the Hammers this term – Reading fans will be wondering how well he could have adapted to senior football in the Championship.