Michail Antonio is winging his way out of Berkshire to move to Sheffield Wednesday.
As mentioned by Tommy yesterday, Michail Antonio completed his long mooted move to Sheffield Wednesday earlier this week. The 22-year-old spent a very successful loan spell at Hillsborough last season and Wednesday had chased his permanent signature all summer, with two bids reportedly turned down by the Royals before things were finally wrapped up this week.
As well as Antonio, two other Royals left the Madejski Stadium this week, with Karl Sheppard joining League Two side Accrington Stanley on loan until January and fellow striker Brett Williams joining Woking on another long-term loan deal.
Below the line we'll look over the latest exits from the club as the new season draws ever closer.
Antonio is the latest in a line of players plucked from relative obscurity to net Reading what is believed to be a £700,000 transfer fee. That figure would represent a great return on a player who signed for next to nothing from non-league Tooting and Mitcham back in 2008. Antonio was always seen as a raw player with all of the physical attributes to make it but question marks over his technical ability.
After a return on loan to Tooting, Antonio really sprang to prominence during a loan spell at League One Southampton in the 2009/10 season, helping the Saints to a Football League Trophy win and narrowly seeing Alan Pardew's side miss out on promotion. Antonio returned to Reading and earned a few starts under Brian McDermott but largely had to settle for a place on the bench. He never started more than two games in a row and couldn't displace Jimmy Kebe, Jobi McAnuff or Hal Robson-Kanu on a regular basis.
After another loan spell at Colchester, Antonio made back-to-back league starts in games against Hull and Bristol City in January but the return to fitness of Kebe and McAnuff plus the capture of Tomasz Cywka kept Antonio well out of the first team picture. That led to his Hillsborough loan move and since then the winger has never looked back.
Realistically, promotion meant that there was never going to be a real chance for Antonio to prove himself at Reading. Michail has yet to prove himself consistently at Championship level, with just four starts over four seasons and it would have been too great a gamble to ask him to translate his League One success at the very top level. With McAnuff, Kebe, Robson-Kanu and now Garath McCleary in front of him it became clear his future lay away from Berkshire and this move gives him the chance to get some regular games in the Championship, something that will only aid his development.
Some have argued that his potential was reason enough to keep him, or loan him out again, but with a year left on his contract and at the age of 22 it made more sense for both the player and the club to get a deal that worked out for both parties. Even if Reading were to get relegated and a spot opened up for him, there's no guarantee he'd start every week and young winger Jordan Obita could well be ready for starts next year in the Championship. Reading have always tried to do right by the player and this move is something that Antonio wanted and we've managed to make a very good profit on a player who has played under 30 league games at the club.
Elsewhere and Karl Sheppard looks set to gain his first Football League experience after moving to the North West to join Accrington on loan. Sheppard joined the Royals from Shamrock on a free in January but struggled with injuries after joining the club and saw his chance of breaking into the team limited by the signings of Jason Roberts and Pavel Pogrebnyak. It's hard not to feel a little sorry for the former Everton youngster who arrived at the club in a time where we were struggling for goals and with the Zingarevich takeover not yet completed it seemed as if he might have a real chance to displace Church, Le Fondre and Hunt from the first team picture.
I saw Sheppard play at Basingstoke for the development XI and I can't say he impressed me that much. He seemed to have a decent touch and his linkup play was also promising but his finishing let him down and he struggled to win much in the air. That's the only time I've seen him live so it's unfair to write him off on that basis and I wrote a long piece on the Irishman when he joined just six months ago that gave plenty of reasons to be optimistic in the long term. Moreover at just 21 he's got plenty of time to develop and as Adam Le Fondre has shown, it's possible to make the jump up the leagues in a short period of time.
Another low cost striker to make a loan move away from the Madejski is Brett Williams who's dropped out of the league to join Woking. Williams was a low cost punt from Eastleigh in January 2011 but like Sheppard, suffered an injury when he was in the first team picture and lost any hope of getting a spot in the team.
The signing of Adam Le Fondre and the reduction from 7 subs to 5 ended any real hope WIlliams had of getting back into the first team squad and so he was loaned to Rotherham and Northampton. Just five goals in 29 games at League Two level hardly screams Premier League quality and like Sheppard he hardly impressed in the one game I've seen him live in at Basingstoke.
At this moment in time it's very hard to see either WIlliams or Sheppard playing for Reading in the Premier League but who knows what a prolific loan spell could do? Of the two it's Sheppard who seemingly has the better chance of a future at the Madejski but with Williams dropping out of league football all together and turning 25 in December he's looking like another Dave Mooney rather than Kevin Doyle or Adam Le Fondre.
Three more out of the door and Reading's 25-man squad looks just about settled with the opening game against Stoke just under two weeks away. The transfer window remains open until the end of August, while we could also move players out on loan to the Football League throughout the winter so more could be done, though I wouldn't expect much movement in the next two weeks.