This article is part of Football League World’s ‘The Verdict’ series, which provides personal opinions from the FLW writers regarding the latest breaking news, teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
It’s set to be an interesting summer ahead for Reading, with Mark Bowen looking to make the necessary changes to his squad ahead of the 2020/21 campaign.
The Royals are currently sat 14th in the Championship table after improving their form under Bowen’s guidance, and the club’s supporters will be eager to see their side finish the season strongly with eight matches remaining this term.
A number of Bowen’s squad are out-of-contract heading into the summer, with experienced Welsh full-back Chris Gunter being one of those.
The right-back has made 308 appearances for the Royals since arriving from Nottingham Forest back in 2012.
Gunter has struggled for consistent game time since Andy Yiadom was signed by the Berkshire-based club, and his future is ‘up in the air’ heading into the conclusion of this season.
The Welshman has been linked with a move to Middlesbrough and Birmingham City according to The Athletic.
But should Reading be looking at offering Gunter a new deal with the club heading into the summer?
I’d move him on.
Gunter has been a loyal servant for the Royals over the years and has put in a number of top performances for the club.
However, Gunter is not a guaranteed starter at the Madejski anymore with Andy Yiadom utilised in the pecking order ahead of him when fit, and at the age of 30, Gunter is likely going to want to be starting games during the latter stages of his career.
The right-back has had his critics at Reading over the last few seasons but he always managed to weather the storm, and deliver consistent performances.
But, I think it’s now time for the Welshman to seek pastures new and let some of Reading’s exciting young defenders challenge Yiadom for the right-back role.
Yes, I think the Royals should look to hand the Welshman a new deal but I don’t think they should make it a high priority or do it if it leaves them financially stretched.
Gunter has come back into the side since the arrival of Bowen, having been seemingly outcast under Jose Gomes, and was a regular fixture in first team before suffering a groin injury in February.
The 30-year-old is a reliable performer at Championship level and has a huge amount of experience, which I think will be useful as Bowen looks to build on the progress his side have made this season.
When both are fit, Yiadom should be the Royals first-choice right-back but Gunter is a useful option to have in the squad and good figure in the dressing room.
That said, there are other holes in the Reading squad and they should be looking to address those this summer. If offering the defender a new deal stops them doing that, then it’s something they should be willing to avoid.
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I think it’s probably time to look towards the future now to be honest.
Gunter is obviously a really experienced player who has been a great servant for the Royals, and whilst he may not be too exciting going forward, he is relatively solid enough in defence and always gives his all.
He’s now approaching the age of 30, though, and I think that Reading are a club who are building for the future, with so many talented youngsters coming through the ranks in the likes of Michael Olise and Andy Rinomhota.
A short-term deal may not be too bad of an option, as it’s always important to have the right blend of experience and youth, but they should only offer him a new deal if it’s completely necessary.