Reading got their 2018/19 pre-season schedule underway with a 2-1 defeat at non-league Eastleigh on Saturday afternoon.
Leandro Bacuna looked to have rescued a draw for the Royals, only for the hosts to grab a late winner following a fumble by Vito Mannone.
But given there is still over a month until the Championship season kicks off, not too much sleep will be lost over the eventual result and there were still some talking points from the trip to Hampshire.
Joey van den Berg looks set to depart
The absence of van den Berg from the 23-man squad which travelled to Eastleigh was telling.
When asked about the Dutchman’s future earlier this week, manager Paul Clement confirmed that he was training but that competition for places in central midfield was fierce.
And while assistant boss Nigel Gibbs would not confirm nor deny any rumours linking van den Berg with a switch back to a club in his homeland, he reiterated that “there is a very, very competitive midfield” and that David Meyler’s arrival makes life more difficult for Joey.
Van den Berg is certainly not the type of character to be happy on the fringes of a squad so it looks highly likely he will move on in the near future.
Promising display from youngsters
While it was largely an experienced first team squad in action at The Silverlake Stadium, the performances of two youngsters stood out.
Danny Loader was given 45 minutes up front in the second half and impressed, striking the post from 15 yards and also going close to registering an assist with a neat ball through for Dave Edwards.
Although it was only a friendly against a National League side, Loader’s potential is clear and he needs some first team football this season, be it at Reading or via a loan spell.
Another young player to shine was Andy Rinomhota. Having joined Reading from playing youth football at AFC Portchester, just up the road from Eastleigh, the 21-year-old was on familiar territory in Hampshire. And despite playing in an unfamiliar right-back role, he looked right at home with strong bombing runs forward and composure on the ball.
Given his versatility, Rinomhota could well add to his two first team appearances last season and shows there still must be a clear pathway between the talented Reading academy and the first team.
Style of play
Paul Clement said this week that his sole task when arriving back in March was to save the club from relegation.
With that now achieved, he has this week finally been able to try and develop a style of play. The boss was growing frustrated at times on the sidelines, jumping from his perch on a water bottle box just to the side of the dugout to bark out orders to get the Royals to move the ball quicker.
Early signs show that he will be keen to utilise the talented wingers at Reading with most of the threat coming down the left through Mo Barrow in the first half and the returning Callum Harriott after the restart, with some of their crosses deserving better finishes in the middle.
And while there is still a lot of preparation time to go, we were given an early indication of the team Clement may well be planning to use for that season opener against Derby County on August 7. Aside from Anssi Jaakkola in goal and Yakou Meite up front, the nine others who played the first half look to be the players currently holding the shirt, but with the second half side performing better in an attacking sense, competition for places is certainly rife.