Clean slates for Gunter and McCleary at Reading

Reading defender Chris Gunter is hoping make his first appearance of the season in the Carabao Cup tie against Watford.

Experienced duo Chris Gunter and Garath McCleary have been brought in from the cold by new Reading manager Mark Bowen.

Gunter and McCleary, who have amassed almost 500 league appearances for the Royals between them, had been frozen out of the first-team under former boss Jose Gomes.

Winger McCleary’s last appearance for Reading came in April’s 2-1 away defeat to Middlesbrough, while Gunter made it a game further in Gomes’ reign by starting in the final match of last season.

But, as is often the case, the change of manager has brought a clean slate and a chance for both men to push for first-team action.

Gunter will have his work cut out, however, as the man currently plying his trade in the Welshman’s preferred right-back slot is Andy Yiadom – arguably the club’s most consistent performer over the past 12 months.

McCleary stands a better chance because, despite his lack of goals in recent seasons, the Jamaican’s ability to beat a man and create chances would be a very useful tool for Bowen as he attempts to drag the Royals up the table.

The former Wales assistant manager’s first chance to pick up points comes when Reading welcome Preston North End to Berkshire.

Bowen faces a tough start, with Queens Park Rangers, Nottingham Forest, Millwall and Luton Town all on the fixture list in the coming weeks.

But he dipped his toe in the coaching waters for the first time in almost a year when he took charge of the Royals Under-23s’ 2-2 draw with Arsenal on Friday with Sam Baldock netting both of his side’s goals.

The new manager, who was brought in as a technical consultant before taking up his most recent position as sporting director just two months ago, has only added one new member to his coaching staff.

Ex-Wales international goalkeeper Eddie Niedzwiecki comes in as his number two, replacing Jorge Mendonca, who left with Gomes.

However, fitness coach Rui Santos, analyst Joao Penedo and goalkeeping coach Jorge Baptista remain with the club and John O’Shea is also staying on as a first-team coach.