Reading think Dan's the man

CHAMPIONSHIP high-flyers Reading are preparing a move for Ipswich Town outcast Dan Harding.

Derek Davis

CHAMPIONSHIP high-flyers Reading are preparing a move for Ipswich Town outcast Dan Harding.

The Royals have been tracking the left back, who is on loan at Southend, and have asked Ipswich about his availability.

Reading boss Steve Coppell is a known admirer of the 25-year-old Harding and handed him his full debut while manager at Brighton.

Harding went on to play for England Under-21s and moved to Leeds United before arriving at Ipswich in the summer of 2006 as part of the deal that took Ian Westlake to Elland Road.

Although Reading signed left-back Chris Armstrong from Sheffield United in the summer and he is a regular in Coppell's side, it is understood they are looking for experienced back up.

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Harding has settled in well at League One side Southend United, making 13 appearances so far with one goal.

Town refused permission for him to play for the Shrimpers in their FA Cup tie against AFC Telford on Saturday, allowing him to play in the third round in January if he moves from Roots Hall.

Harding played 78 games for Town and won a Player of The Year award in 2007 but lost his place to Sito Castro in the second half of last season and has not figured since.

Ben Thatcher was signed as a free agent after he left Charlton and, when he was injured, David Wright stepped into the left back berth with Harding joining Southend on loan.

He is one of 13 Town players out of contract next summer and is free to talk to other clubs in January, but Town could ask for a nominal fee.

Shrimpers boss Steve Tilson has been impressed with Harding and could counter Reading's bid with one of his own with the lure of a regular starting place at a club he has already settled into as his bait.

Coppell's Reading are looking for a rapid return to the Premier League and today sit in third place in the Championship, while Town are unlikely to make him a new contract offer.