FORMER Reading star Nicky Shorey is being linked with a shock move back to the Madejski Stadium.

Royals are keen to bolster the left-back position with cover for veteran Ian Harte and 22-year-old Joseph Mills.

And rumours are growing that boss Brian McDermott is now preparing to swoop for ex-Royals full-back Shorey, 31, who is available on a free transfer after being released by West Bromwich Albion.

Reading have already signed three players on free transfers this summer - Pavel Pogrebnyak, Danny Guthrie and Garath McCleary - and McDermott confirmed he aims to bring in more new faces before the squad goes to Portugal on pre-season tour on July 18.

"We're still looking at other players and would like to get another two or three in," said Royals' boss.

"Hopefully we can get them all in before we go to Portugal. That would give them time to meet the other players and settle in."

Shorey remains one of Reading's best-ever signings after former boss Alan Pardew snapped him up from Leyton Orient for a bargain �25,000 in 2001.

He played 267 league games for the Royals and was a regular in Steve Coppell's record-breaking side that graced the Premier League between 2006-08.

During that time he became the first Reading player to be capped by England in a century when he was called up by Steve McClaren in 2007 for friendlies against Brazil and Germany.

However, when Royals suffered relegation in 2008, Shorey joined Aston Villa for around �3.5 million, though he hinted he would always like to return to Reading one day. Speaking at the time he said: "I love Reading Football Club and I'll always look out for them.

"One day in the future I'll be coming back, either against Reading or, you never know, I could be coming back [to play] with them."

Sadly, Romford-born Shorey played only 25 top-flight games for Villa and, after brief loan spells with Nottingham Forest and Fulham, he signed a two-year deal with West Bromwich Albion in 2010.

But after two seasons at the Hawthorns he was released by the Baggies at the end of last season and is now a free agent.

Whether Shorey, whose dad, Steve, is Reading's chief scout, re-joins the Royals remains to be seen, but unconfirmed reports suggests he has passed a medical at Madejski Stadium and is in talks over personal terms.

McDermott has been handed a substantial transfer kitty by new Royals owner Anton Zingarevich, with promotion to the Premier League worth an estimated �90 million on top in television endorsements and sponsorship.

Royals have also been strongly linked with Newcastle United contract rebel Danny Simpson, Hudderfield Town striker Jordan Rhodes, Watford defender Adrian Mariappa and Forest's versatile Chris Gunter.

Ex-Reading loan defender Matthew Connolly and his QPR team-mate Luke Young are other possible targets, along with Hull City midfielder Robert Koren, Tottenham defender Sebastien Bassong and Copenhagen striker Dame N'Doye.

Reading may also renew their interest in Crystal Palace right-back Nathaniel Clyne, 21, who is set to leave Selhurst Park this summer after turning down a new deal.

Meanwhile, Reading's first-team squad returned for pre-season training last week and McDermott added: "It's a clean slate for everybody.

"We're determined to do well in the Premier League next season."

Royals are set to play their first pre-season friendly tonight when a Development XI including Karl Sheppard and Lawson D'Ath travel to Didcot Town (7.45pm).

Reading are likely to field a stronger first-team squad this Saturday when they travel to AFC Wimbledon (3pm) for a warm-up match.