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Youth Sides

The last few years have seen the academy come into prominence. With numerous first team players coming through the ranks of The Royals. The last couple of seasons, however, have focused not just on the players coming through but also the academy teams themselves, and the past two weeks have been a culmination of a huge collective effort.

First off the U21s went to Liverpool, and won 2-1. With a beautiful goal from sub, Harry Cardwell, and a slightly scrappier one from ‘Michael Hector’ – which possibly should have gone to Niall Keown. Liverpool had a chance to get revenge in the FA Youth Cup when their U18s visited in the quarter-finals. What transpired over the course of the next 120 minutes was one of the greatest games to ever grace the pitch at the Madejski. Leading 2-0 just a few minutes into the second half it looked as if Reading were cruising – with Liverpool not really creating any guilt-edged chances, but somehow a late rally saw them take the game into extra-time at 2-2. Skip forward to half-time extra-time and Liverpool find themselves 4-2 up. Three-minutes of the match remain and this time it’s Reading’s turn to fight back. First a goal from Taylor-Crossdale, then a goal from McLennan somehow get Reading to penalties, where there are 9 terrific, top-draw strikes, but Liverpool’s Brannagan – judging by how approached the penalty, the most confident player on the pitch – sees his penalty miss to Ward's right. A history making team. We now have Fulham in the semi-finals, who are widely regarded as the best team at this level so it may be a step too far, but they've already progressed further than any other Reading team which is something to be proud of.

Then the U21s have the chance to make the Premier League Cup’s final, but had to overcome Arsenal away in extra time. Arsenal struck first with a penalty after a foul by Jake Cooper, but Craig Tanner scored before half-time to level. With a goalless second half the game once again went into extra-time, but this time it was The Royals who struck twice; Tanner added another, before YouTube sensation, Liam Kelly, sealed the win.
I’m seriously excited by our youth sides, and with good reason. They’ve shown themselves as perfectly able to keep up with the big boys, and that can only be good for graduates coming through to the first team. This season alone we’ve seen seven players who came through our academy:
  • Sean Morrison
  • Alex Pearce
  • Alex McCarthy
  • Jem Karacan
  • Jordan Obita
  • Jake Taylor
  • Michael Hector
  • Hal Robson-Kanu
Plus Aaron Tshibola, Niall Keown, and Pierce Sweeney appear on the bench. Morrison and Pearce are our top two players according to WhoScored, even if the former has been out injured since November. Then we have Cox, Church, and The Almighty Gylfi Sigurdsson at other clubs.

If you factor in the fact that they’re pushing the women’s team on social media as well and Reading is quickly becoming a club in more than name. It also shows how television propels things up the priorities ladder; would we be seeing such a push if we weren’t part of the WSL, even if we are part of the lower division? I really hope people get behind the women’s team, as it’s excellent to see development in the women’s game, and it gives football all through the year – if nothing else. Definitely well worth a trip down to Farnborough – or the Madejski for the opening day against Yeovil on 16th April.


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