It took Jem Karacan only 55 minutes to make his mark in the Royals first team, scoring the fourth in a 5-1 Carling Cup thrashing of Luton Town on Tuesday 26th August 2008. That evening, Jem’s senior team debut, three other Academy graduates also got their names on the scoresheet – Alex Pearce heading home only a minute before Jem latched onto Noel Hunt’s throughball to slot past Conrad Logan in the Hatters goal, then James Henry capped a comfortable victory with our fifth. “It's so refreshing when youngsters come in and show such energy, verve, enthusiasm and exuberance,” Steve Coppell said after the win. Now aged 23, Karacan still has all of those adjectives in his play.
Later that same season, Karacan netted his first league goal. Reading were scrapping for every point in a second half to the season that was threatening to derail a superb start to life back in the second tier. And after Noel Hunt had opened the scoring at Blackpool, Karacan was on hand to add a second with a tap in after Hunt had glanced Julian Kelly’s cross onto the crossbar. Reading actually squandered their two-goal Bloomfield Road lead that afternoon, but Karacan’s league tally had got its first notch.
Under Brian McDermott, Jem’s first goal came courtesy of a second half screamer at Preston in October 2010. Keith Treacy had put North End in front against the run of play at Deepdale, but Karacan scored arguably our goal of the season to equalise; a 55th minute corner was cleared out of the area only for the midfielder to quite brilliantly smash a sensational 25-yard volley dipping under Andy Lonergan’s crossbar to earn the visitors a deserved point.
And Jem had a second for the season at the end of that month – again Noel Hunt was the supplier, crossing for Karacan to head home against Doncaster and spark a Royals revival. McDermott’s men had gone 3-1 down at home to Rovers before Jem pulled one back, and thanks to Ian Harte and Simon Church Reading went on to snatch all three points at Madejski Stadium that afternoon.
Jem’s penchant for a headed spectacular was reinforced in another incredible 4-3 win later that season when he bulleted an unstoppable header past Nottingham Forest keeper Lee Camp from an Ian Harte corner to level a crazy encounter back to 2-2 and set up a memorable City Ground victory.
His three goals last season were perhaps the most important he has scored for his club. The first came in October at Burnley. Jem had come off the bench to replace the concussed Jay Tabb in the second half and in the ninth minute of injury time, our Academy graduate cheekily stole in at the far post to slide home Noel Hunt’s cross and get a smash and grab winner for the Royals.
And then in mid-March, Karacan scored a very important brace at Barnsley. Reading had seen an immaculate eight-game winning streak come to an end with a 1-1 draw at the Keepmoat, so all eyes were on how Brian McDermott’s promotion-chasers would cope with a setback. A 4-0 win at Oakwell said it all. Jobi McAnuff broke the deadlock after half time and moments later Karacan had pounced on a loose ball in the box to double our advantage. And just after the hour, Jem arrowed a stunning 25-yard thunderbolt to put the game to bed. “I replay Wembley every day in my head, hitting that post, and it kills me. So I'm going to run my hardest, try my hardest and do whatever I can for this team to get us in the Premier League,” he said after the Oakwell win. And he did.