Assistant Academy boss on the U21s' achievementAssistant Academy Manager Lee Herron has hailed the U21s’ promotion to Premier League Division One as a fantastic group effort and a reward for a strong, collective work ethic.
A run of seven successive victories had propelled the 21s into the top two of the Division Two table and Derby’s goalless draw with West Brom on Monday evening ensured that the Royals cannot be caught with two games remaining.
And, as well as hailing the playing squad, who have not conceded a goal for 578 minutes of football, Herron was also delighted for professional Phase Coach Martin Kuhl and all of the other staff involved in the U21s set up.
“There were lots of smiley faces at training yesterday,” said the Assistant Academy Manager, who coaches the U21s alongside Kuhl. “We are over moon with the achievement and any success in football is difficult to come by.
“It’s great for the lads and all of the staff have worked exceptionally hard to make sure that we had the opportunity of doing it and we are all delighted. Winning any game of football is difficult but to do seven back to backs like that, against some of the opposition that we have played against, including Arsenal at the Emirates, is no mean feat.
“It’s important that we give credit to all the staff involved and to the players for keeping the clean sheets like they have. This will add the players’ experience of digging in at certain times and putting your body on the line at certain times and doing everything you can to make sure you don’t concede.
“Though it may be perceived as the back five, it’s a whole team effort; a defensive unit. The performance levels that the whole squad have maintained have propelled us into the position that we find ourselves in now.
“The entire academy is continuing to achieve at all levels despite strenuous competition and challenges. This is down to the continuous hard work and leadership of Eamonn Dolan, who ensures that everyone within the academy the set up continues to strive towards one common goal.”
With two games of the season remaining, the Royals still have an outside chance of catching league-leaders Middlesbrough, who hold a three-point lead at the top of the table.
And, although Reading’s promotion is already assured, Herron is tasking the U21s squad with pushing Boro all the way.
He said: “The players have to remain professional. They will be excited with the promotion and their achievement but they need to make sure that they continue to do the right things day in, day out.
“They are doing that in training but we need to make sure that they continue to do it in games. In their careers, hopefully, they will have situations like this where games are still to be played when something may have already been won.
“It’s that mentality and mental approach to make sure that they continue to be professional and do the best they can all of the time. The ultimate aim at the start of the season was to gain promotion, which we’ve achieved, and now we can look at it that if Middlesbrough were to slip up in one game then it gives us a potential opportunity to overtake them.”