Professional Phase Coach on promtion-winning seasonProfessional Phase Coach Martin Kuhl has pinpointed mental strength as one of the key attributes of his U21s side following the conclusion of their promotion-winning season on Friday.
The U21s will begin next term in Premier League Division One, having finished as runners-up to Middlesbrough in Division Two this season.
The Royals secured their fate by winning seven successive league matches through March and April, keeping clean sheets in six of those.
Immediately prior to that, Reading had bowed out of the Premier League Cup at the semi-final stage following an extra-time defeat to Blackburn, and Kuhl says that another group of players could have crumbled following that disappointment.
“This set of players always respond,” he said. “Any disappointment they have faced, they have bounced back straight away. Now we’ve said to them that all of this hard work they’ve put in with the U21s needs to lead to a first-team career. That’s what they need to go and get.
“They’ve got a lot of character, they can play and they’re physically strong as well – we proved that against Derby in April. They’re a good group of players and they all push each other.
“What are the boys that have had a taste of the first team this year going to do now? And the ones that haven’t? Hopefully they are both going to kick on.
“We’d love to them back in the group next year but we’d also like to see them playing either on loan or in the first team. Hopefully they’ll have 15, 16 years of playing at the top level and winning things. If they do that, then brilliant.
“It’s been a very good season. There were a couple of disappointments and we would have loved to have won the league but we will take promotion. I keep saying to them, second is not best and we have to be number one but as a group of players they have done really, really well.
“A lot of our results have been matched by performances too, which has been very, very pleasing.”
The Royals signed off their campaign with a narrow 1-0 defeat to West Bromwich Albion at Madejski Stadium on Friday evening.
Despite dominating for long spells, they were unable to take anything from the game and Kuhl has been pleased with his squad’s attitude since they secured their promotion.
He said: “We have told them that people will be watching; the manager and people that may be thinking about taking them on loan next season. There is always something for them to play for.
“Had they switched off and given it large, then people would have thought differently of them but they’re a good group of lads and they represent the club very well.
“We’ve had two good performances since winning promotion, against Wolves and then West Brom, and that shows a strong mentality from the players.
“We got into good areas on Friday but we lost the game and one mistake from us and they scored. West Brom are a dangerous side on the counter attack but overall I felt we played quite well. We opened up quite a bit, made a few chances and on another day we put them away.”