Striker grateful for League Two experienceReading forward Craig Tanner believes that he will begin next season as a more rounded player, following his loan spell with AFC Wimbledon.
The young striker spent the last five months of 2014-15 with the League Two outfit, making 16 league starts in the fourth tier and three additional substitute appearance.
Despite finding the jump from under-21s football to League Two to be a big one, it was a transition he thoroughly enjoyed and definitely learned a lot from.
“I loved playing three games in a week,” said the 20-year-old. “And I feel like I’ve come back as a better, more rounded player. I’ve learned the gritty side of the game a bit better and what is required to make it as a professional.
“I know how to stay in the game longer and not drift out of it when we don’t have possession. So it was very beneficial for me. The under-21s league is a lot more technical and there is a lot more passing, so the cut and thrust of League Two presented a very different challenge.
“It is all about getting into areas, battling, picking up second balls, getting the ball into the box, pressing and maintaining a high tempo.
"I remember on my debut with Wimbledon, I did a bit of skill past someone, got the ball into the box and the next time he made sure that he left a bit on me!
“I didn’t really mind, though, because that is part of the game. In a strange way, I was looking forward to getting kicked around a bit so that I could toughen myself up.”
Tanner often led Wimbledon’s attack in the latter part of last season, alongside experienced frontman Adebayo Akinfenwa - and the Royals youngster is full of praise for the powerful striker, as well as Dons manager Neal Ardley.
“Playing up front with an experienced striker that gave me a lot of tips, it was great for me," Tanner said. "It was nice to play with a target man, which I haven’t really done before, and to fulfil different roles within a team, play in different positions and adapt my game.
“Bayo is a really down to earth person, I was surprised how open he was towards me. I enjoyed every moment of playing alongside him and learned a lot from him.
“There isn’t a bad person down at Wimbledon. Other experienced players like Jack Smith and the captain Barry Fuller would speak to me about their views on what I should do as an up-and-coming player.
“The more feedback I could get from them, the better it was for me and hopefully I will get an opportunity to show the Reading fans the difference in my game next season.”
He continued: “Neal Ardley was superb. He always had time for people. He understood that different players needed different things. He taught me a lot; told me where I needed to improve but also where I was good and how I could use my strengths in a match situation.
“After the loan, he phoned me and asked how I thought I’d done. He gave me some good advice and told me where what I did well and were I needed to still improve.”