A review of recently awarded contracts for Royals youngstersWhile we’re trying to make sure the 2015/16 season is one to remember, hard work is always going on behind the scenes to ensure that future years are just as bright.
While we brought in new faces to freshen up the first team over the summer, the owners also backed the young players in our system to ensure that we have the foundations in place for a healthy future too.
Our Under-21 side currently lies third in the Under-21 Premier League and could overhaul Sunderland and Tottenham by winning their games in hand, while our Under-18s sit second in the Under-18 Premier League (South) – all of which goes to show that our young talent can hold their own against their peers at other Category One clubs.
But the yardstick for any Academy is not just how the players perform at youth level – it is whether they can convert their potential into a career in the professional game. With several players regularly involved in the first team having come through our youth ranks, it is evident that Reading isn’t a bad place to be a young footballer!
Manager Steve Clarke has shown that he believes that if you’re good enough, you’re old enough. And in the last couple of months, a number of players have put pen to paper to commit their future to the club. So here’s a round-up of the young players that have signed new deals with the Royals since the end of last season…
Young midfielder Tariqe Fosu was an integral part of the Under-21 squad that earned promotion to the top tier last summer, making 23(+1) appearances for Martin Kuhl’s side. He had an impressive first-team debut for the Royals on the final day of last season, helping Reading to a 3-0 win against Derby, and signed a new deal until the summer of 2017.
20-year-old centre-half Niall Keown made his pro debut in a 2-1 midweek win against Brighton last season, before making his first start the following weekend. Son of former Arsenal defender Martin, Keown netted the Royals’ winner against the Gunners as Under-21 Premier League promotion was secured last year. In the summer, he signed a new deal until 2018.
21-year-old left-back Jordan Obita has been a regular starter for the Royals over the past three seasons. He was named Player of the Season in his breakthrough campaign in 2013/14, and has earned a regular berth in an experienced defence this campaign. His contract extension, signed in pre-season, runs until the end of the 2017/18 campaign.
Midfielder Aaron Tshibola has cemented a place in Steve Clarke’s plans this season after returning from his loan spell at League 2 Hartlepool in the summer. Tish was named in the starting XI for our first Championship fixture of the season away at Birmingham and featured in every game until an injury kept him out of a visit to Rotherham. Injury has struck once more, but his new contract, signed in September, is until summer of 2019.
Young forward Dominic Samuel turned a few heads when he scored 6 goals in 12(+1) appearances on loan at Coventry City last year, and featured regularly in pre-season for the Royals. Unfortunately he picked up an injury during our Capital One Cup tie against Colchester, but he penned a new deal in September to see him through until the summer of 2018 – and he made his comeback from injury in an Under-21s win last week.
Centre-half Jake Cooper made his first-team breakthrough last season, featuring 19 times for the Royals. He was injured at the start of the current campaign, but after returning to fitness he played 90 minutes against Everton in the Capital One Cup. The 20-year-old signed a deal until the summer of 2018 earlier this month.
Winger Jack Stacey, who has been with the Royals since the age of 9, has also recently returned to fitness after an ankle injury and has been included in Steve Clarke’s first-team squad on five occasions so far in 2015/16. The 19-year-old made two starts and four substitute appearances last year, and recently penned a deal until the end of the 2018/19 campaign.
In addition, Under-21 forward and USA youth international Andrija Novakovich – who has netted crucial goals in the U21 Premier League at Madejski Stadium in wins against Liverpool and Norwich – recently had a year extension activated on his contract to keep him at the club until June 2017.
Eight young professionals – Jake Sheppard, Lewis Collins, George Legg, Stuart Moore, Pierce Sweeney, Conor Shaughnessy, Zak Jules and Sammi Fridjonsson – also penned new deals during the summer months.
And in the younger ranks, Under-18 captain Josh Barrett was recently awarded his first professional deal, as were midfielder Conor Davis and defenders Gabriel Osho and Sindri Scheving.