Hec joins top flight champions but will be a Royal this seasonRoyals defender Michael Hector has today been signed by Premier League Champions Chelsea, and the Academy graduate has been loaned back to Reading for the remainder of this season.
With this move, Michael’s status as a flagship player for our Academy has been cemented. He joins the likes of Gylfi Sigurdsson, Shane Long, Alex McCarthy et al as players who have worked through our youth system to move to the biggest league in the world. At 23 years of age Michael fully deserves the opportunity to join that esteemed list of names.
Our Category One youth system is a great source of satisfaction for the club. With a record number of first team Academy debutants last season, the Under 21s earning Premier League promotion and cup success in the last 18 months, and Academy graduates continuing to shine in our first team and elsewhere, there is much to be proud of. Indeed, in the last ten days our Under 21s have beaten Liverpool 2-1, and our Under 18s and Under 16s both saw off Arsenal 4-1 this weekend. But this transfer is not solely about our Academy - crucially Chelsea agreed to loan vice captain Michael back for the rest of the 2015/16 campaign, which was key to the deal.
Manager Steve Clarke said, “This is a great reward for Michael’s strong performances in the second half of last season. I’m delighted for him that he has joined Chelsea and I’m sure that he will seize his opportunity with both hands.
“Also it’s a good deal for us here at Reading as we get to keep Michael in our squad this season and I look forward to helping him further his development.”
Director of Football Nick Hammond said, "Obviously this is a great move for Michael, to be joining such a big club. It is also, of course, a great advertisement for our Academy that Chelsea have come to us for one of our top young players.
"This move represents a great achievement for Eamonn Dolan and his team, as well as our recruitment department, as it was Steve Shorey, who has been with us such a long time, that identified Michael as a young player in East London. This transfer adds to the prestige of our Academy, and there is so much to be proud of in our youth setup.
"We very much appreciate the manner in which Chelsea have dealt with this transfer, and of course it is great to have Michael back for the rest of this season."
Hector was first spotted playing against our Academy for a select XI and, after working tirelessly with our coaching staff, he gained key experience out on loan, particularly with Cheltenham, Dundalk, Barnet and Aberdeen.
He was called back to Madejski Stadium to further develop here, and broke into our first team towards the end of that season, as we narrowly missed out on the play-off places.
Last season, Hector was named in the top three of our official ‘Player of the Season’ vote, making 40 starts in a breakthrough campaign that included a stand-out display in the FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal at Wembley.
This summer he lined up against the likes of Lionel Messi, Edinson Cavani and Angel Di Maria in the Copa America, before helping Jamaica to an historic runners-up spot in the Gold Cup. At the start of the new campaign he was named Reading FC vice captain.
All of this has led to a chance to play for one of the country’s biggest clubs and the current Premier League Champions.
Everyone at Reading will take a sense of pride for the part we played in his progress and we are delighted that he will continue to represent the Royals in 2015-16, before making the move to Stamford Bridge. We believe this deal further cements our status as a Club where young players can truly make the most of their ability, as Michael has done.
Chief Executive Nigel Howe added, "I remember watching Michael as youngster and he has shown great determination throughout his time at Reading, going out on loan a number of times to prove himself. And he has done just that!
"He has enjoyed a very swift rise to prominence since breaking into our first team about 18 months ago and he fully deserves the chance to prove himself on the biggest stage at Stamford Bridge.
"He is yet another perfect example of a success story which began in our Academy ranks and he is a fantastic role model for our young players to look up to. We look forward to him giving his all for Reading Football Club this season and naturally wish him well in his long-term future."