Youth team manager targets continued improvementReading’s Under-21 manager Martin Kuhl is keeping a level head after his team’s impressive 4-1 victory away at Tottenham Hotspur on Monday evening.
The young Royals maintained their place at the top of the Barclays U21 Premier League Division 1 table by taking their tally to 10 points from their first four games; Spurs stopper Thomas Glover inadvertently turned into his own net, and then Rowan Liburd scored either side of a Tariqe Fosu penalty. Despite leading the way in the early weeks, Kuhl feels his side still have room to improve.
The Under-21s were promoted from Division 2 last season, and the victory against Spurs followed a 2-1 win at Madejski Stadium against Liverpool. After having a record number of Academy graduates in the Royals' first team last year, it has been another exciting start to the 2015/16 campaign for youth set-up - in particular with former Academy man Aaron Tshibola recently penning a new first-team contract until 2019.
“The first half Spurs had decent possession, which you do expect from a good club that are built on playing with the ball, but we were solid and second half we came into it more. We got the goals at the right time and I’m very pleased with the boys,” said Kuhl.
“As well as the defensive performances the boys in the midfield and up front worked very hard and the back four were solid, so it gives us something to build on.”
Having analysed the way Spurs play prior to the meeting, Kuhl had set out a clear game plan for his side which he felt they carried out well.
“We’d watched Spurs and knew how they play in possession, but predominantly we know the game is built on two things: keeping the ball out of the net and scoring goals,” reflected the manager.
“I think we looked calm; maybe in the last 15 minutes we could have been more composed in our defending, but we dealt with their threat quite well. I said to the lads that they have no right to dominate the ball even though they are Tottenham Hotspur and we didn’t let that happen.”
Royals striker Rowan Liburd, who signed for the club in the summer from Billericay Town, has been in sharp goalscoring form at the beginning of the Under-21 league season. The 23-year-old forward added another two goals to his tally on Monday, with a powerful header and a calm one-on-one finish, to take him to five goals in four games this season. Kuhl however believes the forward still has more to offer.
“Rowan Liburd scores goals and is a good worker but I think there is still more to come from him,” said Kuhl.
“He is keen to learn and work hard on his development and movement. He and Andrija Novakovich work well together upfront, both are very good on the ball, slightly different players, and Rowan is a goalscorer. He’s a raw talent but he scores goals and you can’t ask anything more of a striker than to score goals when you go on the pitch, and when you do that you always catch the eye.”
Kuhl has been very impressed with his group of players so far this season and feels the squad could have every chance of progressing to the next level in their careers.
He continued: “I think this group can go a long way. We’re top of the league at the moment, maybe one day I would like to see them all play in the first team, that’s my job, to try and make them good enough for the first team, even if it’s not at Reading taking their chances when they go out on loan.
“We’re not ‘supposed to’ be top of the U21 Premier League because we’ve got a different badge on our shirts to the big clubs, but fair play to the boys, they deserve to be where they are and we’ll see where we are come the end of the season.”
Royals supporters can catch our next Under-21 Premier League fixture live on BT Sport 1 on Monday 21st September – the 7.45pm kick-off at Adams Park is a top-of-the-table clash against second-placed Southampton. Click here for the full Under-21 fixture list.