Former Royals midfielder discusses his part with the youth set-upHayden Mullins was part of that Brian McDermott team which – four years ago today – earned promotion to the Premier League as champions of the Championship!
And last month he returned to the club to take on a new position with the club in order to ensure that our loan players maximise their learning experiences when they spend time with other teams away from Madejski Stadium.
At present, Dominic Samuel, Tariqe Fosu, Craig Tanner, Jack Stacey, Rowan Liburd and Dom Hyam are all currently on loan with other Football League clubs, and a number of others – including Rob Dickie, Harry Cardwell and Liam Kelly – are plying their trade further down the pyramid.
“With the number of players that we have in the Under-21s, as a club we are trying to develop them in the best way we can,” explained Hayden. “One of those ways is to try to get them first-team football in the Football League.
“So to make sure that they get the experience they need, the club took on an Academy Loan Coordinator – which is my role here. We try to get players out on loan as best we can, build relationships with clubs local to us and within a certain radius, and also to get people to go and watch them in action to see how they are developing.
“Part of my role is to go out to the training grounds to see the players and to see the environment that the players are working in, as well as meeting the manager that they are working under, and trying to help their loan be a smooth as possible.
“Being an ex-player myself, I know that there is nothing better than playing League football. You train all week and then there’s a game on a Saturday with a competitive edge and everything that that means for the club.
“Dom Samuel has had a really good loan at a League 1 club and scored goals; Dom Hyam is at Dagenham & Redbridge and I’m sure he’s learning all the time, as they have been battling relegation. There are a number of players out on loan with other clubs and it is fantastic for their development.
“The standout one of course was Aaron Tshibola when he went on loan to Hartlepool – he was fantastic there and then he came back to Reading and proved that he can be a fantastic player for our first team. He is a player that we have missed this season because of his injury. I’m sure his experience with Hartlepool was great and he brought that back to Reading and we have benefitted from that.
“Having as many players in the Football League as we can that have come through our Academy only strengthens our claim of being one of the top academies in the country, and that’s what we’re striving to be.”
Mullins, who was born and raised in Reading, made seven appearances for the Royals as a loanee from Portsmouth – they won five of those fixtures in the 2011/12 run-in en route to the top tier! That included Reading's vital 3-1 win away at closest rivals Southampton, and that magical night under the floodlights when a win against Nottingham Forest secured promotion.
A distinguished playing career saw him also represent a host of names including Crystal Palace, West Ham, Portsmouth and Birmingham, five years of which were spent in the Premier League. Now the ambition for Hayden is to help the Academy to continue to establishing its reputation and to ensure that other local lads – including Mullins Jr! – have the best opportunity to succeed with the Royals.
“This is a great club and I was fortunate to play here too – I grew up in Reading so it was always an ambition of mine to play for the club,” he continued.
“I was fortunate enough to do that in 2012 and it was a great season when we ended up winning the league – so it couldn’t have gone any better!
“To be back here working is fantastic – I’m still local and my son is in the Academy, and it’s a great location. This is a fantastic club with a fantastic Academy; the players that the Academy keeps producing is absolutely brilliant.
“Everywhere I go, people comment about how good the system is and how consistently players get into the first team. It’s a really good place to work and I’m really grateful for the chance.”