A recap of a successful trip to MadridOur Under-18s were fortunate enough to spend the best part of a fortnight out in Madrid during the pre-season break – and featured in games against Rayo Vallecano, Atletico Madrid and Union Adarve during their time on the continent!
With their season beginning at Hogwood this weekend against West Ham, it was the perfect scenario to get some training under their belts as well as spending some quality time in each other’s company. For the first-year scholars, the 2016/17 campaign will be their first as full-time footballers.
The trip was funded via League Football Education (LFE), which is a partnership set up by the EFL and PFA to manage the Apprenticeship (AASE) programme at League clubs. The Royals, along with Oxford United and Bristol City, were invited to take part in a two-week trip to La Ciudad del Fútbol (Spain’s equivalent of St George’s Park) where they took part in training sessions run by some top Spanish coaches, learned some of the native language in a classroom environment, practiced their public speaking, went on some cultural excursions in the city – and, of course, played some well-contested friendly fixtures against locals.
It all began with a flight from London Heathrow to Madrid on Sunday 24th July – our Under-18s and the travelling Academy staff were met at Adolfo Suarez Baraja Airport by Spanish rep Pedro, who helped the team hugely over the next fortnight.
Monday saw the first of the team’s Spanish classes, where they tried to wrap their tongues around the local lingo, as well as the first of their training session with Madrid-based coaches. After a session in the morning with our Academy coaches, the team travelled to Vallecas – home of Rayo Vallecano – where they were shown a taught bit of tiki-taka from coaching staff at Los Franjirrojos.
The squad put in some hard yards during three days of double-sessions in the Iberian heat. But then on Thursday afternoon, they were afforded some downtime and a trip to the Parque Atracciones theme park on the outskirts of the city centre.
Our U18s’ first fixture came on the Saturday against a strong Atletico Madrid Under-19 squad – which featured a number of Spanish youth internationals amongst their number. Despite playing against an older team from one of the world’s most famous clubs, our lads caused a bit of a surprise and gave them more than a run for their money. Ultimately a tight game ended 1-0 to Atleti.
Over the next two days, the squad were fortunate enough to take in stadium tours at two iconic grounds in world football – the homes of the two 2016 Champions League finalists! First was a visit to the Santiago Bernabeu, home of Real Madrid, and then the next day they visited Vicente Calerdon, where Atletico Madrid’s senior squad play their games.
The two tours also allowed them to see a little bit more of the city as well – they visited an authentic Madrid tapas bar after their visit to the Galacticos’ ground, and they took in a sightseeing trip of the city after visiting the Calerdon.
Their last two days at the La Ciudad del Fútbol also brought their other two games against Spanish opposition. Firstly Rayo Vallecano – whose coaches had given the Royals’ boys a training session that morning – were overcome 3-0 by Reading, thanks to second-half goals from Jordan Holsgrove, Ethan Coleman and Tyler Frost. The scoreline against third-tier Union Adarve was a little closer on the final day with Under-18 manager David Dodds using some fresh legs, but ultimately Kosta Sparta managed to nick the game’s only goal with 10 minutes go, ending a fantastic tour on a winning note.
“Since we’ve been here, everything’s been fantastic,” Dodds told the LFE website on their final full day in Spain. “The staff couldn’t do more, the standard of opposition has been outstanding, the training facilities are as good as anything in our country and it’s been fantastic and a real good mix.” You can also watch a full round-up of the tour with our U18 manager at the top of this article.
And Friday 5th August marked a return to England (and back to reality) for our Under-18s, after a hugely beneficial trip to Spain… but not before their tour rep got a rendition of ‘Pedro’s on fire’ as a mark of their appreciation! @ReadingFC apprentices & staff show their appreciation for tour rep Pedro @LFEonline#lfetrip#RFCtrip#pedrosonfirepic.twitter.com/IcwJzvEEUi
— Ian Smithson (@smithers2204) August 4, 2016Our sincerest thanks to everyone at LFE for making the tour possible, as well as to all of our welcoming hosts out in Spain for making it such an enjoyable and productive trip.
And, lastly, a ‘thank you’ to our Academy scholars who once again conducted themselves magnificently throughout their time away and represented Reading Football Club, on and off the pitch, with the utmost professionalism.