Gilkes and Dodds on Youth Cup win at WolvesThe dream of all the Academy players is to turn professional – and ‘professional’ is exactly the adjective that coach Michael Gilkes used to describe the performance of the Under-18s as they defeated Wolves by a 3-0 scoreline on Friday evening, booking a place in the last eight of the FA Youth Cup.
“The FA Youth Cup means a lot to a lot of people,” said Gilkes, who also began his playing career with the Royals and made almost 500 first-team appearances in Reading colours. “Our preparation was really good and positive, we executed the game-plan as we wanted to, and there are a lot of happy people in there.
“But even at 2-0, they got a chance – it’s never over until the end so you have to do things right through. I think it was a really professional performance. We won 3-0 against a really good side, so we’re very pleased.
“Molineux is a fantastic stadium; they get an opportunity to play in stadiums like this and once they get a taste of it, the next step is to try and get into the first team and play when it’s filled out with people.
“It’s great experience for them, and hopefully they can take it into their careers – that’s what it’s really about: producing players. But we want to win as well, I’ll make that very clear! So it’s a good win for us today.”
First-team manager Brian McDermott was in the stands at Molineux – as ever, taking a keen interest in their progression.
“The first team manager was here to watch the lads, as was the Director of Football Nick Hammond,” said Under-18 manager David Dodds. “That means a huge amount to the boys.
“It was fantastic that they came up to watch all the way from Reading. That was great for the boys. He came in to chat to them after the game as well, and that was fantastic.”
This cup run has seen the Royals youngsters show plenty of character to get this far in the competition. It was a last-gasp goal from a corner that kept Reading in the tournament against Sheffield United – forcing extra-time and ultimately a win – and they also had to grow into the game at Fulham, as the Cottagers flew out of the blocks with an early goal.
“Sometimes the writing is on the wall,” continued Dodds. “We were 30 seconds from going out against Sheffield United, and then against Fulham we were really under the cosh for the first 20 minutes and could have conceded another – we held on, stayed in the game and took over the game in the second half.
“The lads are starting to get a bit of momentum now and we’ll see who face in the next round.”
Gilkes added: “We coach them and try to give them the basics and foundations as building blocks – but the reality is that we can’t recreate these situations. Having a penalty against you, going a goal down, playing in these stadiums.
“That’s what it’s all about – building character for them to hopefully get a good future in the game at this club.”