Young Royals return to action against the HammersThe Reading Under-18s will return to action this weekend against West Ham United at Hogwood Park, picking up where they left off after a successful first half of the season.
The Academy scholars - unlike their first team counterparts - were given three-week long winter break; now that we're into the New Year, they will be returning to their college courses and getting back to action against the seventh-placed Hammers.
The young Royals are currently sat second in the Barclays U18 Premier League South division after 18 games, five points clear of Aston Villa in third. Reading will have to face every team in their regional group home and away before the league splits into its final stage in February - Reading have already notched a number of impressive wins this season, including 4-1 victories over both Arsenal and Tottenham and a 5-1 thrashing of Swansea City.
In the final stage, the teams will be separated into three divisional groups. The top four teams from each regional group (North and South) will go into Group 1. Group 2 will consist of the teams placed fifth to eighth from the North and South, while the bottom four clubs from each region go into Group 3.
The Royals are strongly positioned to qualify for Group 1, where they would play each team in the group once, with the winners of that eight-team group being crowned Barclays Under-18 Premier League champions for 2015/16.
The youngsters have also qualified for the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup with a 3-1 extra time victory over Sheffield United at Madejski Stadium.
They face Fulham away from home in the next round, on Monday 18th January at Motspur Park - while normal U18 league fixtures take place behind closed doors, these FA Youth Cup ties are open to the public. The Cottagers sit three places behind the Royals in the league, but knocked Reading out of the prestigious competition at the semi-final stage two seasons ago.