Academy coach reviews his sides' 2015/16 season...Reading U18s coach David Dodds praised his group after a successful season for the academy in 2015/16. The Royals reached all the targets set for them at the beginning of the season by Dodds, finished second in the Barclays U18 Premier League South group.
This ensured qualification for the elite group which represented the top eight Academy teams in the country for the second half of the league campaign.
“I think this season has been a high achieving year for our group of players,” said Dodds.
“We set a target at the beginning of the season to try and finish in the top four for the Premier League South group to qualify for the top eight sides in the country. We did that, finishing second in the end, the players did really well throughout the season.”
As well as achieving their goals in the League campaign the Royals had a run in the FA Youth Cup. Dodds’ side reached the quarter finals, beating the likes of Sheffield United, Fulham and Wolves along the way. In the end Reading narrowly lost out to eventual competition winners Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in a thrilling tie.
The Academy coach values the importance of the Youth Cup tournament and feels it is a great way for the youngsters to gain experience of playing in high pressure scenarios.
“The Youth Cup is always a true reflection of your youth set up, everybody puts the best team they possibly can out, whether they are playing for the U18s or U21s, so to reach the semi-finals and then the quarter finals within three years is great,” reflected the U18s coach.
“We pushed Chelsea and lost 2-1, but they are the benchmark at the minute, we were disappointed to go out at that stage.
“There is a lot of hype that goes on around the Youth Cup, the press are there, the first team managers are often there to watch, so it’s very similar to making your first team debut. The lads are quite nervous, there are often crowds there and it’s sometimes on television, so players like Josh Barret have come through that and he has gone into the first team."
In the second stage of the league season, when the Royals were separated into the elite group of Academies, Dodds brought through a few members of the U16s side to give them experience, especially after a few of the U18s had moved up to U21 and first team level.
“The performance levels have been consistent through the season. We had quite a small group but more recently we’ve started to blood some of the younger lads, five or six of them have come into the team at the end of the season,” Dodds explained.
“Ironically it has come in the games where we have been in the top tier but the performances from the lads have been very decent in a very tough group,” Dodds continued. “It’s really the performance and what they’re learning that’s important at this age level.
“It’s been good to have a look at some of the U16s come into the U18s, they’re also a good group, so we’ve put a few into the team and we’ve also had a chance to look at them in training. We’ve seen how they will fit into the team both character-wise and playing ability-wise so it’s good preparation for next season too.”