Defender reflects on a successful season with CheltenhamReading defender Rob Dickie expressed his gratitude to Cheltenham Town and Robins boss Gary Johnson for the opportunities that he had during a successful loan stint this season at Whaddon Road.
The youngster returned to Madejski Stadium with a National League winner’s medal at the end of April, which put him in the frame for his senior debut for the Royals on the final day of the campaign at Blackburn.
It wasn’t all plain-sailing for Dickie – what should have been the best moment of the season, getting a hat-trick in the FA Trophy against Chelmsford, was marred an injury which kept him sidelined for a considerable period. But he returned for the run-in and helped the Robins to bounce back to the Football League at the first attempt.
“I wanted to go out and learn about the men’s game and first-team football,” said Dickie. “Gary Johnson helped me out a lot with that, and I’m thankful to the club for that experience.
“It was unbelievable – we won a lot of games and I had a really good experience with them. But I also had the low experience with my injury.
“It had been a really good game for me up until then – I’d scored a hat-trick! But then it was one of the lowest moments in my career. It was a tough time for me, but I’m really thankful to the physios here at Reading who helped me get through it and made me come back stronger.
“I stayed in touch with Cheltenham and I knew that was going to go back there; even though I was injured and back here with Reading, I was still going to some games to see some of the boys and the manager just to keep in the loop. I was excited to go back and finish the season.
“To have promotion on my CV at my age is really good for me. When I went to Cheltenham on my first loan stint, they told me that that was their aim – I thought that that was perfect for me.”
In particular, he was grateful for the chance to play in highly-competitive games where every shot, pass, tackle and block is scrutinised by partisan and passionate supporters – a little bit different from what he had experienced previously in youth football.
“Under-21s football gets you prepared on the technique side of things – you see some real quality in those kinds of games,” he continued. “But I felt like I needed to get out there and experience first-team football and play in front of fans. I really enjoyed that side of things.
“There are a few thousand fans watching those games, unlike being in an Under-21 game on a Monday afternoon. Every time you put in a tackle, it means a lot to the fans.”