A look back at a productive 12 months for the Academy…Now that all of the Barclays Under-18 Premier League fixtures have been completed, we can proudly say that our Academy boys finished the 2015/16 season placed seventh in the country at their age group!
Playing against some of the best young talent in the country – many of whom represent some of Europe’s heavyweight clubs – our lads performed admirably in the throughout the campaign.
The first stage of the season saw our Under-18s play home and away against 11 of the strongest teams in the south of the country. U18 coach David Dodds targeted a top-four finish for his team in the first stage, which would earn them a place in the elite-tier ‘merit league’ for the last two months, where the four highest-placed clubs from the north and the south of the country combined for the final stage…
… and they achieved that emphatically by finishing second only to Chelsea, in a league which featured (amongst others), Arsenal, Tottenham, Southampton and West Ham!
Ironically, many of the top performers were unavailable for selection when the combined north/south stage of the league took place in the final two months of the season. Regular captain Josh Barrett had commitments in the first team for the entire time, while Sam Smith, Gabriel Osho and Omar Richards all stepped above their age-group and started the final game for Martin Kuhl’s Under-21s against Man City at Madejski Stadium last month. That opened the door for some first-year scholars and Under-16s to get their first taste of competitive U18 action, including Ade Shokunbi, Joel Rollinson, Ethan Coleman and Danny Loader.
A young Reading side finished the season placed seventh in the ‘merit league’ with a win and two draws from the seven games. The highlight, undoubtedly, was a 4-1 win away at Liverpool – a goal down at half-time, the Royals fought back with Smith scoring twice and Conor Davis and Tyler Frost each getting themselves onto the scoresheet.
Meanwhile, the FA Youth Cup also provided some incredible experience for the lads as well. A goal down at Madejski Stadium and heading out of the competition at the first hurdle at the hands of Sheffield United, centre-half Osho turned in a last-gasp equaliser from close range to force the game into extra-time, where goals from Barrett and Loader put the Royals into the hat for the next round.
Throughout the cup run, that never-say-die attitude was a common theme. The Royals battled back from behind to win away at Fulham, before defeating Wolves 3-0 at Molineux, and running Chelsea close in the quarter-final at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea were 2-1 winners that evening… no other team came as close as Reading to getting a result against the eventual champions.
The hard work hasn’t stopped yet for the lads, though – even though the games are all done, they don’t break for summer for another week yet. And a majority of the second-year U18 scholars will be joining the professional ranks next season, after being given their first pro contracts – click here to read more about the new deals offered to our fledgling talent this summer.
Our congratulations go to the Reading Under-18s for another successful season and for representing the Royals so well both on and off the pitch!
For more information about our Under-18s – including all of our results this season, player profiles and more news, click here.