Academy Manager discusses mature performances throughoutIt has been quite a week for Reading’s young players.
On Monday, our Under-23 team came from a goal down to beat Chelsea in the Premier League 2 at Madejski Stadium – 17-year-old Academy scholar Tyler Frost netted an equaliser, before 18-year-old first-year pro Sam Smith won it with just minutes to spare.
And then on Tuesday, we had four Academy graduates – Tennai Watson, Liam Kelly, Dominic Samuel and Jordan Obita – in the starting XI at Brighton… they helped beat the Seagulls on their own turf and in doing so set up a trip to Arsenal in the EFL Cup fourth round.
Academy Manager Lee Herron expressed his pleasure at seeing the maturity of the homegrown players at both youth and first-team levels.
“On nights like tonight, you have to enjoy the challenge of playing such a big club with such fantastic young players as Chelsea has,” said Academy Manager Herron after seeing our Under-23s beat Chelsea. “It is always going to be a challenge for our young players to play in this Under-23 league –it is so strong. The young boys stepped up to the plate and it was a good game for their future development… it was fantastic to win, but it's not just all about winning!
“These games have got significant elements – we had to stay in it, we had to defend strongly for parts of the game and we did the nitty-gritty extremely well. We had to remain positive and continue to try and do the right things when we got on the ball, and ultimately take the opportunities when they presented themselves.
“That is the future that they will be going into – they’ll all have different paths, but at different times in all of their careers they will need these experiences, it will be relevant in games or parts of a game. That’s football – there are a lots of scenarios playing out. The young boys did all of that against Chelsea and we mustn’t lose sight of that.
“It was great to see a few Academy scholars playing for us as well – we’ve also got boys from this group out on loan, as well as a number of players in that Under-23 age-bracket who travelled up to Brighton to represent our first team in the EFL Cup. It is good that we stretch the players at different levels, depending on where they are in their development. It is important to their individual pathways as they go forward – there is always lots to keep working on.”