U18 manager looks ahead to the Merit Group fixturesReading’s Under-18 manager David Dodds is pleased that a strong showing by our Academy lads landed them a place in the eight-team Merit Group – and the first of our seven games begins with a trip to Arsenal this weekend.
Some stellar names in European football in the guise of Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Manchester City will also take on the Royals over the next two months, and Dodds believes it will offer terrific experience for the boys that are involved.
It is likely to be a relatively young set of players that represent the Royals in this final period; the top performers have effectively already graduated into the Under-23 group on a regular basis.
“We always look at the performance levels of the lads, and the performance levels have been consistently high,” Dodds said. “And that has resulted into a few of them getting into the Under-23s, which is the aim of the game.
“The Academy was built with Eamonn Dolan, and now it’s carried on by Lee Herron and we have the support from the first-team staff.
“The Under-23s are in their top league, which is fantastic for them to be playing against the best young players in the country, and so are we. It’ll be interesting for us to pit out wits against those types of teams.
The season's first-year U18 scholars with Academy staff
“What I like more than anything is that for a lot of those players that have got us there, they’ll be involved now with the Under-23s and trying to knock on the door of the first team. That’ll be the ideal scenario for us.
“It’s great for our Under-18s to be going up against the best young players in the country and I’m sure some of those big clubs will really be trying to win the league.
“But what would give most pleasure to me and the rest of the staff would be to have lots of first-year scholars and Under-16s playing in our Under-18 team, and having as many of our Under-18s playing up in the Under-23s with Martin Kuhl and Michael Gilkes teaching them the next level.”
Click here to see the U18s' fixture list for the remainder of the campaign.