Academy manager on Premier League semi victoryFor the second time in four seasons, Reading will compete in the final of the Premier League Cup – and Academy Manager Lee Herron knows how keenly anticipated that fixture will be and how important it will be for the development of the players in that Under-23 squad.
We were winners in 2014 – the inaugural season for the competition – and this year our opponents in the final will be Swansea City, who defeated Portsmouth after extra time in their meeting on Tuesday.
The Royals overcame Norwich in their ninth match of their cup campaign by a 4-1 scoreline at Madejski Stadium on Sunday. The date, time and venue of the final which follows is yet to be determined.
“Any player in football wants to be in a final – whatever league or level you’re playing,” said Herron.
“Our guys have done that and it’s a credit to them. They were delighted in the changing room and they’ll be looking forward to another experience, which is playing in a final.
“I keep repeating about the ‘experiences’ for young players – we need to give them as many difference experiences as possible to give them that exposure to different situations. We’ve got another one now, and it’s great for the club to get to the final in this youth competition.
“The final is there to be won, and that’s what we’ll be doing our best to do. That’s what our young players are here for – to be successful and be the best they can be.
“It’s great to be able to keep an eye on our history and an eye on our future. That can shape, motivate and inspire what you want to do. They’ll want to go into this final and do their best – hopefully they can go on after that and have decent careers in the game, because that’s ultimately what we’re here for.”
The Royals didn’t have it all their own way against the Canaries in the semi… but despite being put under a lot of pressure in the opening 25 minutes, Reading quickly opened up a three-goal margin before the break through Rob Dickie, Sam Smith and Tyler Frost.
Ray Grant’s goal for the visitors, moments after the restart, gave the travelling fans some belief – but the Royals showed composure to limit their visitors’ opportunities for the remainder of the game. Smith’s second, minutes before the end, put the result beyond doubt.
“We knew it was going to be a really difficult game,” Herron continued. “It started off that way in the first 10 or 15 minutes – they had a few chances and we couldn’t find our feet in the game. But as the game went on we started to get into it a bit more – and to get three goals in the first half gives a mountain to climb to any team.
“You have to use your brain and our boys needed to know that Norwich needed to do something going into the second half. As we said to them at half-time, we didn’t want to give them any oxygen. We did though by conceding in the first minute of the second half – and then you need to get a grip on the game because momentum can swing, as we’ve seen many times before.
“It was scrappy in the second half but getting that fourth when we did was crucial to dampen any hopes that they had in the late stages, because you’re in survival mode at the end and anything can happen.
“So credit to the boys – they used their brains at the right times. There were a few hefty tackles going in, which you’d expect in a cup semi-final – everyone wants to be in the final and they were putting everything on the line.”
Watch highlights from Sunday's semi-final victory below...