47 names are etched onto our Academy Honours Board at Madejski Stadium – the players who have come through the youth ranks at Hogwood Park and have represented the Royals at first-team level.
The board was officially unveiled at Madejski Stadium on Saturday… Royals past and present got in touch to let us know about the influence that the Academy and Eamonn Dolan have had on their careers…
Growing up, I’ve seen players push on through the Academy to the first team… I’ve known the whole time that there is a pathway. And long may that continue.
My generation is probably the last of Eamonn Dolan’s involvement – he became Academy manager when I was growing up.
So it’s a big thing for my age group to represent what he was all about. He was passionate about what he did and it gave us a lot of motivation to try and break through.
My main aim was always to try and get into the first team. The hard work that Eamonn and others at Reading Football Club have put in for every single player to achieve their goals has been amazing. Eamonn was a very loving, caring, honest guy.
You see names like Gylfi Sigurðsson and Alex McCarthy on that board – so to have my name up there alongside those players is a really nice touch for me.
The young boys who are coming through now will see our names up there and hopefully one day they can fill the rest of the spaces on there! Hopefully they can enjoy their journey and try to achieve what they have been aiming towards since they were young.
We all grew up together. Eamonn Dolan was a huge influence on us all coming through together and why there were so many of us too. We all had the same views – working hard and dedication. We proved our worth and we got our chance.
He believed in us so much. Even when I left the club, Eamonn would still ring me up and let me know what he thought, whether I did things wrong or right! I can’t say it enough – he was a massive influence on all of us.
We knew that it wasn’t going to be easy – and it wasn’t. It was hard on us and tested us a lot, but it grew us into the players and men that we became. We knew what we needed to do to become professional footballers.
When we were coming through, we would have never thought that going to the Euros or World Cup would be possible. But the club gave us opportunities at a young age and helped us to push towards that goal.
The Reading FC Academy is special. Not only did it develop me into the footballer I am today, it helped me change my life and set me up as an adult in this world.
I was lucky enough to be coached and taught by some amazing people that still to this day that I wouldn’t call just friends, but family. Eamonn Dolan was at the pinnacle of this.
Being in the academy were some of the best years in my life and I recommend any young footballer given this unique chance to grab it with both hands and never look back.
My experience in the Reading Academy was a truly magnificent, challenging yet exciting time.
There were many times where we, as a group, but also as individuals, were pushed to our physical and mental limits which helped me personally to achieve my goal of getting into the first team at Reading. It stayed with me – and pushed me through – the rest of my career.
For me, this is the main reason why Reading’s Academy has produced so many successful players.
I feel honoured to have made my debut for Reading, having dreamed of doing so from just 12 years old. I owe a lot to the club, coaches and to Eamonn for the guidance they gave to me throughout my youth years and I still use my learnings to this day. It really is an outstanding football Academy with some great people.
Seeing the success that the Reading FC Academy have had, and continue to have, proves that is one of the best in the country.
From the first day I signed for the club I was made to feel a part of the family and to this day I still feel the same. Eamonn made us believe that anything was achievable if we worked hard and pushed ourselves to the limit.
I was lucky enough to be a part of a group which included the likes of Pearcy, Churchy, Hal, Alex, James and Gylff and every day we pushed each other with the added help of people like Ed, Lee, Woppa and Claire to help us with anything else we needed.
Watching the Leeds game the other night and seeing three Academy boys starting shows that the club continue to produce top quality young talent and I’m so proud that I’m able to say I was a part of it.
I’m very proud – it’s fantastic. I think if you look at each Under-18 group, there aren’t many that go on and have such successful careers. The chances are so slim these days, there are so many kids who want to make it, so it’s fantastic to have actually come through the Academy and had a successful career so far.
Eamonn was amazing. He was one of the guys who brought me over and he’s probably one of the reasons why I’m where I am today.
He was very good, very tough and took a different approach to bringing players through – that’s why I think he was so successful.
He put everything into getting the best out of the players and giving us the best chance of succeeding.
There are a lot of players who were with me that are still having good careers today. With six players coming through last season, that’s a high number for an Academy so the work is still being done in the right way.
The Honours Board, in tribute to Eamonn Dolan, is a great gesture from the football club and a tribute to the hard work he put into the nurturing of future players.
Eamonn epitomised what Reading Football Club stands for and this is testament to the hard work he put in.