Staff from our Academy officially welcomed the newest members of our Under-18 squad onto their two-year scholarship on Monday, as the 12 players and their families joined us at Madejski Stadium for their induction.
For those aspiring players – many of whom have already played competitive football for the Under-18s, despites still being part of the Under-16 group last year – it marks a new era in their development.
Ethan Bristow, Jeriel Dorsett, Josh Hewitt, Morgan Kealy, Connor Lawless, Kian Leavy, Jordan Murray, Thierry Nevers, Michael Olise, Oliver Pendlebury, Myles Roberts and Fabio Sole were the dozen inductees in time to get prepared for 2018/19… they join the group of players who were in their shoes 12 months ago, who now step into their second year.
Every year is a new step… but this is as big a leap as they will have made to date. Their training programme goes full-time, they will compete against other Category 1 academies in the U18 Premier League, and that will all be balanced and complemented with their academic studies.
To help prepare them for what’s to come over the next two years, the boys and their families heard presentations about welfare, analysis, psychology, social media, sports science and education.
The goal is to emulate the same path that has already been walked by many players who were once in their shoes. Tom Holmes and Danny Loader both made first-team debuts last season, whilst still in the second year of their scholarship, while young professionals Omar Richards, Axel Andresson, Andy Rinomhota and Sam Smith also made their first competitive appearances since graduating from the Academy.
No less than 47 players have represented the Royals’ senior side after coming through our youth programme – that represents a return which most clubs would envy!
The sky is the limit for our Academy graduates. Less than a month ago, Gylfi Sigurdsson became the first player to have been produced here at Hogwood to score in the World Cup finals when he fired in a penalty for Iceland against Croatia.
Academy Manager Ged Roddy said: “Today they sign themselves up to the club – it’s a massive day for them and their families, as well as us as a club. This is the next generation and we’re very proud of the Academy.
“There were six debuts last season from players who came through the Academy to the first team, and these lads are a few footsteps from making that leap themselves. Hopefully within a few seasons, a number of these boys will be running out there and pulling on the shirt for our first team.”
U18 coach Ryan Williams added: “This is one part of their journey – it is their next stage and it should be a proud moment. And of course it is important that they don’t lose sight of where they want to go, and that they don’t stop working and developing.
“One of the biggest things in their scholarship is what they will learn about themselves – the way they deal with disappointments, and how they react when things are going well for them. It is important that they stay open-minded, grounded, respectful – and they have to enjoy it as well!”
Congratulations to our 12 new scholars and their families… and best of luck for your future at Reading!