Ged Roddy says he looks forward to the challenge of continuing the success of an Academy that has produced plenty of homegrown talent to grace the turf at Madejski Stadium.
With six first team debuts for Academy players this season, taking our total to 47 since the Academy's inception, Roddy hopes to add his own stamp on the youth setup and add more successful Academy stories to Reading FC.
He has got stuck in already in his new role, with youngsters Liam Driscoll and Ben House both signing new contracts with the club recently.
Roddy was awarded an MBE in 2000 for his contribution to sport in the UK, having held high-power positions across the board in sport in this country, and he says he is enjoying being back in a day-to-day footballing environment.
Read on to find out more about our new Academy Manager, after he sat down with readingfc.co.uk to take us through his impressive footballing background, how he is enjoying his new role, his 20-year relationship with Eamonn Dolan and what he hopes to achieve during his time here.
RFC: First of all, Ged, tell us about your background in football.
“Immediately prior to joining Reading, I spent the last eight seasons at the Premier League. I was Director of Football there, and my role was to introduce the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP). That was really a programme of reconstruction across all the clubs in terms of how we develop young players.
“Having done that for eight seasons and overseen big changes across the game, it was a good time to get back in, get back on the grass and get back working with players! What a great opportunity it has been to come to a great club like Reading, here I am four weeks in and thoroughly enjoying myself.”
What was it that attracted you to the club?
“A lot of things attracted me to the club. I knew Eamonn (Dolan) for 20 years before I came here and I worked with him in different guises. He always told me about what a great club it was and what a great Academy that he had.
“I knew he had good people working with him, so I knew a bit about the club and I knew that the club had come through its audit and achieved Category One status. The other thing I know about the club is that we’ve got some unbelievably talented young players that are coming through the pipeline.
“There are lots of reasons why you would want to come to Reading, and here I am. I’m working now with a great bunch of people, we’ve got some outstanding coaches and the future looks really bright for us.”
What was your relationship with Eamonn like on a personal level?
“Going all the way back when I was coaching at Bath, Eamonn was kind enough to loan us a few players every now and again! That’s how our relationship began. I would take young Reading players in and they’d work with us, we’d come across to the training ground and that’s how our relationship developed at a professional level.
“He was just a great character and everyone across the game misses the fact that he’s not around. Very much here at the club, people miss him and that’s part of his legacy. The important thing for us now is to try and look forward, making sure that we grow the legacy that he created.
“There are coaches here, players here who have been a part of what he developed so that’s part of my job now, to kick it on and move us forward. As I said, we’ve got a very bright future to look forward to.”
We’ve had 47 players graduate from our Academy since it was set up, it goes to show how important the Academy is here!
“It’s a challenge to bring players through, but 47 Academy graduates are another reason why Reading stands out as a club that has just got it right, in terms of player development. You look around the country and you can see some incredible investment in Academies, but if those clubs invest all that money and don’t get any product out the other end, you begin to question why you would do it.
“Whereas what’s happened at Reading is that we’ve invested, but we’ve actually got players out the other end and six first team debuts this season is great, hopefully more to come. Local boys, homegrown Reading boys stepping out on the grass at the Madejski is what this is all about.
“Omar Richards and Liam Kelly are both examples of what we expect to see coming through the Academy - becoming first team players. It’s easy to say it, very difficult to replicate it but we’ve got a great bond between those players who have come through the Academy.
“They’re now playing at first team level and they’re helping to set the standards of coming through. That’s really important – once you’ve got the culture that has taken a long while to build, it’s really important that we retain and nurture it.”
Talk us through ‘The Reading Way’ and how the Academy fits into it.
“I believe ‘The Reading Way’ is epitomised by the people in the Academy. You’ve got some great people here inside the Academy who are working very hard, people come to Hogwood with a smile on their faces.
“You get a bad result and it hurts but people still come in with a smile and get on with it. We’ve got some very talented players, some technically very gifted players, so that for me is the bedrock of what Reading is all about. Hopefully we’ll continue that for years to come.”
What have your impressions been of the club during your time here so far?
“Everyone is very ambitious for the future here, we’re all rooting for the first team that they get the results that they need and we get to the end of the season in good shape. When you look to the medium term and the longer term, things are being put in place at the club which make you feel very excited!
“On day 1 or day 2 I was over at Bearwood, the new site for the training ground. In terms of the plans, I think it’s the most impressive training facility I’ve ever seen. If what is planned is ultimately achieved, I think we’ll have something that the club can really be proud of.
“It’ll put us in a place where we can track good players, develop good players and hopefully it’s a part of that momentum that’s being created around the club.”
Finally, what do you hope to achieve and build in your time here as Academy Manager?
“Look, if I can do a tenth of what Eamonn achieved I would personally be very proud of that! I saw what he did over a prolonged period of time, so that would be my own benchmark.
“I think for everyone at the Academy, there’s a passion here to get more Liams, more Omars into the team and they go out there playing with pride for the shirt. That’s what the Academy’s contribution has got to be, and if we continue to do that, we’ll do right by the club.
“You just know when a homegrown boy, a local player, gets on the ball. The fans love it, and at the end of the day what we’re about doing at the Academy is developing those types of players. They get the fans off their seat and give a real buzz around the stadium, and it’ll also take us up that league!”