Last season was another successful one for our Academy, topped off with six players making their debuts in the first team!
In honour of these players earning the ultimate goal of every young talent here at Reading, each player has received a framed shirt from their debut in recognition of their achievements this season.
Axel Andresson, Andy Rinomhota, Omar Richards, Sam Smith, Danny Loader and Tom Holmes have all been in the first team fold at different points this season, and they now have a memento from the club to honour their hard work and achievements.
Omar Richards was the first to make his debut this season, coming off the bench in our season's opener against Queens Park Rangers before making his full home debut a few days later - when the Royals took on Gillingham in the Carabao Cup. Richards has since made 12(+4) senior appearances at left-back for the Royals, scoring his first goal for the club away at Nottingham Forest in February.
Andy Rinomhota and Sam Smith were also in the starting line-up in our 2-0 victory against the Gills, with Smith going on to score his first senior goal in the following round against Millwall. While Rinomhota unfortunately spent the majority of the season on the sidelines with injury, he has stepped up his recovery in recent months to appear in the Royals' squad for the final part of the season, along with starring in our U23s in that time.
As for Smith, he has gone on to stay in and around the first team squad for the majority of the campaign, making 6(+5) appearances for our first team, scoring his first Championship goal away at Norwich City in March. He has also scored a hatful of goals for our U23s this season, and Smith will be hoping to continue his progress next season.
Axel Andresson was another debutant against Gillingham at Madejski Stadium, coming on to replace Richards in that encounter. The Iceland U21 international has since continued his development with loan spells at Bath City and Torquay United, before an injury unfortunately ended his season prematurely.
Danny Loader made a piece of history for the Royals in coming off the bench in extra time in the second round of the Carabao Cup against Millwall. Not only did he make his debut aged just 17, he also became the first Reading player to ever be used as a fourth substitute in a match. He, along with Holmes, are the only Royals to have represented the U18s, U23s and first team squads this season! Loader has enjoyed a breakthrough season after signing pro terms with the club last summer, scoring 10 goals in 20(+1) appearances, all either side of winning the U17 World Cup with England back in November!
Last but not least, Tom Holmes, who is still a sixth form student in Reading, made his first team bow against Bolton at Madejski Stadium in March. He has been a fixture in our U23s for most of the season, alongside featuring in the FA Youth Cup, and made the step up after being in the travelling party for the squad's mid-season training camp in Spain in February. He has since featured several times on the bench for the first team, with the hope of adding to his appearance tally next term.
We would like to congratulate all of these players on the honour of representing the first team here at Reading, and we hope they continue their progress into next season and beyond!