As well as nine players from our Academy representing the Royals’ first team this season, several others have also been stamping their authority on the game for other clubs.
Earlier this week, we looked at the success and heartache suffered throughout the campaign away from RG2 for Academy graduates plying their trade in English football’s top three tiers.
And in this edition, we take a look at the 13 players who competed in Sky Bet League 2 and another 7 that have played abroad!
Sky Bet League 2
What better place to start than those who earned automatic promotion – three former Royals did precisely that. Luton Town finished as runners-up, helped in no small part by contributions by Lawson D’Ath and Jack Stacey. D’Ath registered nine league appearances in midfield, while Stacey – now operating as a full-back, and who had missed out in last year’s play-offs with Exeter – played 41 league fixtures to earn promotion to the third tier.
Finishing a position below were Wycombe Wanderers and Nathan Tyson – one of our earlier Academy graduates! He played 40 times for the Royals between 1999 and 2004, before making his first move to Wycombe. Returning last summer at the age of 35, he rolled back the years and notched eight goals for Gareth Ainsworth’s side as they sewed up a return to League 1.
The play-off final, which took place on Bank Holiday Monday, saw four involved – two on each side. Jake Taylor and Pierce Sweeney started for Exeter, while Dom Hyam was in defence for Coventry; loanee Josh Barrett was uninvolved on the day for the Sky Blues. In the end, it was the Midlands club who earned promotion with a 3-1 win… a familiar feeling for the Grecians pair, who had also been involved in Exeter’s defeat to Blackpool at Wembley 12 months earlier.
Meanwhile, Noor Husin and Sean Long were also involved with campaigns that went to the play-offs – with Notts County and Lincoln City respectively. Husin played 14 times for the Magpies since making the Meadow Lane move in January, and scored twice – a stunner against Crewe and a sole goal in an 8-1 cup reverse to Swansea; Long made 23 appearances for the Imps… but their sides were defeated in the semis as their seasons ended there. Stuart Moore made a move to Swindon and played 10 times between March and May – including a 3-0 win against champions Accrington on the final day – but the Robins finished 9th, missing out on an extension to their season.
At the other end of the table, Harry Cardwell made 21 appearances for Grimsby Town who avoided being sucked into the relegation scrap and finished safely in 18th – his only goal came in the Checkatrade Trophy against Doncaster. Shrewsbury's Zak Jules, who had begun the season with a loan at Chesterfield (who ultimately finished bottom), made a mid-season loan switch to Port Vale, who ended 20th and clear of the drop – although Jules only made eight appearances across the two spells. And Royals loanee George Legg couldn’t prevent Barnet from slipping into the National League – the gap was too big to make up by the time he arrived in March, and they ultimately finished 23rd.
Having begun the season on loan from Aston Villa at MK Dons, midfielder Aaron Tshibola had more joy when he made a loan switch north of the border with Kilmarnock. His debut was a 1-0 home win against Celtic, and he also contributed to a 1-0 win over Rangers in May as Killie finished in an impressive 5th.
Forward Craig Tanner had a good goalscoring campaign for Motherwell in his first permanent season away from Madejski Stadium; nine goals helped the Well to a 7th-place finish in the Premiership. No such luck for Ryan Edwards and Niall Keown who were heavily involved over Partick Thistle’s season; they finished 11th and subsequently had to face Livingston in a relegation play-off, in which they were defeated over two legs.
An eye-catching campaign indeed for Andrija Novakovich, who represented Telstar in the Dutch second tier as a Royals loanee. 19 goals in 35 goals – better than one-in-two – saw the American finish as the division’s second highest scorer, and a 6th-placed finish for the team. That form earned him his first full caps for the USA’s national side towards the end of the campaign.
It was a tough campaign for Mikkel Andersen, however – the goalkeeper has been missing for Lyngby since the turn of the year with injury, during which time they finished 12th in their 14-team Danish Superliga and ultimately dropped out of the division via the relegation play-offs. He had made 18 appearances before being sidelined.
And lastly, Irish full-back Shane Griffin is mid-season with Cork City in his homeland – the SSE Airtricity League in Ireland takes place over the course of a calendar year. He was a regular in the left-back berth throughout 2017, when Cork were crowned champions and earned a place in the qualifying rounds of the 2018/19 Champions League, and in the current season they are just two points behind Dundalk with a game in hand.