Mixed emotions for Under-23 manager Scott Marshall on Monday evening. Disappointment at missing out on a place in the Premier League International Cup final by being defeated by Bayern Munich, but delight at the positive impact of being involved in a unique competition.
The Royals reached the final four after overcoming several hurdles, including meeting teams from across the continent. Bayern, with a group of travelling Bavarians supporting their side in the South Stand, progress to the final.
“It was a good experience – although it’s a sore one at the moment, and I don’t think we really deserved to be on the receiving end of a 3-1 defeat,” Marshall reflected.
“It was a great game of football and a good challenge for the boys, and we had some really good spells. We dominated possession and created some really good chances in the first half. Other than the penalty that they missed, they didn’t come anywhere near our goal.
“We were pleased at half-time in how it was going, but we wanted to get that goal to go in front – and I think we would have deserved that.
“Then we had a goal chalked off which was very close – a number of us think that it was onside, and if we have our noses in front then it’s a different game entirely. But straight after that, they caught us with a good high press and got themselves in front.
“Bayern managed the game well after that, and the fact that they play men’s football week-in week-out in Germany maybe showed a bit. They had a 32-year-old in the middle of the park and that maybe helps as well.
“But the whole experience was fantastic for us. It’s a really good competition and it’s another experience that adds to their development all the way through, so we’re really pleased overall.
“We knew that Bayern would bring a little pocket of fans and they are quite rowdy, but it was a great turnout from our fans as well. The whole occasion was a good experience – a bit of a crowd here at Madejski Stadium. So lots of positive things.”
Fantastic achievements at youth level, and now for the lads to keep pushing on to senior-level football.
“The lads have been working hard all season, and they’ve been getting there or thereabouts in the first team,” he continued. “It has been great for them to get senior experience, and the manager has been great as well in terms of them training regularly with the senior group. It all helps.
“That’s what we’re all about – getting the conveyor belt going and out in front of big crowds.
“I speak regularly with José and we’re around the training ground all the time together. I’m really happy with the interaction so far and the opportunities that the young lads have got, and the debuts that have been made.
“I think the manager has enjoyed having them around and the enthusiasm in the group, so it’s been pleasing. The senior guys have embraced the young players as well, and they’re picking bits up all the time.”