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Academy

Academy flourishes in fine 2018-19 campaign

Cup runs, play-offs and senior debuts in standout season

23 May 2019

While the first team stood firm in the fight against the drop, the next generation of Royals have made fantastic progress throughout the 2018-19 season.

Of course, the best barometer of the success of a club's Academy is how many players they can produce for the first team. In total, 10 players from our youth ranks made senior appearances in 2018-19, five of which (Ryan East, Teddy Howe, Tom McIntyre, Michael Olise and Gabriel Osho) making their full senior debuts.

This is indicative of the talent currently honing their skills in our club's youth ranks at the moment, with our Under-23s competing well on several fronts this season.

Here's a look at how our youth sides got on...

Under-23s

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Scott Marshall's Under-23 side have had an extremely busy season, taking part in four different competitions alongside a host of friendlies to help our young Royals develop.

The battle to win promotion to the top tier of the Premier League 2 went down to the final day, with Marshall's squad keeping up with eventual winners, Wolves right up to the last. Several players stood out, and have since made senior bows.

Danny Loader scored 15 times in as many games in all competitions for our second string, and has now made more than 20 senior appearances for the Royals. His exploits earned him a nomination for the Premier League 2 Player of the Season award, and he capped a breakthrough year in fine style with a superb first senior goal away at Middlesbrough at the end of April.

In the Under-23s, the team were excelling as they topped their group in the Premier League Cup, as well as leading the way in their group for the Premier League International Cup. Our youngsters beat Leicester City (Ethan Coleman and Ben House getting on the scoresheet) and Feyenoord in qualification for the knockout stages of the competition, while a last-gasp equaliser from Loader earned them a point against Sparta Prague in the group stages.

An away tie at Manchester United followed in the Quarter-Finals, with Loader coming back from first team duty and netting a hat-trick to send the Royals through to the Semis, where they unfortunately lost out to an experienced Bayern Munich side at Madejski Stadium.

Elsewhere, in the Royals' first entry into the Berks & Bucks Senior Cup since 2002, the young Royals made it all the way through to the Final. 

After getting past senior sides from Bracknell Town and Flackwell Heath, a young side defended manfully for more than 75 minutes with 10 men and made it through to the Final after beating National League outfit, Maidenhead United in a dramatic penalty shootout.

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The Final proved a step too far on this occasion for the young Royals, however, as Slough Town claimed the title on the artificial surface at Bracknell Town, defeating a very young Reading 3-1 on the day.

After Newcastle United put the young Royals out of the Premier League Cup at the Last 16 stage, Marshall's side's hopes of promotion were sadly dashed in the Play-Off Semi-Final by the same opposition, in the cruel ignominy of a penalty shootout at Madejski Stadium.

Nonetheless, with the amount of players starting to make the step up into senior football, alongside continued progress for our Under-23s, it can still be classed as a very good season for our Academy's highest age group.

Season summary:

Premier League 2, Division 2: 3rd
Berks & Bucks Senior Cup: Finalists
Premier League International Cup: Semi-Finalists
Premier League Cup: Last 16

Under-18s

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Following the progress of several scholars this season, plenty of players eligible for our Under-18s have been testing themselves at Under-23 level.

As such, Michael Olise, who will still be eligible as a U18 player next season, took home the Scholar of the Year award in May following his progression to his senior debut.

In the most presitigious youth competition in the country, our scholars made it past Cambridge United with a consummate performance in the Third Round of the FA Youth Cup, before losing out against Aston Villa in the last 32 at Villa Park.

Our young Royals also entered into the U18 Premier League Cup, testing themselves against eventual FA Youth Cup winners, Liverpool, as well as Stoke City and Southampton in the group stages.

After a difficult winter in the league, our U18s finished the season with three wins out of six in the U18 Premier League South - picking up points against Swansea, Fulham and West Ham alongside their continued development as Reading FC scholars.

Season summary:

U18 Premier League South: 10th
FA Youth Cup: Fourth Round
U18 Premier League Cup: Group stages

Elsewhere in our Academy

The younger age groups representing the Royals Academy have also had an enjoyable campaign as they develop into young Reading players.

In the Youth Development Phase in particular, there were valuable runs in their respective national cup competitions - giving the young Royals a chance to play competitively alongside their development programme.

Our Under-15s made it through to the Southern Semi-Final of the U15 Floodlit Cup, a national competition played specifically at night during the winter months to test the youngsters in tough playing conditions, as they look to progress.

Similarly, our Under-14s made it through to the Southern Quarter-Finals of the Albert Phelan Cup - the U14 equivalent of the Floodlit Cup, that is run in a Champions League-style group into knockout format.

Last but not least, Reading's Under-13 side were also Southern Quarter-Finalists in the U13 National Cup, a cup competition that provides experience of playing home and away legs in competitive football.

A valuable experience for all involved, as our Academy continues its progress heading into the new season.


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