A new season has meant a new crop of talented young players representing our Under-18 squad – and more fantastically competitive fixtures against the other top sides at this end of the country.
A new batch of first-year scholars were inducted over the summer months, stepping up from the U16 age-group to join the players who were moving into the second year of their scholarship.
Their Under-18 Premier League (South) campaign pits them against some of the best players of their age in the country. Results have been a mixed bag so far, but every single fixture has been competitive and a learning curve on the journey to senior-team football, with Mikele Leigertwood and Michael Donaldson passing on their knowledge on the training pitch.
A tough lesson was learned on the opening weekend, as a goal for Nahum Melvin-Lambert and an own-goal had Reading 2-0 up at Brighton, only for the south-coast club to turn the game on its head and win 3-2. The Royals had the lead through Ethan Bristow the next weekend in our first outing of the season at Hogwood, only for Leicester to equalise and took a 1-1 draw.
Fulham were 2-0 winners next, but our youngsters showed their mettle the following weekend as Josh Hewitt’s penalty and a Claudio Osorio goal earned Reading a 3-3 draw, having previously trailed by two.
That was followed by the first win of the campaign - a 3-1 win against visiting Swansea City. An early penalty by Hewitt, and a quick-fire brace by Osorio in the second half, was enough to secure three points for the boys in blue and white.
The last three fixtures have all ended in the slenderest of defeats – Chelsea 2-1 winners, then Derby taking a 4-3 win in a real ding-dong battle at Hogwood, and most recently Arsenal grabbing a 1-0 victory.
Fixtures are on hold this weekend – it’s the international break for our youngsters, too. And we have a number of our U18 players representing their countries.
Our domestic affairs continue with back-to-back games against Aston Villa – the first in the league, and then the start of our U18 Premier League Cup campaign – and our assault on the FA Youth Cup will follow when Category One teams enter later in the year.
For a full look at our Under-18 fixture list, head here.