Women's Academy captain Kiera Skeels, who first played in blue and white as an Under 10, made her first team debut for Reading FC Women last Sunday at Madejski Stadium, as the Royals defeated Lewes 3-2 in the Continental Cup.
In a match where the headlines were grabbed by such an experienced player in England’s most capped footballer Fara Williams, who netted a hat-trick, there was a story at the other end of the spectrum as Skeels was making her debut.
On her young teammate’s inaugural ninety-minutes of first team football, Williams said: “It was fantastic. In the Madejski stadium, it’s big pressure. I think she handled herself very well and had a brilliant performance”.
Skeels is part of the England youth set-up and most recently played in the Under 19’s side that finished their UEFA WU19s Qualifying Round with three wins from three, including a colossal 8-0 victory against Cyprus. While being a regular for the young Lionesses, Sunday’s match with Lewes was her first opportunity to show what she could do for the Reading FC Women’s first team, starting at centre-back alongside Scotland international Sophie Howard. Skeels was called into the first team squad at the beginning of the 2018-19 campaign.
“Kiera has been fantastic since coming into the squad at the beginning of last season,” Adam Jeffrey, Assistant Coach of Reading FC Women said. “We always thought she had big potential to make the jump from academy to first team football and this season she has been given the opportunity to not only train with us, but also play in competitive games.”
Skeels was one of two recent homegrown Royals to be included in Kelly Chambers’ matchday squad on Sunday, alongside Bethan Roberts who is also a graduate of the Academy, proving there is certainly a direct route into the first team. Of course, Reading’s number 1 Grace Moloney is a product of the Academy herself, being with the club since the age of 10.
Reading FC Women Academy Manager Rob Gier, who works closely with both Skeels and Roberts, said “It was fantastic to see two Academy players in the match day squad on Sunday and particularly pleasing to see Kiera make her debut in such an assured manner. It was an extremely proud moment for us to have the first players from the new WSL Academy pathway make a debut appearance. The way Kiera, Bethan and all Academy players manage their footballing aspirations and their educational commitments is hugely impressive and underlines the dedication needed to become a professional football player.”