During EFL Youth Development Week, Royals Academy Manager Michael Gilkes spoke to BBC Radio Berkshire to discuss the progression of the club’s Academy during the 2020-21 campaign and the imminent return of the players for the coming season.
Gilkes praised the first team management staff for their willingness to work with and develop the club’s young players following a season that saw 16 Academy graduates appear for the first team.
Over 16,000 minutes of game time were played by products of our Academy last season, and Michael told Ady Williams more about his role and how standout players complete that transition to a senior environment.
He said: “It’s fantastic for the club, that’s (youth development) the foundation, it always has been and long may it continue. The reality is that it is only 14 months ago or so that we’ve since competed in two separate seasons. Last season didn’t finish until the back end of July, and then we started up again very quickly for this season.
“This season has again been a vast improvement, the manager and his staff have come in and it’s been fantastic. They have done extremely well. It’s again positive progression, and to bring Academy players through, you have to have opportunities.
“The manager has been very good at working with and believing in the young players. When you get that chance, you’ve got to take it and a good few of them have.
“It’s about pathways, I’m trying to get players to be the best that they can and to be available to the manager. There are some players who go into the first-team and they’re in a transition stage, but once they start playing games they stay with the first-team – but there’s some who go in and do okay, but need to come out back to us.
“Communication levels have to be very high between the first team and academy groups, and currently that’s very positive.”
Looking ahead to next season and the prospect of a future crop of youngsters making that all important step up, Gilkes added: “It can be one of many players who step up, someone who’s doing well today might not be doing so well tomorrow, people catch up and everyone develops at different times.
“It depends on their position, you might have players who take a bit longer. This is a very busy time for me and for plenty of other people at the club. We start again in two weeks, so there’s plenty of planning to be done – you have to keep moving.
“Hopefully there’s plenty more academy players who go on to represent this club for a very long time.”
Michael's interview is available to listen to in full here.