Here at The Tilehurst End we extensively cover the Reading first team and as our academy continues to increase its profile we are bringing you more about the young professionals and scholars as they strive to carve out a career in the game.
But football isn't exclusively about the men and the boys. Women's football is a serious thing in America. Across the pond the top leagues, the National Womens Soccer League and Womens Premier Soccer League, are already fully professional.
Such is the lure of America at the moment for those trying to establish a career in the womens game that Reading lost one of their own promising goalkeepers, Jess Charman, to Clayton State Lakers over the summer.
As well as the professional nature of the game, America womens youth football is often linked to education, the opportunity to play the game in a more developed nation whilst on a Presidential Scholarship majoring in legal studies came simply too good to refuse.
A step towards this for Reading's women came in February 2014 with the club announcing that they have launched a full-time senior football academy with Buckinghamshire New University.
Whilst the Womens Super League (WSL) remains semi-professional, the reputation and profile of the womens game is increasing whilst it aspires towards a fully professional league, the FA announcing in 2012 their five-year plan to make women's football the second most-played sport in the country behind men's football.
From 2014 the WSL2 is being extended with the creation of the WSL2, Reading have been invited into the WSL2 meaning they continue in the second tier of Womens football.
The expansion of the Womens Football League means promotion and relegation between the WSL and WSL2 (dependent on criteria being met), but not relegation out of the WSL 2.
In their first WSL2 season Reading will be competing against Aston Villa, Doncaster Rovers Belles, Durham Women, London Bees, Millwall Lionesses, Oxford United, Sunderland, Watford and Yeovil.
Undoubtedly the biggest scalp for the Royals would be founding members of the national Premier League and two-time winners Doncaster Rovers Belles who unsuccessfully tried to appeal against their relegation to the WSL2 after 22 seasons in the top tier.
So who exactly are The Royals?
Home for Reading FC Women is Barlows Park in Tadley, also home to Tadley Calleva FC from the Wessex Football League Division One.
The manager is Jayne Ludlow [Wikipedia]. The former Arsenal Ladies and Wales captain has a glittering profile in women's football; she scored over 200 goals from midfield for Arsenal during a 13 year career and amassed 61 Welsh caps, scoring 19 times for the national team. Ludlow called time on her playing career in July 2013 before being snapped up by Reading in August as Director of Women's and Girls Football and First Team Manager.
Ludlow played at the very highest level with Arsenal and has to her name 1 UEFA Women's Champions League medal, 2 FA WSL titles, 9 FA Women's Premier League National Division titles, 8 FA Women's Cup titles, 3 FA WSL Continental Cup's, 4 FA Women's Premier League Cups, 5 FA Women's Community Shields and 6 London County FA Women's Cups. She was Players' Player of the Year in 2001, an achievement she repeated in 2003 and 2004 and to this date is the only female player to have won this achievement three times.
Ludlow is supported by Kelly Chambers who is Reading FC Women General Manager and Assistant 1st Team Manager. Chambers is a former Reading Womens captain, who stepped up to manage Reading for the 2012/13 campaign.
A core of last seasons squad remains and Ludlow has sought to supplement her side with experienced professionals.
Goalkeeper Nicky Davies [Wikipedia]. Davies joins Reading ahead of the WSL2 campaign from Doncaster Belles. After beginning her career with Menai Bridge Tigers' under-11 boy's team Davies moved to Bangor City Girls aged 13 then at 16 she started 9 seasons with Liverpool Ladies with a short loan at Fredericksburg Lady Gunners in Virginia. After playing for Liverpool in 2012, Davies was named FA WSL goalkeeper of the year. She also won 2012 RAF Sportswoman of the Year. She transferred to Chelsea but was then posted to Oman with the RAF, curtailing her campaign. She moved to Doncaster Rovers Belles in 2013. Davies has been capped 43 times for Wales.
Goalkeeper Grace Moloney. Slough born Moloney started playing football with Slough Juniors aged 6 before joining the Reading Women's under-10s team. After a short spell at QPR, the team she supports, she rejoined Reading aged 14 and progressed through the age groups to become a senior first team player and for the 2012/13 campaign was captain. The former John Madejski Academy student is a full Republic of Ireland international who previously represented the under-17 and under-19 teams and England Colleges U18's. In 2011 Moloney was voted the Republic of Ireland Under-19 Women's International Player of the Year.
Defender/Midfielder Ciara Grant [Wikipedia]. Grant joins Reading ahead of the WSL2 campaign from Arsenal. Grant began her career in Ireland with Waterford based Benfica, before moving to St Patricks Athletic. Grant moved to Arsenal ladies in 1998 aged 20, spending the next fifteen years with the London side. Grant has 102 caps and served the role as captain for the Republic of Ireland international team before retiring from International football in 2013. Grant joins Reading following an illustrious career with Arsenal which saw her in the same team as Jayne Ludlow when the manager picked up all of her honours in the game, before Ludlow joined Arsenal Grant won a further FA Women's Cup title, 2 FA Women's Premier League Cups and another London County FA Women's Cup.
Versatile Defender Alex Keown. Keown joins Reading ahead of the WSL2 campaign from Barnet. Before Barnet Keown started her career at the Arsenal Centre of Excellence U14's before moving to the Watford Centre of Excellence then West Ham. Ahead of the 2012/13 season Keown was selected for an England Under-19 Training Camp.
Centre Back Hannah MacKenzie. MacKenzie joins Reading ahead of the WSL2 campaign from Chelsea. MacKenzie spent 10 years at Chelsea with the London team's Centre of Excellence.
Defender Rachel Newborough. Newborough had progressed through the academy to the under-17's as of 2012/13. She has represented Northern Ireland under-19s.
Centre Back Zoe Saunders. Saunders joins Reading ahead of the WSL2 campaign from the Hampshire FA Girls Centre Of Excellence. Saunders started playing football aged 10 joining local side Loddon, before joining Oakley where she stayed two years, as well as representing The Costello School, where she was a former pupil, and other teams around Basingstoke Saunders also helped her college team, Itchen, win the British Colleges South East Counties trophy. In 2013 Saunders was called up for the England Colleges Under-19 women's football team. Saunders is a Tottenham fan.
Left Back Harriet Scott. Scott joined Reading at under-12 level and developed through the youth teams before establishing herself in the first team. Scott has also represented the Republic of Ireland international team at under-17 level.
Centre Back Connie Short. Short joins Reading ahead of the WSL2 campaign from the Chelsea development squad. Short started as a left back but has been playing as a central defender in training. After starting her career at Bristol City, which became the Bristol Academy when Rovers and City merged, Short made her debut aged 17, before moving on to in the Chelsea Development Squad. Short's sister Hannah was involved in the Arsenal youth setup before moving to ESTU (East Tennessee State Athletics) Lady Buccaneers in 2012. Short is Studying Law at London South Bank University.
Defender Gemma Sims. Sims progressed through Reading's Centre of Excellence through to the first and reserve team in two spells with Reading. Between spells she spent time with Fulham and Chelsea.
Left Back Stacey Wiggins. Wiggins joined the Reading centre of excellence at youth level and progressed through the age groups up to the first team where she cemented her place as a first team regular.
Left Winger/Left Back Shelly Cox. Cox joins Reading ahead of the WSL2 campaign from Portsmouth. Cox has previously played for Southampton, Doncaster Belles, Birmingham, Bristol Academy and Leeds.
Defensive Midfielder Zoe Cunningham. Cunningham joins Reading ahead of the WSL2 campaign from Arsenal. Cunningham progressed from Arsenal under-10's through to the reserve team before transferring to Reading. Cunningham has previously been involved in the England under-19 setup.
Midfielder Becky Dandridge. Dandridge joins Reading ahead of the WSL2 campaign from Arsenal. Dandridge started with Plymouth Argyle's School of Excellence before transferring to Arsenal in 2011. Dandridge previously appeared for Devon under-17s and has been involved in the England under-17 setup.
Central Midfielder/Striker Stacie Donnelly. Donnelly joined Reading's under-16's via a spell at QPR after initially starting at Heathrow Youth Club, a boys team. Previously a trainee hairdresser, Donnelly quit her job to take up a BTEC in sport, media and retail at the John Madejski Academy. Donnelly has represented both the Republic of Ireland under-17 and under-19s. Donnelly is the younger sister of Havant and Waterlooville midfielder Scott Donnelly, previously of Swansea and Aldershot.
Central Midfielder Georgie Giddings. Giddings joins Reading ahead of the WSL2 campaign from IK Sirius. Giddings joined Reading as a Left Back but has been training with the side as a central midfielder. Giddings was at Chelsea for seven years and was the reserve team captain in 2008-2009 before moving to America and playing for University of Connecticut Huskies between 2009 and 2012. Upon returning to England Giddings signed for Ashford Town (Middlesex) Ladies in January 2013 then soon after moved on to IK Sirius based in Uppsala, Sweden. Giddings has played for the under-17, under-19 and under-23 English National team, competing in several training camps and tournaments including the European Finals with the under-17 and under-19 teams.
Midfielder Rebekah Haines. Haines joined Reading FC's under-12's from AFC Aldermaston in 2005, she is involved with the reserves and first team.
Central Midfielder Kirsty McGee. McGee joins Reading ahead of the WSL2 campaign from Portsmouth. McGee was with Portsmouth for 12 years, having started her career with the Hampshire side.
Central Midfielder Lauren Moulsley. Moulsley joined Reading in 2011 for the under-17 squad after joining from the Dorset Centre of Excellence, she has since graduated to the reserve team.
Central Midfielder Leigh Nicol. Nicol joins Reading ahead of the WSL2 campaign from Arsenal. Nicol started her career playing with local boys teams before joining a summer camp at Motherwell FC where she was spotted by Scotland. Nicol played for Celtic before being offered a scholarship at Arsenal starting in 2012. Nicole has represented the Scotland at under-17 and under-19 level. Nicole is the granddaughter of Jimmy Welsh who played inside forward for Airdrie in the 1950s and scored 46 goals in 134 appearances.
Central Midfielder Lois Roche. Before joining Reading FC in 2012 Roche has spells with Chelsea and QPR before joining the Arsenal centre of excellence then a short spell at Watford. Billed as a tough tackling midfielder Roche has represented the Republic of Ireland at under-19 level.
Striker/Winger Lauren Bruton. Bruton joins Reading ahead of the WSL2 campaign from Arsenal. Bruton began playing football at the age of eight years for Luton Town Ladies FC where she netted over 200 goals until the age of 15 before joining Arsenal. She had a loan spell with Barnet before breaking into the Arsenal Ladies first team in 2008. Bruton has represented England at under-17 and under-19 level.
Striker Melissa Fletcher. Fletcher joined Reading at under-12 level and progressed through the youth teams before making her debut with the first team four years ago, aged 16. Fletcher has appeared for England at under-15 and 17 levels. Fletcher is studying Accounting at Reading University.
Striker / winger Becky Jane. Jane initially joined Reading on loan from Chelsea before making the move permanent. Jane joined Chelsea at under-16 from Fulham. Jane is an England international with experience at under-15s, 17s and 19s, with her latest call up being to the England under-23s in January. Jane is studying Sports Science at Winchester University.
Striker Emma Jones. Jones is part of Reading's scholarship programme and has appeared in both the reserves and first team. She has represented Wales at under-17s and under-19s.
Striker Fran Kirby. Kirby joined Reading Women in the under-10 squad and has progressed through the age ranks before establishing herself in the first team. Kirby was in fine form in 2012/13 surpassing the 30-goal mark and being named as player of the season. The striker was also selected for an England under-23s camp, and won gold with Team Great Britain in the World University Games in Russia as well as being awarded player of the final. At the World University Games Kirby represented Buckinghamshire New University, where she is currently studying, who Reading FC have recently announced a development program with. Kirby was called up to the England under-23s alongside Becky Jane in at the beginning of the year.
Striker Sarah Leonard. Leonard joins Reading ahead of the WSL2 campaign. Leonard previously played for Castleford White Rose Ladies in 2012/2013. She moved to Berkshire and successfully trialled with Reading FC Women before joining in the summer of 2013.
Striker Cheryl Williams. Williams was with the Barnet squad for the 2012/13 campaign having originally joined the Bees from Reading in 2008. Williams also previously played for Bristol Academy. Williams holds her UEFA B license.
Striker Helen Ward [wikipedia]. Ward joins Reading ahead of the WSL2 campaign from Chelsea Ladies. Ward began her career at Watford before moving to Arsenal where she played alongside Jayne Ludlow. The striker received two Women's FA Cup winners medals with Arsenal before moving to Chelsea in 2010. Ward holds the record of all time top scorer for Wales having hit the net 30 times in 50 international appearances for her country.
Several other players that were involved in the academy and reserves last season will be looking to progress through the reserves to the first team including Jade Bradley, Emily Donovan, Georgia Hayes, Tara Magee, Danielle Maidment, Claire Skinner and Ellie Wilson.
By all accounts from the ambitious signings Ludlow has made and feedback from her six months of training sessions this is a Reading FC team that should be competing for promotion to the top tier.
With fixtures due on Thursday (live on BT Sport at 7pm) and the league kicking off in April we'll be bringing you updates over the course of the season as we get them.