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The Rebuilding Era

WARNING: Features “ifs”, “buts” and “maybes” and relies heavily on the long running takeover story, but this could quite possibly be the future of our football club, reckons @AJKendrick.

Could Jake Taylor become a key player for the Royals?
Could Jake Taylor become a key player for the Royals?
Mark Thompson

The official Reading FC website ran with the headline, "Beautiful football" after the U18s drew with Fulham in the Youth Cup Semi-Final, which begs the question; "When will these players in the first team?"

It's heard everywhere in football; "If you're good enough, you'll play. No matter how old." That chance may be just around the corner for some of our shining young stars.

Failure to secure promotion this season may force a new chapter in our clubs history.  The ten year Premier League chasing era will come to an end, replaced by a revolutionary rebuilding phase; bringing with it a new identity, a new crop of players and a new wave of optimism around the Madejski.

NOW HERE'S THE IMPORTANT BIT: If we don't go up, it's us, the fans, who will become the most important people during the "revolution" that will follow.

Patience will be urged by the manager and the players, an understanding and appreciation of what Adkins and his team are trying to achieve will be required.

There will be fans wanting immediate success, especially the new breed, who - without wanting to sound like Brian McDermott - know nothing but relative success. A minority will grow impatient and infuriated at mediocre displays and slight hiccups along the way, but this rebuilding is going to take time, a heck of a lot of time.

Before I go into that rebuilding phase, let me put a bit of reality on this season - with the group we've got and the well documented lack of funds we've had, it's been par for course from the Royals (give or take a few lacklustre displays). While the hope of Play-Off success still lingers, my optimism continues to soar and fans should never let go of that feeling - it's good to get excited and for the next seven games - ten if we go all the way - it's crucial the fans play their part, staying positive and respect that this has actually been a reasonably good season.

The biggest question for me is; "just how many of our "core" will be at the club next season, if we fail to go up?" Let's face it, there will be a mass exodus from the club and the way things are at the club right now, very few new faces will be coming in.

One of, if not all three recognised goalkeepers could be on their way out. Alex McCarthy, Staurt Taylor and Adam Federici may be saying goodbye in a couple of months' time. The three players' wages and potential transfer fees the club would receive it would be silly to keep our top ‘keepers at the club if the right price was offered.

At the back, old blood such as Kasparss Gorkks and Wayne Bridge could see their time at the Madejski end with their contracts up in the summer. Stephen Kelly might also be on his way after struggling to break through under Adkins.

In midfield, wages and transfer fees, along with the promise of Premier League football may force the likes of Hal Robson-Kanu, Garath McCleary, Royston Drenthe and Danny Guthrie to move away from Berkshire.

Mikele Leigertwood is likely to depart after a long struggle with injury and Jobi McAnuff's future is also in doubt with his contract up.

It's unlikely that Pavel Pogrebnyak and Adam Le Fondre will stay at the club. Failure to reach the Premier League will force the big Russian - and his big wage - to move and Le Fondre won't be short of clubs courting his goalscoring prowess.   

So, that leaves us with established first teamers; Gunter, Pearce, Morrison, Cummings (established? Perhaps not,) Karacan, Obita, Akpan, Williams and Blackman - still a reasonably good starting XI, especially if you add a couple of signings to that bunch.

But even with a handful of players coming into the club The Royals will be alarmingly thin when you scratch beneath the surface.

So, with the recent rise of our U21 side, in addition to our superb Youth Cup Semi-Finalists, is it time that Nigel Adkins included these talents in his first team?

There are of course inevitable concerns in doing this; experience, quality and leadership will surely be lacking - but that comes from being thrown in at the deep end and there is unquestionable evidence to show that a lot of these players have the potential to be very, very good.

When Brendan Rodgers took over in 2009 I was excited at his willingness to blood youth players into his team. Rodgers' biggest mistake was installing too much trust in young players including the likes of Scott Davies, Shaun Cummings and Simon Church and urged them to play "the beautiful game" when a majority of those simply weren't good enough to do so.

If Adkins is to make this revolution a success he must learn from Rodgers' mistake. He can't instruct players to play a game they're not used to and he can't throw too many in at the same time. While it's definitely a gamble it's one that the manager may be willing to take, and will ultimately be forced to take, if ownership issues continue to rattle on.

So who can Nigel turn to, to provide quality and depth for next season's "rebuilding phase"?

Contract extensions pending Michael Hector and Jake Taylor will be important figures next season. The pair have been sparingly used since January but have made impressive cameos.

Mikkel Andersen and Jonathan Henly will be pushing for that number one jersey. Under Sal Bibbo's guidance the club have produced a host of quality goalkeepers and it won't be long until one claims the number one jersey that will be vacant when McCarthy and/or Federici's leave the club.

A position Nigel Adkins will be left with - well - nobody, is upfront. Gozie Ugwu and Dominic Samuel have impressed on loan and for the U21 side throughout the season and either one of the pair look a good fit physically, to lead the line in Adkins' favoured 4-2-3-1 formation. Craig Tanner who leads the scoring for the U21s will also be hoping to get a chance next season and U18 target man Harry Cardwell has impressed throughout the sides Youth Cup run.

We've all seen "that" free-kick by Reading's viral wonderkid Liam Kelly and the Irish midfielder has continued to impress in the centre of midfield for both the U21s and U18s. Alongside him has been the distinctive figure of Aaron Kuhl. The responsibility of having the armband for the U18s this season speaks volumes for how highly Kuhl is thought of. With work rate and talent in abundance the two centre midfielders may breakthrough next season.

The Royals have two alarmingly talented wide men in their ranks. Nana Owusu and Tarique Fosu-Henry have the speed, skill and confidence to frighten most full backs. Game time will only enhance their ability and they will no doubt be in the mind of Adkins and his staff.

Two centre backs who will be hoping to impress Adkins are Pierce Sweeney and Jake Cooper. With three good centre backs already at the club their chances may be limited, but throughout a 46+ game season they will be on standby and can provide more than capable cover. Likewise, midfielders Aaron Tshibola, Sammi Fridjonsson and Shep Murombedzi have played well for the academy and will all be reliable if needed.

There is no doubt then, that the potential is there for all to see and the rebuilding phase at Reading Football Club looks in good stead, providing Adkins can find the right balance between youth and experience and can get all of his players to believe in "his way.

It could, of course, go horribly wrong but, "time" will become the buzzword around the Mad Stad next season, if Adkins decides to look towards the academy graduates.

It will take time for the team to gel. It will take time for the "kids" to fulfil their promise. It will take time for the results to be seen, a few seasons at least before we call ourselves "promotion hopefuls" once again.

But if takeover talks continue to stall and if Adkins is not given the funds to strengthen his side, then he won't need to look much further than a couple of pitches away at Hogwood Park to begin the "rebuilding era" at Reading Football Club.

But for now, let's relax, this won't happen. We're going to win the Play-Offs, aren't we... ?