Played at Stoke, the under-18 team featured a number of youngsters who featured in their memorable run to the FA Youth Cup Semi-final. This included the likes of McLennan, Dickie, Hyam, Owusu and Cardwell. It was ex-Hull man Cardwell who put Reading ahead on the 7th minute, scoring a penalty he had won after a foul by the Stoke 'keeper.
Stoke levelled 5 minutes later, only for Estonian youth international Bogdan Vastsuk to put Reading back in front. Cardwell sealed the win with 20 mintues remaining, before Stoke netted a late consolation.
This win allows us to reflect on arguably the best ever season for our academy's teams. Of course, the real achievement is only made in translating U18s success into first-team apperances by our home-grown players.
Having reached the U18s Premier League final last season, and falling to the extremely impressive academy of Fulham, the youngsters charged forward in the much-coveted FA Youth Cup this season. Beating Liverpool and Crewe in epic knock-out penalty shoot-outs sent Reading through to the semi-finals, losing to a late Fulham goal. The Cottagers, and in particular Premier League starter Moussa Dembele, once again striking down on The Royals.
Let us not forget that many of the U18s were also highly involved in the trophy success in the Under-21s Premier League Cup, after a 4-3 aggregate victory over Man City.
3rd place in the Premier League South Group is another reward for the hard work of Eamonn Dolan and squad manager David Dodds, finishing ahead of Youth Cup winners Chelsea, as Spurs and West Ham finish in the top two to head into the play-offs.
These teams are not only of greater stature than Reading, but also outstrip us by miles in terms of revenue and facilities, so it is of great testament to all involved that our academy has become one of the jewels in the crown at the Mad Stad in recent years.