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Where Are They Now? - Reading's Premier League Cup Winners Of 2014

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With Reading one game away from another PL Cup Final, we look what happened to the team from 2014.

Fulham U18 v Reading U18 - FA Youth Cup Semi Final: Second Leg Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images

Three years ago, Reading's U21s beat Manchester City to claim the Premier League Cup. This Sunday they'll face Norwich in the semi-final of the now U23 competition at the Madejski Stadium but what happend to the class of 2014?

Dan Lincoln (Age: 21) - Gone

Reading Appearances: 0

The keeper found himself in a log-jam behind the likes of Adam Federici, Mikkel Andersen, Ali Al-Habsi and Jonathan Bond, failing to make a first team appearance before being released in the summer of 2016.

Popped up in the headlines after being handed a trial with Arsenal but now finds himself with Bognor Regis in the Ryman League.

Sean Long (21)- Still Here (Out on loan)

Reading Appearances: 1

The Irish full-back has flirted with the first team squad over the past few seasons but has just one sub appearance in the League Cup to his name.

He's been out on loan to plenty of clubs since then, most recently with FA Cup giant killers Lincoln in the National League.

Shane Griffin (22) - Gone

Reading Appearances: 0

Another young Irishman, Griffin also had a dabbling in a few first team squads but never made a senior appearance.

He's now moved back to Ireland to join Cork City.

Niall Keown (22) - Still Here (Out on loan)

Reading Appearances: 2

As the son of Martin, Niall Keown has always garnered that little bit of extra attention as he's worked his way through the ranks. For a time under Nigel Adkins and then Steve Clarke, it looked as if he might just be about to break into the first team squad, but only two appearances followed and he's now out on loan in Scotland at Partick Thistle where he's featured regularly.

Hopefully he can follow in the footsteps of Michael Hector and use time north of the bother to bolster his Reading chances.

Jake Cooper (22) - Still Here (Out on loan)

Reading Appearances: 55

Cooper was one of the first players from this squad to make an impression at senior level, performing admirably after being thrown into the first team without a single league appearance out on loan.

Things all seemed to be progressing well for Jake but Jaap Stam's arrival saw him start to struggle, as he lacked the natural technical ability to play the Dutchman's more possession orientated game. Shortly after scooping our TTE Underacheiver award for 2016, he headed out on loan to Millwall where he's been well received.

Pierce Sweeney (22) - Gone

Reading Appearances: 0

Hopes were high for the Irishman, who scooped the Young Player of the Year award for the Republic of Ireland for 2013. Yet he slowly got overtaken in the pecking order by Michael Hector and Jake Cooper and eventually found himself released without a senior appearance.

Now plying his trade down at Exeter in League Two where he's featured semi-regularly.

Aaron Tshibola (22) - Gone

Reading Appearances: 17

Tish made just six league starts in Berkshire but that didn't stop Aston Villa splashing out a reported £5m to take him to Villa Park last summer. That moves seems pretty much a disaster now, as instead of featuring regularly for Jaap Stam, he found himself frozen out and Villa and now making sporadic appearances on loan at Nottingham Forest.

Sometimes you can make that big move too soon....

Jack Stacey (21) - Still Here (Out on loan)

Reading Appearances: 6

Stacey has been in and around the first team on a few occassions but always seems to find himself out on loan. His most recent spell has been with Exeter in League Two, where he's been tipped by some to win their Player of the Season award.

Having just turned 21, there's still plenty of time for Jack to make an impression at the Mad Stad but promotion would really hamper his chances in the short-term.

Liam Kelly (21) - Still Here

Reading Appearances: 30

Kelly is a fascinating case of a youngster who came up with massive hype, that then totally died down before making a surprise emergence in the first team squad. After catching the eye with multiple stunning YouTube goals, Kelly was always tipped as one to watch. Yet the young Irishman's height was always used as an easy excuse as to why he wouldn't make it, a fear that looked like becoming a reality when he was farmed out to Bath City on loan last January.

Kelly was seemingly ready to quit the club, before Jaap Stam arrived and took an instant shine to the lad. Soon enough, Kelly was in the first team mix and has gone on to make a fantastic impression during his first season. His performance coming off the bench at Bristol City was my personal favourite and if he continues to progress, he'll be a hard one to hold on to.

Craig Tanner (22) - Still Here (Out on loan)

Reading Appearances: 5

The forward also came through the youth ranks with a fair amount of buzz behind him, yet unlike Kelly has so far failed to translate that into output at Reading. Good loan spells with Plymouth and AFC Wimbledon have seen him prove his credentials as an EFL level talent, yet whether he can make the grade at second tier level is very much an unknown.

Gozie Ugwu (24) - Gone

Reading Appearances: 0

Ugwu made the bench a couple of times but never made it on to the pitch for a senior appearance. After his release from Reading, he bounced around the lower divisions and had a spell at Dunfermline in Scotland before ending up at National League Woking. There he's had a good season, bagging 17 league goals in a struggling side.

SUBS

Tariqe Fosu (21) - Still Here (Out on loan)

Reading Appearances: 1

Hype can be a dangerous thing, for both players and fans. Fosu's exciting performance on the last day of the 2014/15 season at Derby had everyone talking and that summer, 74% of you predicted he'd be a Premier League player by 2020.

That might still happen but his star at Reading has somewhat faded since then, with Tariqe failing to make a senior appearance since. An unfortunate injury around the start of the following campaign played its part but Jaap Stam still sent the winger out on loan for the whole of this season, where he's only just begun to establish himself at Colchester in League Two.

The talent is there, but will he have the drive to make it at Reading?

Lewis Ward (20) - Still Here (Out on loan)

Reading Appearances: 0

The keeper has found himself trapped behind a logjam of keepers, with George Legg now seemingly higher up the pecking order. Currently getting game time at Hungerford in the National League South, Ward has plenty of time to improve.

Sami Fridjonsson (21) - Gone

Reading Appearances: 0

Any Icelandic youngster that comes through the Reading Academy is going to have inevitable comparisons with Gylfi Sigurdsson. Unfortunately, Sami couldn't quite live up to the exploits of his countryman, with the utility player released last summer.

He's now with Valerenga in Norway where he's hoping to make an impression.

Harry Cardwell (20) - Still Here (Out on loan)

Reading Appearances: 0

Harry joined from Hull's Academy for a rumoured five-figure sum in 2013, yet the Scottish forward has yet to feature in a senior game. In a rather odd sounding move, Cardwell has been with Brighton's U23's since January to try and get more game time. It's not the most encouraging sign when you can't even get into your own U23 team, but fingers crossed he's a late bloomer.

Shephard Murombedzi (22) - Gone

Reading Appearances: 0

'Shep' gained early fame at Reading for being picked to play for Manchester Utd's U14's while still on our books. Yet the Zimbabwean winger never made the grade at the Madejski Stadium and now turns out for Solihull Moors in the National League.

*****

CURRENT FIRST TEAM: 1

HERE BUT ON LOAN: 8

GONE: 7

TOTAL READING APPEARANCES: 117

TRANSFER FEES EARNED: £5m

So of the 16 men to feature, seven have already left the club. Yet getting over 100 appearances is a good return from the Academy, albeit with the vast majority of those being earned by Jake Cooper, who's out of favour, Aaron Tshibola who's been sold and Liam Kelly.

The vast majority of the players are still between 20 and 22, so there's still time to make an impact but only having Kelly as a squad regular at this stage does seem a tad disappointing. However, that's with the caveat that Tshibola would have likely featured heavily had he stayed and I'm sure Stacey, Fosu, Tanner and Cooper would be at least around the first team had they not been sent out on loan.

Even in Tish's case, the £5m we earned for him covers the reported £2.5m cost of running a Category 1 Academy for two years, so you only need 1 man to become a big hit to make the youth setup a success.

What this does go to show is that the gulf between youth and men's football is huge, something Academy Manager Lee Herron stressed to us in his interview with TTE earlier this year.

So please get behind this group at the weekend. For some it might be the start a special career at Reading but for others it might be the only chance they get to play in a big game atmosphere in front of the club where they came through the ranks. Either way, give them your support and hopefully we can get to another final!