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The Eamonn Dolan Reading FC Academy Graduate XI

In honour of the late Eamonn Dolan, we put together a team of stars who all graduated from Reading's academy in his time as coach.

The day before Eamonn Dolan sadly passed away earlier this week, Reading's academy retained it's Category One status proving just how much of an impact he had at this football club. Right from the moment he stepped foot in the door in 2004, up until his death, Dolan was always striving to make the Royals' youngsters the best they could be and transformed the academy to one of the best in the country.

In 12 years, 32 players graduated and made appearances for the first team, with some even going on to play in the Premier League with Reading or elsewhere. We have created a starting XI of these graduates, to celebrate the fantastic work Dolan did in Berkshire.

Formation: 3-5-2

GK: Alex McCarthy

Joined Reading at the age of 16, and had six loan spells away from Berkshire before eventually making his debut against Watford in 2011 as a 21 year old, coming on as a substitute for the injured Adam Federici. McCarthy's first real breakthrough came in the Premier League two years later, when he kept a clean sheet against Liverpool after a superb performance.

He kept his place in the side and was the Royals no.1 for the 2013/14 season before QPR snapped him up following their promotion to the top flight. A year later they were relegated, and McCarthy moved to Crystal Palace, whom he made seven appearances for in 2015/16.

The 26 year old made a total of 75 appearances for Reading and in May 2013 he was called up to the England team for, becoming the first Reading youth team graduate to gain a full Three Lions call-up since the Academy era began in 1998.

CB: Jake Cooper

One of the more recent academy graduates, Jake Cooper made his Royals debut aged 19 in August 2014 against Ipswich Town, having been with the club since 2009. Before breaking into the first team, he was part of the youth side that Eamonn Dolan won the Under-21 Premier League Cup with in 2014.

It was against Norwich City in November 2014 when Cooper announced himself to Reading fans, as he scored twice at Carrow Road to seal a 2-1 victory in one of Nigel Adkins' last games in charge. But it wasn't until Brian McDermott returned last season that the 21 year old became a regular.

Cooper made 24 league appearances in 2015/16 and netted two goals. Towards the end of the campaign, he was called up to the England U20s for the first time, having previously featured for the U18s and U19s. As such, he is now attracting Premier League interest from Bournemouth. Not bad for a player who had never had any loan spells away from the Madejski Stadium.

CB: Alex Pearce

He may be struggling for game time at current club Derby County at the moment, but there's no denying that Alex Pearce played a vital role in Reading's promotion to the Premier League in 2011/12, when he won the Player of the Season award.

Pearce joined the club at just 12 years old in 2001, making his first team debut five years later against Burnley in the FA Cup. The defender spent time on loan Northampton, Bournemouth, Norwich and Southampton to develop his career, and also captained the Royals to Premier Reserve League glory in 2007, scoring in the final.

He was even linked with Liverpool following our relegation from the top flight in 2013, but signed a new two year contract at the Madejski Stadium. At the end of which last summer he moved to the iPro stadium, ending a 14 year association with Reading in which he made 240 appearances and scored 15 goals, captaining the team on occasions.

CB: Michael Hector

Michael Hector had no less than 11 loan spells before finally breaking into the Reading first team in 2014, having been with the club since 2009 as a 17 year old. He couldn't have picked a much better game to make his debut in, coming on as a late substitute in the 7-1 win over Bolton Wanderers.

But it was the following season, 2014/15, when Hector really cemented himself as a key player in the team, finishing in the top three of the club's Player of the Season award. His performance in the FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal in particular earning a lot of praise.

Reading tried to fend off the interest from bigger clubs, by agreeing a new three year contract with the 23 year old last summer, but it wasn't enough, as Hector's boyhood club Chelsea signed him on deadline day for around £4 million. He spent last season back on loan at the Madejski Stadium, and has 12 caps for Jamaica, featuring in both the 2015 and 2016 Copa Americas.

CDM: Jem Karacan

Jem Karacan left the club last summer along with Alex Pearce, but will be fondly remembered (despite his injury record) by Reading fans, having served the Royals since the age of 14, when he was spotted by scouts whilst on trial at Manchester United.

Following loan spells at Bournemouth and Millwall, Karacan made his senior team debut in the League Cup against Luton in 2008, scoring against the League Two club. He would gradually become a regular in the following seasons, and played a key part in the promotion to the top flight in 2012.

As aforementioned, injury would overshadow his latter years at Reading, in which he was named club captain and played a huge part in the fantastic #RyansRoyals initiative. The 27 year old joined boyhood team Galatasaray in 2015 having made 175 appearances for Reading and getting 12 goals.

CDM: Aaron Tshibola

A move to Norwich City may be on the horizon for Aaron Tshibola, who's potential is surprisingly high given he has made just 16 appearances for the Reading senior team. But it is perhaps justifiable considering his impressive performances since making his breakthrough into the team at the start of the 2015/16 season before injury ended his campaign.

Tshibola actually made his Royals debut against Nottingham Forest in August 2014 aged 19, having been with the club since he was 13. While in the academy, Tshibola was loaned to Manchester United alongside Cooper.

He went on loan to Hartlepool United for the second half of 2014/15, proving to be an important player as the North East club survived what looked like an impossible relegation battle in League Two. Tshibola also has one cap for the England U18s.

RM: James Henry

Reading born and bred, James Henry even went to the same college as TTE assistant editor Marc, and signed his first professional contract with his hometown club in 2006 (James, not Marc!). A year later, he made his debut for the Royals as a late substitute against Liverpool in the League Cup.

But he would find his opportunities in the Premier League limited, and when relegation came he was forced to compete with Jimmy Kebe for the right wing spot. As such, loan spells at Bournemouth, Norwich and Millwall gave the youngster experience, and Henry eventually joined the Lions on a permanent deal in 2010. He made just 18 appearances in all competitions for Reading, scoring four goals, all in the League Cup.

Now 27 years old and at Wolves, Henry has become an established Championship player, making 78 league appearances since the start of 2014/15, scoring 12 goals. He has netted against Reading in each of the previous two campaigns.

LM: Jordan Obita

Jordan Obita has played most of his time at Reading at left-back, but I'm giving him his alleged wish of playing further forward in this team. After all, that is where he played in the academy under Dolan and out on loan at Barnet, Gillingham, Portsmouth and Oldham.

He joined the Royals at the age of eight after having trials with Oxford (boo!), and made his debut as a 16 year old in August 2010, making him our current longest-serving player. It wasn't until the 2013/14 season that he made a real impact though, making 34 appearances and winning the Player of the Season award after a number of impressive performances.

That summer he was called up by the England U20s and U21s for the Toulon Tournament, scoring against Qatar. It's fair to say that in the two years since, Obita hasn't quite developed into the player we all thought he would be now aged 22. However, I do still regard him as a key player, having been first choice for the last three seasons.

CAM: Gylfi Sigurdsson

Two months ago, I voted Gylfi Sigurdsson as the player who has done the best since leaving Reading, and I firmly believe that he is the best player that Eamonn Dolan produced in his time at the club. He made the move to Berkshire in 2005 from Iceland, and made his in the same game as Jem Karacan against Luton in August 2008.

Sigurdsson spent most of the rest of that campaign on loan, at Shrewsbury and then Crewe, but it was in 2009/10 when we saw what a star Gylfi was. At just 21 years of age, he scored 17 goals in 38 league games and was named the club's Player of the Season. Inevitably, bigger teams came sniffing, and he signed for Hoffenheim in the summer of 2010 in a club record sale.

Since departing the Madejski Stadium, Sigurdsson has gone from strength to strength, moving back to the UK with Swansea in 2011. A transfer to Tottenham didn't quite work out, and he is now back at the Welsh club, where he netted 11 Premier League goals last season.

Of course he is currently impressing with Iceland at Euro 2016 (he's won the country's footballer of the year in the last six years), and will face England tomorrow. For once, I won't be cheering him on.

ST: Shane Long

It's debatable whether Shane Long was an academy graduate, but the club are counting it so I won't turn down the chance to put him in the team! Along with Kevin Doyle, he signed for the club from Cork City (where he had been managed by Pat Dolan) aged 18 in 2005.

Up until the 2010/11 season, Long was a bit of 'nearly man', playing regularly, but not scoring that often - his highest league goal tally was nine in 2008/09. But in 2010/11, the Irishman transformed into the Championship's best striker, netting 21 times to pick up the club's Player of the Season award.

The Premier League beckoned, but unfortunately not with Reading, and Long has played in the top flight since with West Brom, Hull and currently Southampton, having his best season to date in 2015/16 with 10 league goals in 26 appearances. Long has over 60 caps for the Republic of Ireland, starring in Euro 2012 and Euro 2016.

ST: Hal Robson-Kanu

At 15 years old, Hal Robson-Kanu was released by Arsenal and picked up by Reading, and would go on to spend 12 years in Berkshire before deciding to explore pastures new this summer. He made his debut on the opening day of the 2008/09 season having previously spent time out on loan at Southend and Swindon.

Over the course of his time at Reading, HRK always showed glimpses of talent that showed he may have had the potential to be a top player. But unfortunately, these flashes were all too rare, leading many fans to become frustrated with his inconsistency. The 27 year old touted himself as a striker, but couldn't the back of the net regularly - his best season came in the Premier League in 2012/13 when he scored seven goals.

On the international stage however, Wales fans seem to love him. He did score the winning goal against Slovakia in their opening Euro 2016 game this summer though, and has played an important role in their impressive tournament adventure.

Substitutes: Ben Hamer, Niall Keown, Rob Dickie, Jake Taylor, Tarique Fosu, Simon Cox, Simon Church


Eight of this 18 man squad have played Premier League football, whilst four have featured at this summer's European Championships. Not bad coming from 'little old Reading', and it is thanks to Eamonn Dolan that they have been given the opportunity to play on the biggest stages. His legacy will forever remain in Reading FC history.