Reading's Academy has thrived in the past few years, largely thanks to the hard work of the late, great Eamonn Dolan. Part of that rise was to earn a spot in the top division of U21 football and our success at that level has now seen us invited not only to be part of a new U23 Premier League but also be entered into a European competition.
On the league front and we'll be taking part in what's now being called 'Premier League 2' which will allow any players under 23 plus up to three overage players to take part. The 12-strong division will see Reading take on the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham, with teams meeting home and away. Reading's fixtures will be split between the Madejski Stadium, Wycombe's Adams Park and the occasional game behind closed doors at the Bearwood training complex. The club have already confirmed our games that will take place at the Mad Stad....
The first of those fixtures will take place on Friday 26th August as Man City come to town for a 7pm kick-off under the Madejski Stadium floodlights.
Chelsea also visit our main stadium on Monday 19th September, and then in the new year Madejski Stadium will play host to Arsenal (Monday 10th April) as well as our youngsters' final outing of the campaign against Sunderland (Monday 8th May).
Elsewhere and we're going on a European non-tour! Yes Reading have been entered into a European competition that will see our U23s take on youth teams from across Europe. The catch is that all of the games will be played in the UK so sorry folks there's no jaunts to Nantes (not least because they're not a team that's been invited).
Here's who we could end up facing from the continent though.
Invited international clubs: Athletic Club, Benfica, Celtic, Dinamo Zagreb, Feyenoord, Hertha Berlin, Porto, PSV Eindhoven, Sparta Prague, Valencia, Villarreal, Wolfsburg.
Of course it's fantastic news that our best and brightest prospects will get to play against the very best teams in their age group but I do wonder quite what the purpose of this change is. I'm not sure many top teams are going to have that many 22/23-year-olds just lurking around the club but then this could be designed to help find room for more senior players without having to cut out the odd slightly older youngster that had previously counted against the quota.
From a competition standpoint it should be a good thing as it now gives younger players more opportunities to face players further along in their careers without necessarily having to be sent out on loan. Yet you do wonder if this might lead to more stockpiling of talent from some of the bigger clubs in the competition.
You can check out the full fixture list for the now U23s here.
So what do you make of the plans folks? Excited?