We all love to hear that Reading’s academy is doing well. After all, it’s a great feeling to see a home-grown youngster making their mark in the first team, and even better if they go on to become a regular.
Fortunately, it’s something we’ve become accustomed to in recent years - the likes of Jordan Obita and Liam Kelly have been key players under Jaap Stam, whilst Aaron Tshibola and Michael Hector have been the subject of multi-million pound bids after proving themselves at Reading.
But how does all of this stack up nationwide? Do those examples I’ve mentioned actually show that Reading’s academy is, statistically speaking, a productive one?
As it happens, figures from Training Ground Guru indicate that the Royals’ youth set-up is indeed a fruitful one. The article works off a table which shows how many academy graduates from 86 of the 92 clubs in English league football played a game in 2016/17. So, for example, Gylfi Sigurdsson counts as a Reading graduate who played in the Premier League last season.
Overall, Reading come a very respectable 13th, with only three non-Premier League sides churning out more players than our 35: Charlton Athletic (44), Crewe Alexandra (39) and Leeds United (36). Impressively, we edge out two teams who both play in the Premier League and have achieved the top academy category - Manchester City and Leicester City.
Where do our youngsters ply their trade?
The table breaks down academy graduates according to the division they played in, taking in the top four tiers and the National League. Reading’s total of 35 divides up as such:
- Premier League: 3
- Championship: 6
- League One: 4
- League Two: 11
- National League: 11
Annoyingly, we don’t have more specific information than that, so can’t give an exact list of names.
The fruits of those labours
Running any academy, let alone a Category One academy, can be very expensive - the article notes that even Category Three (the lowest) can cost up to £500,000 per year. As a result, six teams in the Football League don’t go down this route at all, such as Brentford who have a very interesting reserve team set-up instead.
With that in mind, it’s good to see that Reading’s money is, largely speaking, paying off. Naturally, there’s a lot more work to be done, particularly in developing talent capable of gracing the Premier League (ideally for us).
On the other hand, there’s a risk that players won’t impress in the top two tiers, but do manage to have an impact lower down the pyramid. We’ve seen that big time this season with the impressive form of Tariqe Fosu at Charlton, who’s hit an incredible seven goals in 14 games for the Addicks. That’s disappointing from a Reading point of view - how much would we give for that strike rate at the moment? - but it’s always good to see former Royals doing well after not quite making the grade for us.
Looking to the future, we hope to see a lot of talent from the academy donning the hoops. Judging by what we’ve seen this season - in both first-team debuts and success for the U23s, there’s a lot of talent to be tapped into.
League Cup games this season have seen Omar Richards, Axel Andresson, Andy Rinomhota, Josh Barrett, Sam Smith and Danny Loader all feature. Additionally, George Legg, Tyler Frost and Ryan East made the subs bench. Watching Monday’s impressive 3-2 for the u23s over their Aston Villa counterparts, I was particularly impressed by Gabriel Osho and Teddy Howe, although the whole team does of course deserve a huge amount of credit.
In short, I’m bloody excited by the talent in the academy. It’s really rather good. Looking further down the age groups, the u16s and u17s could play a big part in shaping England’s national team. Here’s a quote from FourFourTwo that dates back to September:
“At the opposite end of the scale, Reading have eight call-ups between the U16 and U17 groups, a tally only beaten by Manchester City (9). In fact, those two are part of a group of four clubs who make up over half the U16 contingent, with Chelsea and Arsenal the other big-hitters in the youngest competitive age group.”
At this point, I realise that I’ve gone on a bit of a rant, so apologies. But it really is worthwhile highlighting how bright the future of the academy is - not only in the more visible bits (the u23s playing at the Mad Stad, Luke Southwood and Danny Loader reaching World Cup finals), but also in the younger age groups.
So, yeh, get excited!