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How Does Liam Kelly Compare To Other Recent Reading FC Academy Graduates?

The 21 year old has been a revelation so far this season, but is his breakthrough similar to that of other academy graduates?

AFC Bournemouth v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

Reading's academy has produced some top talent over the years, with youngsters learning the ropes from the likes of Nicky Hammond, Brian McDermott, the late Eamonn Dolan and now Martin Kuhl.

Names to have come through the Royals youth system include Alex McCarthy, Jem Karacan, Gylfi Sigurdsson and according to the club, Shane Long. Now there's a new wonder-boy wowing the Madejski Stadium faithful: Liam Kelly. The 21 year old's impressive performances have earned him the TTE Player of the Month award for both December and January, with many fans claiming that he's the best player to come out of the academy since the aforementioned Sigurdsson, now a Premier League and international regular.

But we've seen hot streaks like this in the past, so just how does Kelly compare to three other names to have recently made the step up to the first team in Berkshire?

Jordan Obita

Capped by the England Under 21s, Jordan Obita made his Reading debut way back in 2010 in a Carling Cup clash with Torquay aged just 16. However, following loan spells across the next three years, he became a regular following the Royals' relegation back to the Championship in 2013/14.

Obita's average TTE rating from his first 10 starts that campaign was 5.8, a score slightly marred by the 6-0 defeat to Peterborough in the League Cup. It was however, a season to remember for Obita as he picked up the club's Player of the Season award. In 2014/15, the left-back scored an average of 6.0 in our player ratings, and then 5.7 in 2015/16. In that time, he had rarely been challenged for a starting place up until Tyler Blackett's arrival in the summer, and did also pick up The Tilehurst End Underachiever Award in 2015.

Michael Hector

After no fewer than 11 loan spells away from the Madejski Stadium, Michael Hector finally made his Reading debut in January 2014 as a late substitute in the 7-1 win over Bolton. His first start came two months later in a 1-1 draw against Brighton, as he became a bit-part player for the play-off run in and was then a regular at the start of the following season. In his first 10 Royals starts, Hector earned an average lowly rating of 5.3.

In his first full season, 2014/15, the defender-cum-midfielder averaged 6.2, with his performance in the FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal earning particular praise. That summer, he was rewarded with a call-up to the Jamaican national team and a dream move to boyhood club Chelsea. Back on loan in Berkshire in 2015/16, Hector achieved an average rating of 6.1, a score only minimally lower than the previous campaign, but his actual decline in form was much more obvious.

Jake Cooper

Thrown into the first team without any time away on loan, Jake Cooper made his breakthrough in 2014/15, earning an average rating of 6.4 in his first 10 starts for the club. Undoubtedly his golden moment came when he netted both goals in the 2-1 win over Norwich in November 2014.

However, he failed to reach those heights again (despite being 6ft 7in) in 2015/16, achieving an average rating of just 5.7. This massively symbolises the defender's regression from being a young, local lad that the fans worshipped to being a scapegoat for every defeat and subject to criticism in the stands and on social media. He finally got a loan move away in January to Millwall, and hopefully this experience could help him find a place in the Reading team again in future.

So, how does Kelly compare?

In his first 10 starts in a Reading shirt, Liam Kelly averaged 5.8, significantly lower than Cooper, significantly higher than Hector and level with Obita. The midfielder is also playing in a much better team than the trio were during their respective breakthroughs, which might help his cause slightly. Predicting what comes next is where it gets tricky.

Obita, Hector and Cooper all couldn't quite continue their great form from their debut campaigns, and all three have been figures of ridicule by fans at some point in time. However, Obita (23) as mentioned before has been first-choice ever since his breakthrough, Hector (24) is now playing Bundesliga football on loan from the team top of the Premier League, and Cooper (22) is err... on loan with the glamorous Millwall. But it must be noted that the centre-back is only nine months older than Kelly, so is also still developing as a player.

It will be interesting to see whether Kelly's form also drops off towards the end of this season or during 2017/18, and if it does whether he will too go from hero to zero just like Cooper. It seems a unlikely prediction, but the same could have been said of Cooper in 2014/15. That is if the midfielder makes it that far - could he soon move on to bigger and better things like that man Sigurdsson he is drawing comparisons to? After all, it only took one good season from the Icelandic international before he left for a club record sale...


Is Liam Kelly the best player to come out of Reading's academy since Gylfi Sigurdsson? Can he continue his impressive form or will he regress? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below and on Twitter, @TheTilehurstEnd.