All last week, we covered the England-based players who had come through Reading’s academy without making a first-team appearance for the Royals. It turns out though that there’s quite a few who have ended up in other countries. First up, it’s the ones who currently ply their trade in Scotland and Ireland. Tomorrow, we’ll look outside the British Isles.
Reading had their fair share of hits in the mid-2000s with Irish players. Unfortunately for Jonny Hayes though, he didn’t have the same level of success as compatriots Kevin Doyle, Shane Long and Stephen Hunt, and didn’t make an appearance for us before leaving in 2007.
The winger then joined Leicester City (back when that move was a step down), but his career roared into life north of the border. Hayes racked up 61 goals and assists in 101 games for Inverness Caledonian Thistle, then 101 goals and assists in 207 for Aberdeen - ultimately earning him a move to Celtic in 2017. He’s played fairly regularly - just over 40 times - in the subsequent two seasons.
A Premier League Cup winner with Reading’s academy in 2014, Shane Griffin was never given the chance to strut his stuff for the first team. The left returned to Ireland in the summer of 2017, joining Cork City, where he plays alongside Karl Sheppard and a ‘Mark McNulty’ in goal - no relation.
Griffin has played almost 80 times for the Rebel Army, including a few appearances in qualification for the Europa League and Champions League. At time of writing, Cork are yet to win either trophy during Griffin’s spell there.
The Edinburgh side have become notorious in recent years as a home for former Royals. A brief shout-out to Ryan Edwards here, who scored for Hearts in the Scottish Cup Final last month - but he played for Reading a few times in 2014. Instead, we’ll focus on Uche Ikpeazu and Oliver Bozanic.
Karl Anthony Uchechukwu Mubiru Ikpeazu, to give him his full name, was talked up as our very own Didier Drogba when he came through our academy, but swapped the Royals for Watford in 2013. He never played for the Hornets, instead going out on loan to Crewe Alexandra and Blackpool.
A permanent move to Cambridge United followed, where Ikpeazu found the net 22 times in 80 appearances, helping him win a move north of the border to Hearts. An impressive opening season in Scotland - eight goals in 26 games - has led to talk of him joining Celtic or Rangers.
On the other hand, Oliver Bozanic was a contemporary of Jonny Hayes; both being on the books during the Steve Coppell era. Unlike Hayes though, Bozanic reacted to his Reading exit by heading to Australia, turning out for Central Coast and Melbourne Victory, interspersed with spells in Switzerland and Japan. He joined Hearts on a free transfer in the same summer as Ikpeazu, scoring three times in 34 appearances across 2018/19.
Another club with two former Royals is Livingstone, who have signed Marvin Bartley and Hakeem Odoffin this year. Reading-born Bartley kicked around non-league football for a few years after being let go in 2002, turning out for the likes of Hayes, Didcot Town and Hampton and Richmond Borough.
He was given his break in league football with a move to Bournemouth in 2007, spending four years there before joining Burnley in 2011, then Leyton Orient in 2014 (after a loan spell there in the previous campaign). 92 games between 2015 and 2019 followed for Hibernian, with Bartley signing for Livingstone this summer.
Odoffin had already signed for that club in January - in his case from Northampton Town. He had been on the books of Barnet and Wolverhampton Wanderers earlier in his career, failing to make an appearance for the latter.
Daniel Carr’s career has bounced around somewhat since leaving Reading in 2012. The Lambeth-born striker’s 17 goals in 30 for Dulwich Hamlet earned him a trial at Liverpool (then managed by Brendan Rodgers who knew Carr from his Reading days), although they opted to sign former Reading target Iago Aspas instead. Instead, Carr moved to Huddersfield Town in 2013, but failed to make the grade either with the Terriers or at any of his league or non-league loan clubs.
He signed for Cambridge United in 2015, again didn’t settle, and returned to Dulwich Hamlet. After a loan move to Leatherhead, he tried his hand in the Swedish third tier with Karlstad BK, then headed over to Ireland with Shamrock Rovers and seems to have settled there. He seems happy with the international flavour of his career, telling the Irish Mirror last year:
“I’ve always been open to travel. I wasn’t just going to stay in England. My aim was to play football at the highest level. If that takes me abroad, it takes me abroad.”
Wikipedia informs me that Carr’s elder brother, Gary, played Jack Ross (the jazz singer, not the manager) in the fourth series of Downton Abbey. Every day’s a school day.
Another striker doing well in Ireland is Conor Davis, who spent a few years in Reading’s academy without being able to make an impression for the first team. He told The 42 last year that his release in 2018 hadn’t come as a surprise.
“It was something I’d known about for 18 months. Before my contract ended in June, I hadn’t been told anything, but I had a feeling that was coming. I wasn’t getting a look-in even with the 23s.
“I trained with the 23s, they were my age group, sometimes I’d train with the first team, but I was very rarely included in squads for matches. I was out on loan a few times to lower-league teams and it was more for game time than anything else.”
That full interview, in which Davis discusses Steve Clarke, Jaap Stam and Liam Kelly, is well worth a read.
He’s since played for UCD (University College Dublin), scoring six goals in his first five matches as he helped fire them to promotion to the Irish top tier. There’s recently been talk of him joining Derry City, although they’d reportedly have to beat Bohemians to Davis’ signature.