After the whirlwind of a transfer window we’ve just had, it could be easy to forget about the wealth of talent we have coming through our academy at the moment. The likes of Josh Barrett, Michael Olise and Danny Loader could all still be big players for us this season.
However, there is one academy graduate that, for me, stands out from all the rest: Tom McIntyre. The childhood Reading fan is a class act, and even with the summer arrivals of Matt Miazga and Michael Morrison, I’m certain that we’ll be seeing a lot of him this season.
What makes McIntyre even more exciting for us fans is that he’s one of us - a Loyal Royal. That guarantees one thing: McIntyre will leave everything on that pitch every time he steps out in a Reading shirt, and that’s a very nice feeling to have about your players as a fan.
Coming through the academy was no easy road for the Scotland under-21 international, suffering two very serious injuries that kept him out for a year each - the latter knee injury nearly ending his career. The determination and commitment to come through moments like that are exactly what you want to see from your academy players.
McIntyre made his debut last season in a 1-1 draw away at Rotherham United - a game in which he suffered a fractured skull. That injury, combined with the arrival of Jose Gomes and the dire situation we were trying to get out of, meant McIntyre only played Championship football once more all season - a substitute appearance against Bristol City in April.
However, you can see from pre-season - and his extremely impressive performance against Wycombe Wanderers in the Carabao Cup first round - that this lad can be a serious player if he continues to develop the way he has been.
He’s more than comfortable on the ball, tough in the tackle and loves to defend - all the ingredients needed for the perfect modern-day centre back. Even from his handful of first-team appearances, it’s evident that Gomes has a classy player on his hands.
He’ll know he’ll have to fight to muscle his way into the starting eleven due to the incredibly impressive performances of Liam Moore, Michael Morrison and Matt Miazga this week, but if he keeps his head down and continues what he’s doing there is no reason why he can’t be a key player for us in the coming weeks, months and years.
In his fellow centre backs, especially Moore and the experienced Morrison, he has the perfect role models as well. As we know all too well, Moore is the perfect professional and will demand nothing but 100% from McIntyre both on the training pitch and on match days - something that every young player needs to keep their feet grounded.
Yes, McIntyre will be fourth choice this season, but he is only 20 years of age and has his whole career ahead of him. The early signs are very good for both him and Reading, but we all know there are no guarantees in football and there is a lot of work to do before he completely fulfils his potential.
But I for one am truly excited about Tom McIntyre - and I think most Reading fans feel exactly the same. The more minutes he gets on the pitch, the better he’ll get and the more important he’ll become to us.
Strength in depth is key in this league, and having someone with his quality as our current fourth choice will stand us in very good stead for the rest of the season - and he’s only going to get better.