It would have made for an excellent subheading if the Royals were to go and claim a regal victory at Princes Park, but that was sadly not to be this afternoon. Instead, the boys fell victim to a 3-0 Premier League Cup defeat following a confident display from a Charlton Athletic side that put seven past Barnsley’s under-23s two weeks ago.
Reading under-23 manager Mehmet Ali made one change to the side that beat Stoke City 2-1 in the Royals’ previous outing, with 18-year-old shot stopper Coniah Boyce-Clarke replacing Harvey Collins in goal.
The Addicks took the lead after half an hour, with Charlton midfielder Vennings firing a shot past the young goalkeeper from the edge of the box.
As the second half began, Charlton continued to apply pressure, and were rewarded with two goals in the space of nine minutes courtesy of Euan Williams and Johl Powell. Their close-range finishes, scored in the 53rd and 62nd minutes respectively, all but ended Reading’s hopes of bringing some points back to Berkshire on a warm Wednesday afternoon.
The good news is that Reading’s unbeaten start in the league remains intact – the lads will welcome Nottingham Forest to Bearwood at 2pm on Sunday for their next league fixture.
As for our next dosage of tournament football, Reading will continue their PL Cup campaign when they host Norwich City’s under-23s at the Select Car Leasing Stadium on Monday October 11.
Opinion – reasons to look forward to the future
Whilst the boys didn’t get off to a winning start in the PL Cup this season, the competition’s history is testament to the strength of our academy, with Reading conquering the youth teams of Arsenal and Manchester City on their way to winning the trophy of the inaugural competition in 2013/14. We could certainly do with some of that winning mentality in and around the club now; with the financial constraints placed on the club as a result of past spending sprees, this season could be crucial for many of our youth prospects.
As we’ve all witnessed over the last few months, recruitment has been... difficult. And while I’ve been largely satisfied with the way the club has gone about its transfer business (I would sum it up as pretty much the best we could do), we know there are areas we’ll still need reinforcements - and those young, ambitious lads in the academy will know that too, and be hopeful of the chance to step up to the challenge and prove themselves.
That really does have the potential to be a huge positive for both the club, and those individuals. Tom Holmes performed brilliantly last season, drafted in as a right back due to an extensive injury list at the time, and the stellar displays of Omar Richards (who quickly established himself as one of the most dynamic fullbacks in the league) resulted in a sensational switch from Berkshire to Bavaria. Personally, I doubt any German beer could top a pint of what-on-earth-is-this from your friend at Purple Turtle, but I certainly don’t blame Omar for moving to one of the biggest clubs in the world, and he seems to have settled well at Bayern Munich.
My point is, we had concerns in different areas last year, but the academy came to our rescue somewhat and I think it is well placed to help again. Fans barely knew what to expect from the likes of Holmes and Richards at the start of last season, but the manager trusted them and that faith was duly repaid. And this season could see similar trends - Femi Azeez looked fantastic until his unfortunate injury, and I have no doubt that the likes of Jahmari Clarke, Dejan Tetek, and Ethan Bristow will develop and grow in to solid options over time.
Add to that the likes of an in-form Kelvin Ehibhatiomhan, who is yet to make his mark on the first team, as well as a plethora of other options emerging at youth level, and if managed carefully you have a recipe for long-term financial and football success.
Will we march to glory this year with a squad full of teenagers, a certain infamous 1995 Alan Hansen quote echoing around our heads? No, probably not. But it will provide a solid platform for us to build a squad and philosophy for the club that rewards hard work, and promotes financial stability. I for one am excited to provide more regular updates from the academy, and I also think Pauno is the right man to bring these young talents through.
So, come on urzzz!