A very good weekend for Reading Football Club has just got even better. The Royals have announced the return of former player Noel Hunt as senior professional development coach, meaning he’ll be involved with the under-23s. In fact, he took training with that group on Sunday morning before the appointment was officially unveiled.
Michael Gilkes, who’ll juggle his academy-manager role with helping out interim boss Paul Ince in the coming days/weeks/months, had this to say on Hunt’s return:
“Noel was a great player for this club, possessing all the attributes we want to instil in our young players within the Academy. He is an exemplary role model for our aspiring youngsters, a coach of the highest calibre and, put simply, a fantastic character to welcome back to our club.”
While not said explicitly by the club, it looks like Hunt is some kind of a replacement for Mehmet Ali, who joined Arsenal in December. Ali also had the ‘senior professional development coach’ role during his time at the club, albeit alongside being under-23 manager.
This move has rightly gone down very well indeed on social media. I echo the thoughts of pretty much every other fan I’ve seen praising the decision to bring back a much-loved, well-respected former player. Hunt wasn’t simply a very good striker in a very good promotion-winning team though - more particularly, his no-nonsense, tireless attitude embodied Reading Football Club at its best.
Bringing that mindset to the club feels like just what’s needed for a club that’s lost its way in recent years. Hunt has an intimate knowledge of what it takes for Reading to be successful, so hopefully he’ll be able to pass that on to the current crop. In the short term that’ll be youth players, but depending on how things work out for Hunt, perhaps we’ll see him helping out at first-team level at some point in the future.
This appointment isn’t just fan service though: Hunt has relevant, albeit not extensive, coaching experience. He was assistant manager at Swindon Town for two years from November 2018, briefly took charge there as caretaker boss and then headed up to Doncaster Rovers alongside Richie Wellens, with whom he worked at Swindon.
Welcome back Hunty!