Congratulations to Femi Azeez, who you have voted as Reading’s Rookie of the Year for 2021/22. The 20-year-old collected a total of 349 points in our ranking-based polling system, giving him victory over Dejan Tetek (316 points), Jahmari Clarke (301) and Ethan Bristow (154).
While Azeez may not have had quite the same breakthrough this season as previous winners of this award have, he acted as the academy’s poster boy for the campaign and made the most appearances (14) of any player in the squad aged 21 or under.
As Reading started the season in miserable form in August, Azeez gave fans something to cheer about with his goals against Preston North End and Bristol City. His back post finish against the Lilywhites was particularly enjoyable as it set the team on their way to their first win of the season and his celebration - a knee slide coupled with a beaming smile in front of Club 1871 - is a contender for picture of the year. It told of a player living his dream after a less than conventional route to professional football. Azeez only joined Reading at the age of 18, having played in non-league with local club Northwood and then Wealdstone after being let go by Watford at 14 years old.
The rest of Azeez’s season was unfortunately disrupted by injury and he only started once from September onwards as hamstring and ankle issues kept him on the sidelines for six months in total. Having showed plenty of promise, it was frustrating not to have him available when opportunities would have been on offer to him either on the wing or upfront.
With his current contract expiring at the end of June, the 20-year-old has been offered a new deal but like many of his team-mates, an agreement is yet to be reached. There is certainly still a rawness to Azeez’s game which is unsurprising and a full season of regular football should be his priority for 2022/23. It’s unlikely that will come at Reading, so he must decide whether to stay in Berkshire and head out on loan or forge his career elsewhere.