It’s time to hand out our Rookie of the Year accolade, which is given to the young player who enjoyed the best breakthrough campaign. The list of previous winners is as follows: Femi Azeez, Tom Holmes, Tom McIntyre, Andy Rinomhota, Omar Richards, Liam Kelly, Aaron Tshibola and Jake Cooper.
The criteria for Rookie of the Year is as follows. Candidates must:
- Have been 22 years old or younger on August 1 2022.
- Have made fewer than five Reading starts before the start of the season.
- Have made five Reading starts this season or a combined 10 sub appearances + starts.
- Not be on loan at the club.
Perhaps surprisingly, there are 18 players who featured for Reading this season that qualify on that first condition – their age. However, the majority are ruled out by the rest of the criteria.
Overall, 11 did not play enough games across the campaign – Nelson Abbey, Coniah Boyce-Clarke, Mamadi Camara, Jahmari Clarke, John Clarke, Michael Craig, Kelvin Ehibhatiomhan, Louie Holzman, Kian Leavy, Jack Senga and Basil Tuma.
Meanwhile, the last two winners of this award, Femi Azeez and Tom Holmes, still qualify based on their age but they had made too many Royals appearances coming into this season. We can also rule out loanees Cesare Casadei and Tyrese Fornah.
So that leaves a shortlist of three. In alphabetical order…
Age: 19 / Appearances: 2 starts (+8 as a sub) / TTE average rating: 5.9
The only academy graduate to feature on this year’s shortlist, Kelvin Abrefa was the under-21s player who was given the most opportunities in the first team this season – albeit mostly off the bench in the latter stages of matches. Both of the defender’s starts came in cup competitions, with his lobbed goal against Watford in the FA Cup one of the season’s rare highlights.
Age: 23 / Appearances: 19 starts (+11 as a sub) / TTE average rating: 5.9
Somewhat of an underwhelming signing from AFC Wimbledon last summer, Nesta Guinness-Walker had a shaky start to life in Berkshire but he grew in confidence as the campaign went on and impressed with his attacking threat down the left flank. Having been in and out of the team, the full-back had nailed down a starting spot by the end of the season and the club have done well to trigger an extension to his contract.
Age: 21 / Appearances: 19 starts (+9 as a sub) / TTE average rating: 5.6
No one had heard of Amadou Mbengue when Reading took a punt on him following his release from Metz last summer, but by the end of the season he was one of the team’s stars. ‘Cheeseburger’ has become a popular member of the squad and showed his versatility by performing well in different roles across the backline throughout the campaign. There was interest from elsewhere in January but Mbengue stuck around and the hope is he does the same this summer.
So those are your three candidates, but who gets your vote? As with the Player of the Season, you can rank the options from first to third, using the poll below. If it doesn’t display on your device, please use this link.