New-boy Antonio makes the Wright choiceBy Nick Ive
October 31, 2008
New signing Michail Antonio is hoping to become the new Ian Wright.
Royals boss Steve Coppell plucked Wright from non-league football while manager of Crystal Palace in 1985.
And this week he snapped up 18-year-old Antonio from Tooting and Mitcham.
Antonio wasn’t even born when Coppell had to quit playing due to a serious knee injury, let alone when he gave former plasterer Wright his big chance.
But the Londoner knows all about his new boss’s track record in unearthing raw talent.
“I know everything about him (Coppell),” said Antonio. “He found Ian Wright. Hopefully he can help me turn out like Ian Wright. He was a hero of mine.
“It would be good to turn out like him.”
Antonio was snapped up for a nominal fee after impressing during a trial period.
But the right winger thought he had lost his big chance to turn professional after missing out on the chance to go to Tottenham Hotspur as a schoolboy – because his mum told him to finish his education.
“When I was 14 I could have gone to Tottenham, but my mum said my education should come first so I stayed at Tooting and Mitcham,” revealed Antonio.
“I thought I had missed my chance, but look at me here, I’m at Reading and it’s all good.”
Antonio is determined to make his mark at Madejski Stadium, but he is finding out if he can continue his education.
He said: “If I didn’t come and play for Reading then I would be looking to go to uni next year and become a PE teacher.
“I am going to try and finish my course – a BTech National in Sport, but football is my first priority now.
“I am in the process of doing it and it finishes in June.
“I need to talk to the educational people here and they will talk to my teachers and we’ll see what happens. If I can finish it I will.”
Antonio is now finding his feet at Reading among the seasoned pros.
Despite the step-up in standard, he is confident he can hold his own.
“There were nerves when I first came, but I have adjusted to it and they have all gone now,” he said.
“I was shocked when I heard Reading wanted me. I was over the moon.
“It is going well and I am really enjoying it. I have really noticed a difference in the standard. It is so much quicker here.
“It is difficult at first but I will get used to it. I have been at Tooting since the age of 12.
“Coming into training every day should improve me as a player.”
He added: “Hopefully I can come here, do well and get into the first-team. My aim is to train and if I am good enough for the first team then great, if not then maybe he will hold back until next year.”
Reading have had to pay a nominal fee for Antonio and Coppell said: “When I took Ian Wright he was 22 and Antonio is 18.
“He will not cost a great deal of money, but we feel he has something.
“It is a gamble, but one we feel is worth taking.”
Although Antonio is a right winger, Coppell added: “He could be more suited to a central position in the future.”