Dolan unveils his new Academy starsBy Jonny Fordham
June 17, 2009
Reading's former Academy stars look set to take centre stage at the Madejski Stadium this season as they hope to cement regular first-team places in Brendan Rodgers’ team.
The Academy was formed in 1997 and the club pump in excess of £1million a year into it in the hope of producing Royals’ very own home-grown stars of the future.
Last season was the most successful to date for recent graduates with Alex Pearce, Simon Church, Jem Karacan, Julian Kelly, James Henry and Gylfi Sigurdsson all making first-team appearances under Steve Coppell.
And Academy manager and former Exeter City boss Eamonn Dolan was delighted with the involvement of the youngsters, hailing it their best ever year.
“This season has been very positive for our graduates and it’s an ongoing process for us that works in cycles with new boys coming in,” said Dolan.
“It’s not quite as straightforward as people sometimes think and sometimes the credit just goes to one person when a player does succeed, but it’s a big team project in all.
“I have a close relationship with the players and you need to have an understanding and a bond with them to help them grow and develop technically.
“When I came in the chairman’s brief was simple. He wanted the club to start producing players for the first team and we are pleased we have done that.”
Now with the current crop of graduates coming along and challenging for places in Rodgers’ team, Dolan insisted that more players were developing through the ranks.
“We have lots of promising players,” Dolan said.
“But if I had to single out individuals it would be fair to mention Abdulai Baggie who did particularly well last year and scored a couple of goals in the reserves.
“Midfielder Jake Taylor also performed very well along with Oliver Kelly, who is the younger brother of Julian.
“Oliver plays either in midfield or as a full-back and his brother has been doing well in the senior squad.
“Anton Rodgers, Brendan’s son, was also on our books at Reading, but due to logistical reasons when Brendan moved to Chelsea he went there and he is a fantastic talent who will do well.”
As well as recruiting players from Under 12s level, the Academy also has a scouting network who look to recruit youth footballers from all over the country.
But Dolan admitted that the competition was tough with Portsmouth, Fulham, Chelsea, Arsenal and Southampton all fighting for the same players.
One player he was confident of tying up a deal with, was 17-year-old midfielder Harry Harding from Conference South side Bromley FC.
“He’s a player we started to look at some time ago and we are working on trying to bring Harry to Reading.
“We have a good relationship with Bromley and hopefully we can get something sorted soon.
“We’re always looking at young players and as far as I’m concerned the process is on going.
“It’s very much a collective effort and that’s evident by looking at the players that have come through the ranks.
“Nick Hammond brought Simon Church to the club years ago along with Alex Pearce and both those players worked with Brendan Rodgers before I came here from Exeter.
“That’s another reason why so many of the young players will probably be excited about the appointment of Brendan having worked with him at the youth level before.”
For the full interview with Dolan pick up a copy of this week's Post