Opinion Piece – Time For Youth?

Reading have always had a great sense of pride when it comes to their Academy. For a number of years it has produced many footballers that have gone on to establish themselves as professional footballers, and some hitting the heights of the Premier League and the international stage.

Steve Coppell was the man in charge when my understanding of football was starting to develop, and I will always remember how much I enjoyed watching teams he would put out in cup competitions, including giving young players their first professional appearances.

Brendan Rodgers was very much in favour of giving young players a chance, making a big statement in his first game in charge, by naming several academy graduates in his starting XI.

McDermott, Adkins, Clarke and Stam have all followed suit with varying degrees of success. As yet, Paul Clement is yet to really give a young player a chance to stake their claim for a first team spot. And this is in a team that’s yet to win a league game this season.

So who should be given a chance?

Last season saw Omar Richards play a good number of games, putting in some very solid displays. He was given a baptism of fire, making an appearance off the bench away at QPR after Tiago Ilori was dismissed. The poor form of Tyler Blackett and Jordan Obita’s terrible knee injury meant Richards got a lot of first team minutes, also scoring twice. Had he not been blighted with a few injuries himself, he may have played a greater role so far this season. Despite a start on the opening day, he’s yet to feature much so far this season.

The first name that would probably come to mind for most Reading fans is Danny Loader. He’s been scoring goals for fun for a long time now, for Reading, at England across age groups. He’s playing in an England side featuring Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho and Callum Hudson-Odoi, who are all names tipped for great things. He’s yet to feature in a league game thus far, and that doesn’t appear likely to change anytime soon.

Josh Barrett is the next name in my list that should be given more of an opportunity. There is no denying that Barrett has talent, he has shown that over the last couple of seasons, scoring and creating a lot of goals in the U-21/23’s. There have been a few suggestions on social media that’s his progress is being hindered by issues with attitude and work rate, though I don’t wish to suggest that I know if it’s true or not. When I’ve watched Barrett play he is a real attacking threat, and can play in a number of positions, with a lot of flair – something seriously lacking amongst the first team squad so far this seasons.

Richards, Loader and Barrett are the three players I’d like to see given first team minutes, to freshen up the first team, and more significantly give the home fans an incentive to get behind the team. Understandably it’s been lacking for a long time, so hopefully a few new faces might do the trick.

Sadly, I’m still of the mindset that Clement should be moved on, unless he makes a few changes to his approach, with young players being a big part of that.

Picture Credit: Reading FC

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