Inside Middlesbrough's academy: Youngster opens up on loan discussions and first-team experiences
Middlesbrough youngster Patrick Reading can see he’s in a promising position.
The pathway into the Teessiders’ first team appears to be widening following a summer of change and coaching restructure at the Riverside. The 20-year-old left-back is determined to take his chance.
Reading has already tasted what it’s like to train and play with the senior side after a handful of appearances during pre-season, an experience which proved valuable for the player’s development.
“It was really fun,” Reading tells the Mail when asked about those summer trips to Austria and Germany. “Every year when you step up everything seems to be a lot quicker, a lot more physical, obviously the first team is the top of where you can be.
“You learn a lot even just from one session playing with them because they are all very experienced players.
“Going away with them in pre-season was obviously really good, I’ve been away with teams for pre-season but not with the first team, it was tough but I thought I rose to the challenge quite well.”
After an impressive summer, Reading has maintained his momentum this season, regularly captaining Boro’s under-23 side under new lead coach Graeme Lee.
The defender has also represented Scotland’s under-21 side in their recent European qualifiers, playing from the start against San Marino and Croatia earlier this month.
“It’s been a completely different experience to what I’ve been used to but I really liked it,” adds Reading.
“All the players were dead nice and the coaching staff were all really good people, obviously the training is a bit different because you’re only there to play two games so you’re focusing on one thing.
“It’s a different type of playing style so it’s good to see a different way of playing football.”
Reading qualifies to play for Scotland through his mother, who played a big part in the defender’s progression through Boro’s academy.
“Everyone chipped in in their own way,” says Reading during a conversation about his upbringing. “It was usually my mum who was able to take me to training when I was younger which is obviously a massive help.
“My mum’s side of the family are based in Scotland so I used to go there a lot when I was younger, I support a team in Scotland, Hibs, so I know a lot about Scottish football.
“But people like my grandad and my uncle are big into football so I always get comments from them, words of advice or telling me what I could do better so there was a few different people who had an impact really.”
Reading, who joined Boro’s academy at under-13 level, is now weighing up his options, with Boro keen to send their academy graduates out on loan to experience first-team football.
A move didn’t materialise for the defender this summer, yet discussions are still ongoing.
“There had been a lot of talk about it over the summer but nothing happened," says Reading.
“There’s still talk about maybe going to a National League club and then going out again in January and trying to get some first-team experience.
“That’s what I want and I think that’s what the manager wants as well, just to give me that extra bit of first-team experience.”
Even so, due to Boro’s lack of numbers, a senior call-up may not be completely out of reach this season.
New head coach Jonathan Woodgate has already handed Championship debuts to Hayden Coulson and Stephen Walker, while many of Boro’s academy graduates have joined in with first-team training.
“There are definitely chances,” replies Reading when asked about the aforementioned players.
“The squad is not very big so it only takes an injury to one or two to be in with a chance, and when that chance comes you have to try and take it to get a regular spot in the team.”
Reading has also taken confidence from his conversations with Woodgate, who has taken a keen interest in the club’s youngsters.
“It’s good, you feel he really knows what he wants,” says Reading following a question on Boro’s head coach. “He’s got that playing style, he wants to be a lot more attacking.
“Obviously him being a defender he will focus on the defenders, he wants a good structure so he’ll talk to people like me at the back a lot, when I should be going forward and that kind of stuff.
Reading actually earned his first senior call-up last season under Tony Pulis, when the defender was named as a substitute during Boro’s EFL Cup game against Notts County.
The youngster has noticed a difference since the change of management, though, which has filtered down to the under-23 side.
“There is a different style of play,” admits Reading. “Woodgate likes to build attacks from the back so he talks a lot more about being confident on the ball, being able to get the ball from deep and playing through teams.
“I think Graeme is trying to get that with the under-23s as well so you’re prepared if you’re going up to the first team.”
Reading hopes another senior call-up isn’t too far away, and is fully aware of the opportunities in front of him.