Dreams of EPL career step closer for WA teen
Ryan Edwards. Pic: Bill Hatto/WA News

The English Premier League is in striking distance of WA teenager Ryan Edwards after Reading's promotion from the second-tier Championship.

Edwards and his older brother Cameron joined the Royals last year and were first-hand witnesses of the club's charge into the world's most watched soccer competition.

While Ryan has three years to run on his Reading contract, Cameron is weighing up options else- where, including an invitation to join the prestigious Nike Academy.

Ryan, who played under-18s in his first season in England, hopes Reading's elevation to the Premier League will result also in a personal rise through the ranks.

Having only recently dipped his toe into the cut and thrust of English soccer, he knows that even just a fleeting first-team appearance next season would be a grand achievement.

"It's definitely a target to play in the Premier League," he told _The West Australian _ yesterday. "I know it's going to be really hard. When you see players making their debut at 18 or 19 they're physically ready to do it, so I'm going to work on that. It would be silly not to think I can make my debut (next season) even if it's for a couple of minutes and that's what I'm working towards."

England's Championship does not have a reserve competition and Edwards played mainly in scratch matches before the January transfer window opened the door for him to play in the under-18 team.

That particular competition enhanced his experience and also accelerated his development at a time when winter had set in, pitches were frozen and just getting through training was a chore.

"We'd train on astro turf but you couldn't see it because it was completely white," Edwards said of adjusting to the dramatic change in conditions.

"My hands were freezing and I couldn't feel my toes at all even though I was wearing two pairs of socks.

"(Generally) the training was much harder, more intense and more physical than what I was used to and I had to deal with that."

The tough times at Reading were more than offset by the positive experiences of life at a top professional club, which was a world away from Cockburn City and the Australian Institute of Sport where he has played previously.

Aside from the developmental benefits of playing around 40 games, Edwards was caught up in Reading's incredible rise to the top of the Championship.

"I went to nearly every home game and I sit where all the pros sit," he said. "Reading scored a lot of late goals so the atmosphere was unbelievable and even though I'm just one of the young boys coming through and am not even playing it was a very good feeling."

The West Australian

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