READING FC academy sensation Danny Loader is on the verge of making a first-team breakthrough, boss Jaap Stam declared.

Loader, who is considered to be one of Royals' finest youth products, bagged a hat-trick for the club's under 18s earlier in the week.

The 17-year-old, who made his first-team debut in the Carabao Cup victory over Millwall FC earlier in the campaign, has been in fine form for Royals' development squad.

But manager Stam admitted Loader is knocking on the door for a chance of first-team action.

"We rate him very highly," said Stam.

"He's a great player. He's one of the talents within the club that is close to joining in with the first-team.

"He joins in with the first team players in training and he's knocking on the door to being involved in matches.

"Obviously, you need to understand there is a difference between first-team football and playing in the under 18s."

Loader, who helped the England Under 17 side lift the World Cup last summer, put in several eye-catching displays during Reading's pre-season preparations last summer.

The striker bagged four goals in a friendly triumph over Queens Park Rangers, aged just 16 at the time.

And Dutchman Stam insisted he will not take Loader's age into consideration when selecting his first-team squad.

He continued: "But Danny has the ability to do well for the first team. I spoke to him a couple of weeks ago and explained to him how we rate him and what we're trying to do with him.

"He was happy with that.

"It's not a problem that he's just 17 years old, if he's performing then he will get the opportunity in the first-team squad."

Royals have plenty of attacking options with Chris Martin, Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Yann Kermorgant and Loader all available for selection.

Joseph Mendes has also stepped up recovery from a serious knee injury which has plagued his start to life in Berkshire.

"Joseph is feeling good," continued Stam.

"He's being doing small bits in the training sessions with the squad.

"It's very positive for him because it's helping his confidence.

"He's looking good and his knee is feeling better than it was last season."