SEVEN youngsters have signed their first professional contracts with Reading FC.

The talented septet are the cream of the crop from the Royals Academy and will move up from the Under 18s to Scott Marshall’s Under 23 squad from next season.

Four of the new pros – Jamal Balogun, Andre Burley, Cameron Green and Akinwale Odimayo – are defenders and have already featured for the U23s in Premier League 2 last season.

Centre-back Odimayo even managed to grab a goal in a 2-1 win against Brighton in January.

Omolabi is a relative newcomer at Reading having joined from Tottenham Hotspur in January, while striker Liddle, who lists Hartley Wintney among his previous clubs, arrived in March and scored twice in four games towards the end of the campaign.

Royals Academy manager, Ged Roddy, said: “Congratulations to all the players who have signed their first professional contracts – this is where the hard work starts.

“It is just the start of a new and exciting journey and if they continue to apply themselves and fulfil their potential, this club will offer them the chance to have a successful career in the game.”

Last season Tom Holmes became the 47th player from the Royals Academy to play for the first team.

And much of the success of the Academy can attributed to the work of the late Eamonn Dolan.

“Last season, six more graduates of our Academy made their first-team debuts, which provides inspiration and incentive to this talented group of players,” added Roddy. “Because of the foundations laid out over many years by Eamonn Dolan, there is a clear pathway from our Academy to a fruitful career in professional football.

“Now it is up to these players to take that opportunity to the best of their ability.”

Royals U23s begin their pre-season campaign with a trip to Bath City’s Twerton Park this Saturday (1pm ko).

Under 23 pre-season fixtures:

Sat, July 7 – Bath City (a), 1pm.

Wed, July 11 – Wealdstone (h), 7.45pm.

Sat, July 14 – Slough Town (a), 3pm.

Tues, July 17 – Cheltenham Town (h), 1pm.

Sat, July 28 – Ebbsfleet United (a) & Leatherhead (a), both 3pm.

Sat, Aug 4 – Swansea City (h), 2pm.

Mon, Aug 6 – Charlton Athletic (h), 2pm.

  • All home games take place at Hogwood Park and will be played behind-closed-doors.