I HAVE always been a huge admirer of Liam Kelly ever since I watched him play against Arsenal FC in the cup back in 2016.

In fact, I remember darting to the mixed zone straight after the game to grab a word with the emerging youngster who I was keen to get to know better.

Jaap Stam clearly saw a lot of potential in the then 20-year-old and even claimed he had similar traits to those of Barcelona legend Andries Iniesta.

With an eye for a pass, a wand of a right foot, composure on the ball and a powerful shot on him too, I could kind of see what the former boss was hinting at.

I do not think for a second that Stam was suggesting that Kelly will one day be the talisman at Camp Nou, he was simply stating that Kelly has the potential to be a top midfielder.

And he showed that yesterday with his performance against a very strong Crystal Palace team.

He was the heartbeat of everything that Reading did well - admittedly those moments were few and far between against a clearly superior opposition.

But Kelly showed his composure, passing range and got fans on their feet with a silky spin which took three players out of the game.

I even spotted some Crystal Palace fans on social media discussing how good they thought his performance was and I am sure Paul Clement noticed it too.

He comes across as a fairly quiet lad - a man of very few words. Which is fine, providing he does his talking on the pitch of course.

That leads me to my next point, consistency.

My only criticism of Kelly is his lack of consistency from time to time. He will have games where he is the star of the show and games where he is quiet and relatively ineffective. I doubt he will mind me saying that.

And of course, that is to be expected of a young man who, despite his relative experience, is still learning his trade as a footballer.

I think having someone like David Meyler sat just behind him is a massive bonus for Kelly, because it allows him to express himself knowing that Meyler will be there to sweep up if things do not quite go to plan.

As a product of Eammon Dolan’s legacy, I know every Reading FC fan out there will be rooting for Kelly to succeed this season.

He showed exactly what he is capable of on Saturday against a midfield packed with Premier League quality

If Kelly can keep up that calibre of performance next season then I have no doubt that he will be one of the first names on Paul Clement’s team sheet week in and week out.

This is Kelly’s third season at first-team level and it is time for him to show now that he can perform to that standard on a weekly basis.

And if he does, which I certainly think he is capable of, then I would back him as an early contender for Royals’ player of the season award at the end of the upcoming campaign.