THE wife of Eamonn Dolan helped unveil a new Reading FC Academy honours board at Madejski Stadium.

Erica Dolan was joined by Royals co-owner Miss Dai and vice chairman and interim CEO Nigel Howe for the ceremony before Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Stoke City.

The board lists the names of all 47 youth players who have represented the first team, many of whom were coached by Eamonn before he lost his battle with cancer in June 2016.

Current Royals Academy chief Ged Roddy was also present along with left-back Jordan Obita, former players Simon Church and Nicholas Bignall, Academy defender, Tom Holmes, plus a number of other youth team players.

In addition, Eamonn’s twin brother Pat Dolan and Royals sporting director Gianluca Nani were among the large crowd that gathered for the unveiling of the board, which is situated on the approach to the main reception.

And Church hailed the vital role Dolan played in launching the careers of so many Academy players.

The former Royals, Charlton and Wales striker said: “This is a great tribute to Eamonn who was a massive part of the club.

“He helped players like us coming through the Academy, gave us our chance in the first team and allowed us to have the careers we all went on to have.

“Reading has always been a club where you know you will get a good shot at it and a good education. From my period, it was a massive group that came through together and Eamonn was a major influence on all of us.

“It’s great to hear the club is getting back to how he set it up, and Ged is doing a fantastic job. Hopefully there will be plenty more young players to come.”

Church, 29, came through the Royals youth ranks and went on the score 24 goals in 122 first-team appearances.

He left Reading for Charlton in 2013 but a number of injury problems forced him to retire from football in May 2018.

Church also made 38 appearances for Wales alongside the likes of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey and was in their squad during Euro 2016 when they reached the semi finals.

And Church says Reading and Dolan will always have a special place in his heart.

“I love coming back to Reading,” explained Church, who now runs his own investment company. “It was my first exposure to full-time football.

“At times it was tough and Eamonn tested us mentally and physically so we grew into men and not just good players.

“He was a massive influence, I can’t stress that enough, both as human beings and footballers.

“He was always on the phone to us right up to when he passed away. Even when a player left the club he would always be there checking up, answering questions or telling you how he felt.

“Even when I went to Scotland he would phone me up, so this is such a fantastic thing for the club to do, especially after naming a stand after him.”

Reading Chronicle:

Simon Church, right, won the 2012 Championship title with Reading.

The likes of England keeper Alex McCarthy, Everton star Gylfi Sigurdsson and Wales winger Hal Robson-Kanu all came through the Reading Academy, as did current first-teamers Andy Rinomhota – who was outstanding against Stoke on Saturday – Danny Loader and Liam Kelly.

“There’s Shane Long, Simon Cox – the list goes on,” added Church. “When we were making the transition at the age of 16 we knew we had a chance under Eamonn if we listened to him.

“He moulded us into the players we are and it’s a massive legacy that he’s left behind.”

The honours board was designed by Reading-based Cream Design whose owner, Helen Waring, has been a long-time supporter and sponsor of the Royals.

STAR – The Supporters’ Trust at Reading – the Reading FC Former Players’ Association and the club’s vice presidents also sponsored it.