Over 12 months ago, then-Reading boss Paul Ince had his Royals side sat 14th in the Championship and looking toward a comfortable finish despite working under strict EFL regulations.

"I’m always watching the ones with good attitudes, and Kelvin [Abrefa] is one of those," he said ahead of a 4-0 defeat to Stoke City. "Craigy [Michael Craig] is one of those. Jay Senga is still 18 but I think he will be a very good player, providing he’s with the right people and doing the right things. Coniah [Boyce-Clarke] is another one. I’m always dipping them in and out to see if they can deal with what we’re doing, at the tempo that we’re doing it at. They’re the ones that I like.

"It’s always good for fans to see homegrown players in the squad. It was pleasing to play him, pleasing that he got his goal, and it was good to see Craigy get on. I like Craigy. He’s very efficient at what he does. He has a very good understanding of the game; when to press, when to pass and what spaces to go into. They’re all things you need to be a top midfield player."

READ MORE: Reading FC boss singles out four prospects for first team careers

Fast-forward to February 2024 and Ruben Selles' side are battling the drop from the third into the fourth tiers, not helped by a second points deduction to take the Dai Yongge total to 18.

However, little blame can be slung in the direction of the playing side, with a threadbare squad thrown together under embargo and during a summer of discontent in which the club were on and off the EFL's Embargo Reporting service on a fortnightly basis.

Back last season, Ince had tipped four young players in particular to make the step-up to first-team football, all of whom made appearances under the former England captain.

So, looking back...was Paul a prophet? Or was Ince incorrect?

Reading Chronicle:

Kelvin Abrefa

A tough one to call, the 20-year-old full-back went on to appear in three of Noel Hunt's five matches in interim charge and had been involved in four of Ince's final five matches.

However, a long-term injury ruled the defender out for the start of this season and he appeared just once in the first five months of the campaign.

Now seemingly back in the fold, Abrefa has been involved in the last seven matchday squads and appears to be back in the fold under Selles.

Reading Chronicle:

Coniah Boyce-Clarke

Seemingly tipped to be the next big thing at the club for the last three or four years, the Jamaica Under-20s international has found playing time hard to come by under Selles.

For a period, the Academy star was number two to David Button, playing in the historic 9-0 win over Exeter City in the EFL Trophy and EFL Cup ties with Millwall and Ipswich Town.

However, the youngster is yet to feature in League One and has not even appeared in a matchday squad since October and the emergence of Joel Pereira.

Still a regular for Noel Hunt's Under-23s, with Hunt starting the keeper on the final day of last season, it feels like a big period for the 20-year-old to make the step into professional football.

Unlikely to get ahead of David Button or Pereira this season, a loan could ignite his career which continues to promise so much.

Reading Chronicle:

Jay Senga

A popular youngster under Ince, the Belgium youth international is another who made his league debut during Hunt's interim spell.

Playing regularly in pre-season, the 20-year-old has only started once under Selles in the Carabao Cup.

However, the midfielder was sent out on loan to Ayr United, impressing north of the border.

Making 12 appearances in total, the promising talent has experience of first-team football under his belt but has not been near a squad since his return, playing most weeks for the youth side.

Central midfield is arguably one of the Royals' strongest positions, so it may have to be another temporary spell away if Senga is to gain regular minutes in the coming months.

Reading Chronicle:

Michael Craig

Coming from Tottenham's Academy last season, the midfielder Craig was one who caught Ince's eye early and was around first-team squads from the get-go.

Making five appearances under the Manchester United legend, including at Old Trafford, the 20-year-old was tipped for a big future.

A stuttering start to life under the current boss, Craig had to be content with cameos and cup run-outs until the defeat at Leyton Orient in October.

Since then, the Scotland youth international has not dropped out of the matchday squad, playing 22 League One matches and appearing on the bench for another two.

This is as well as making eight appearances out of a possible nine across the three cup competitions.

Now an established regular in the side, often interchanging with Charlie Savage, it is no surprise that the midfield general of Sir Alex Ferguson's successful Manchester United teams of the 1990s could pick out another built in his mould.