Blog: Antonio - From Tooting to Premier League

31 December 2015


During the last international break, Reading took a team to West Ham to play in a behind-closed-doors friendly at Upton Park. It gave me the chance to meet up with former Royal and FPA member, Michail Antonio.

During the summer, he took a £7 million move from Nottingham Forest. He told me, as a Londoner coming from Wandsworth, this was his dream move. He made his Premiership debut for 'The Hammers' just weeks after signing.

Michail started his career as a junior at 12 years of age at nearby Tooting & Mitcham. But as an 18 year old, Royals manager Steve Coppell snapped him up in 2008.

Speaking with Michail made me think about the footballing talent that has come from humble beginnings. The change in Michail's fortunes is dramatic, but he's not the first to make the move from real life and non-league football to the top of the professional game.

Chris Smalling, Jamie Vardy, Stuart Pearce and Ian Wright are probably the more famous.

But we at Reading, don't have to go back too far to find our own greats to be plucked from non-League obscurity.

Dave Kitson began his career with non-League Hitchin Town and Arlesey Town whilst working as a shelf-stacker for Sainsbury's. He joined Reading in 2003 for a fee of £150,000 and enjoyed great success with the "Royals", forming a formidable partnership with Kevin Doyle, and scoring 62 goals in 130 appearances.

Kerry Dixon completed his apprenticeship as a tool maker in a Bedfordshire engineering works whilst playing for Chesham United and Dunstable. Reading Manager Maurice Evans gave him his first taste of League football when signing him for £20,000 in 1980. He went on to score 51 league goals in 116 appearances for Reading before going on to play for Chelsea and Southampton in the top flight of English football and scoring 4 goals in 8 international appearances for England.

Reading's latest prospect may be young Rowan Liburd. Rowan signed earlier this season from Billericay; he has 10 goals from 10 Under 21 Premier League games to his credit and three substitute appearances in the Championship this season. Last year he was a school teacher!

Whatever Rowan accomplishes this season - it's more proof of how important clubs like Billericay really are.

This Blog represents the personal thoughts and opinions of Richard Wickson and does not necessarily reflect the policy or views of the Reading FC Former Players' Association

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31 December 2015
Antonio - From Tooting to Premier League
During the last international break, Reading took a team to West Ham to play in a behind-closed-doors friendly at Upton Park. It gave me the chance to meet up with former Royal and FPA member, Michail Antonio.

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